The use of humour in EFL teaching : a case study of Vietnamese university teachers’ and students’ perceptions and practices

  • Hoang Nguyen Huy Pham

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    With the advent of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) and language acquisition theories, it has been suggested that lowering the affective filter and providing a relaxing learning environment assist learners in their concentration, absorption of information and language acquisition (Brandl,2008; Krashen,2004). While it has been indicated in the literature that humour has beneficial effects in making learners relaxed and/or helping them acquire knowledge more efficiently (Askildson,2005; Kaplan & Pascoe,1977; Maurice, 1988),empirical studies on humour in education, especially in language teaching, are limited. What is more, there is negligible research of the roles of humour in the teaching and learning of English as a foreign language (EFL). EFL teachers wishing to employ humour in their teaching need a stronger body of research regarding humour upon which to base their decisions, while empirical findings would help to establish the rightful position of humour in teaching/learning in general and in language teaching/learning in particular. This doctoral thesis is one of the few empirical studies which investigated systematically the role of humour in the EFL classroom. Specifically, it examined university teachers’ and students’ perceptions of the roles of humour in EFL teaching, teachers’ practices of humour use, the reasons behind their use (or not use) of humour, teachers’ preferences regarding humour types, and students’ response to teachers’ use of humour. It investigated humour in English teaching/learning in the context of Vietnam – a developing country in Asia where English had a prestigious position and the mastery of English was an advantage for success in many fields and professions. A concurrent mixed methods design (Cresswell,2008b; Punch,2009) was used in this study. Data was collected from 30 classroom observations of teachers,30 teacher interviews,162 student surveys, and 11 student interviews. The results from the three data collection instruments were triangulated to arrive at the findings. The findings revealed that the majority of university EFL teachers and students in this study held positive views of and are in agreement about the roles of humour in EFL teaching. They believed that humour has affective and cognitive benefits for students, their learning, and the teacher-student relationship. All teachers used humour in their teaching, or claimed that they do so. The three most frequently used types of humour were humorous comments, jokes, and funny stories. Humour was used most often at the beginning and towards the end of a class meeting. The majority of the students welcome teachers’ use of humour – especially humour in English, believed that humour helps to increase their interest and motivation in learning English, and preferred a humorous teacher to a non-humorous one. Teachers and students also shared their experiences and opinions on how to use humour appropriately and effectively. The insights from this study confirm the potential of humour in EFL teaching, and provide empirical evidence for the recommendations concerning the appropriate use of humour in EFL teaching as well as the inclusion of humour use in teacher training syllabi.
    Date of Award2014
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorEleni Petraki (Supervisor) & Jeremy Jones (Supervisor)

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