Humour in Teaching Multi-Cultural Students at Swedish Universities


  • Belinda Adler
  • Magnus Andresson
  • Elizabeth Bjarnason
  • Niklas Fors
  • Christopher J√§mthagen


The aim of our research study was to investigate how humour can be used when teaching international students and what effects this may have on the learning process. The main research question of the study was: What does a teacher at a Swedish university need to consider when using humour in teaching multi-cultural groups? In addition, we wanted to investigate how the following factors impact the use of humour in teaching: (a) the background of international students, (b) the teaching setting, and (c) the humour type used. The aspects under study and their relationship to the learning process are shown in Figure 1.
The research question has been empirically investigated through semi-structured interviews [Robson 2002] with seven people with experience of both teaching and studying in multi-cultural contexts at university level. We have drawn five main conclusions from the interviews, namely (1) use of humour in teaching can have a beneficial effect, (2) humour should be used with care, (3) humour may lead to loss of respect and credibility for teacher and/or subject, (4) students might use unsuitable humour in the classroom, and (5) teachers have individual styles of humour.
The rest of this paper is organized as follows. In Section 2 related work is described. The research method is outlined in Section 3 and the results from the interviews are presented in Section 4. Finally, the results are discussed and this paper concluded in Section 5.