This paper addresses the ways in which humour is used by university academics to shape teaching personas. Based upon the work of Mauss and Foucault, and employing semi-structured, in-depth interviews with a range of university teachers, this research suggests that most tertiary teachers deliberately fashion various kinds of teaching persona, which they then perform in lectures and tutorials. The use of humour is widely seen as an important component within this form of self-shaping, as it fits within dominant frameworks of expectation regarding contemporary models of “edutainment”. This research demonstrates that a wide range of practices of the self—including physical, verbal, and relational elements—are employed by academics as part of shaping various humorous teaching personas. Some boundaries exist limiting the use of these pedagogic characters; for example, arguments about natural ability with humour prefigure who is most likely to deploy humour as a practice of professional self-formation. Also, professional concerns regarding seniority and job security are also factored into decision-making regarding those humorous personas likely to be considered appropriate within particular tertiary teaching contexts.
Recommended CitationTait, Gordon; Lampert, Jo; Bahr, Nan; and Bennett, Pepita, Laughing with the lecturer: the use of humour in shaping university teaching, Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 12(3), 2015.