Solutions Lab 33: Better teaching through silliness and storytelling: Using performance techniques to improve student engagement and satisfaction

Learning online has been a stressful experience for a lot of our students this year – not only have they had to quickly adapt to studying in isolation and collaborating in online spaces, but also to re-frame how they perceive and connect with their lecturers. Whilst teaching staff are happily noticing an increase in attendance at live sessions, many have come to realise how important it is to create a more relaxed, personal and human connection with students to keep them engaged and spark their curiosity.

In this session Aaron Elbourne and Andrew Christofferson (School of Science) show how they are using discipline-relevant humour, jokes and memes to engage and inspire their students – an approach which has had a significant impact on their student evaluation data. By regularly discussing and comparing their own teaching dilemmas and failures, they have begun to explore different dimensions of ‘lecture as performance’, using storytelling, jokes, memes and weekly features in their online sessions. Through experimenting with ways to entertain students and make topics fun, they have not only found more enjoyment in their teaching, but also encouraged students to be active community members by contributing their own pictures, memes and TikToks.

View the edited recording below of the session and see how Andrew and Aaron have embraced and implemented the notion of ‘learning together through silliness’ in their course. It’s a great story of reflective practice, scholarly teaching and risk taking. Expect to be (seriously) amused 😊

Presentation resources:

TIP: Andrew Christofferson has found this link to be pretty helpful when it comes to humour in teaching (particularly online teaching) – View video above at 23.05min mark to find out why this link is so helpful.

Can you cook a chicken by slapping it Gif

Additional Resources

Solutions Lab Sessions




Lecture Breakers Podcast – Episode 30: Break Up Your Lectures with Humor: The Role of Humor and Laughter in the Classroom with Dr. Michael Cundall, Jr.