Investigating Humor Integration in Tunisian Tertiary English Classes: A Comparative Study of Teachers’ and Learners’ Perceptions

Najla Fki


This study examines lecturers’ and learners’ perceptions on humor use in Tunisian tertiary classrooms, focusing specifically on the English major. The ultimate aim is to explore the types and frequency of humor use on the one hand and whether teachers regard humor in the same light as their students on the other. To this purpose, a mixed-methods approach consisting of questionnaires and semi-structured interviews is adopted to collect quantitative and qualitative data for analysis. The findings revealed that, in terms of frequency, humor is used by all interviewed teachers irrespective of their gender. Yet, the general percentage of humor use remains moderate and limited to specific oral subjects as confirmed by the students. The results also indicated the participants’ agreement on the efficiency and preference of verbal, spontaneous and relevant humor types. However, it has been shown that the lecturers use a very limited repertoire of humor forms, neglecting jokes which are more appreciated by their students. Inconsistencies between the participants’ responses are further traced at the level of their attitude towards humor use in class. While most of the teachers believe that the merits of humor are undeniable, they expressed skepticism and discomfort in dealing with this tool in class. To overcome these lacunas, this study builds on the students’ recommendations to improve their teachers’ practices and can therefore be a starting point for EFL curriculum designers in Tunisia to revise current materials for a better humor integration in higher education.


Humor Use, Perceptions, Tunisia, Tertiary Education, EFL

Full Text:



Afghari, A. & Allami, H. (2007). EFL verbal humor appreciation. TELL, 1(3), 1-23.

Ageli, N. R. (2018). Humour as used and perceived by instructors in EFL teaching at the University of Bahrain. International Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences (IJHSS), 7(2), 9-20.

Al-Duleimi, A. D. D. & Aziz, R. N. (2016). Humour as EFL learning- teaching strategy. Journal of Education and Practice, 7(10), 105-115.

Andarab, M. S. & Mutlu, A. K. (2019). Using humor in language classrooms: Greasing the wheels or putting a spanner in the works? A study on humor styles of Turkish EFL instructors. Eurasian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 5(1), 23-39.

Askildson, L. (2005). Effects of humor in the language classroom: Humor as a pedagogical tool in theory and practice. In K. Beckman-Brito, E. Specker (Eds), Arizona Working Papers in Second Language Acquisition Teaching (SLAT): Vol. 12 (pp. 45-61). University of Arizona.

Bakar, F. (2019). Appropriate and relevant humour in the university classroom: insights from teachers and students. European Journal of Humour Research, 7(4), 137-152.

Bakar, F. & Kumar, V. (2019). The use of humour in teaching and learning in higher education classrooms: Lecturers’ perspectives. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 40, 15-25.

Banas, J. A., Dunbar, N., Rodriguez, D., & Liu, S. (2011). A review of humor in educational settings: Four decades of research, Communication Education, 60(1), 115-144.

Baysac, P. E. G. (2017). Laughter in class: Humorous memes in 21st century learning. Journal of Social Sciences (COES&RJ-JSS), 6(2), 249-263.

Bell, N. (2002). Using and understanding humor in a second language: A case study [Doctoral dissertation, University of Pennsylvania]. ProQuest.

Bell, N.D. & Pomerantz, A. (2016). Humor in the classroom: A guide for language teachers and educational researchers. Routledge.

Benson, P. (2012). Learner-centered teaching. Retrieved from e-handout_for_lecture_12._Learner-centered_teaching.pdf

Berk. R. A. (1996). Student ratings of 10 strategies for using humor in college teaching. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 7 (3), 71-92.

Bolkan, S., & Goodboy. A. K. (2015). Exploratory theoretical tests of the instructor humor–student learning link, Communication Education, 64(1), 45-64.

Chabeli, M. (2008). Humor: A pedagogical tool to promote learning. Curationis, 31(3), 51-59.

Chaniotakis, N. (2010). Teachers’ perceptions of humour in teaching. Proceedings of ICERI2010 Conference, 1187-1195.

Crawford, M & Gressley, D. (1991). Creativity, caring and context: Women’s and men’s accounts of humor preferences and practices. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 15(2), 217-231.

Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research design: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed.). SAGE Publications.

Cruz, M. P. (2019). Dealing with jokes in the ESL class: a pedagogical proposal centred on comprehension. Letrônica, 12(4).

Garner, R. L. (2006). Humor in pedagogy: How ha-ha can lead to aha! College Teaching, 54(1), 177-180.

Germanier-Manvell, R. (2012). Inter-student humour in the international postgraduate classroom. A case study (Doctoral dissertation, The Open University). Retrieved from

Gonulal, T. (2018). Investigating the potential of humour in EFL classrooms: An attitudinal study. European Journal of Humour Research 6(1) 141-161.

Goodboy, A. K., Booth-Butterfield, M., Bolkan, S. & Griffin, D. J. (2015). The role of instructor humor and students’ educational orientations in student learning, extra effort, participation, and out-of-class communication. Communication Quarterly, 63(1), 44-61. DOI:10.1080/01463373.2014.965840

Guest, G., Namey, E. E., & Mitchell, M. L. (2013). Collecting qualitative data: A field manual for applied research. Sage Publications.

Hellman, S. V. (2007). Humor in the classroom: STU’s seven simple steps to success. College Teaching, 55(1), 37-39. DOI: 10.3200/CTCH.55.1.37-39

Huss, J. & Eastep, S. (2016). The attitudes of university faculty toward humor as a pedagogical tool: Can we take a joke? Journal of Inquiry & Action in Education, 8(1), 39-65.

Jansson, D. (2016). Humor as pedagogy: A geographical perspective. Uppsala University, 45-52.

Kallio, H, Pietila, A, Johnson, M., & Kangasniemi, M. (2016). Systematic methodological review: developing a framework for a qualitative semi-structured interview guide. Journal of Advanced Nursing 72(12), 2954-2965. n.13031

Kazarian, S. S. (2011). Humor in the collectivist Arab Middle East: The case of Lebanon. Humor, 24(3), 329–348.

Khan, T. (2012). Optimizing humor in language classrooms. In S. Padikkal., T. Khan (Eds.), Vaagartha: A Festschrift For Prof. Padmakar R. Dadegaonkar (pp. 45-56). Centre for ALTS, University of Hyderabad.

Kilic, Y. (2016). The views of Turkish teachers on the use of humor in secondary schools. Educational Research and Reviews, 11(9), 945-956.

Kim, S., & Park, S. (2017). Humor in the language classroom: A review of the literature. Primary English Education, 23(4), 241-262.

Kovar, G. (2017). Falling up: Building language use and cultural awareness through the implementation of humor in the ESL classroom [Master’s thesis, University of San Francisco].

Legény, J. & Špaček, R. (2019). Humour as a device in architectural education. Global Journal of Engineering Education, 21(1), 6-13.

Lewis, J. M. (1993). Teaching styles of award-winning professors. In R. Ellis (Ed.), Quality Assurance for University Teaching (pp. 149-164). The Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press.

Margoob, S. (2017). Effectiveness of humor in English Language Learning: Bangladeshi perspective [Master’s thesis, BRAC University]. BRAC University, Institutional Repository.

Martin, R. A. (2007). The psychology of humor: An integrative approach. Elsevier Academic Press.

Medgyes, P. (2002). Laughing matters: Humour in the language classroom. Cambridge University Press.

Moalla, A. (2013). Tunisia in the aftermath of the Revolution: insights into the use of humor on facebook to create social bonds and develop relational identity. SAGE, 1-7.

Muhawi (2013). Language, ethnicity and national identity in the Tunisian ethnic joke. In Y. Suleiman (Ed.), Language and Identity in the Middle East and North Africa (pp. 39-60). Routledge.

Nadeem, M. (2012). Teaching with humor: A benevolent teaching technique for second language learners in teacher education (A reflective study). International Journal of English and Literature (IJEL), 2 (4), 89-96.

Nasiri, F. & Mafakheri, F. (2015). Higher education lecturing and humor: from perspectives to strategies. Higher Education Studies, 5(5), 26-31. doi:10.5539/hes.v5n5p26.

Ocon, R. (2015). Using humor to create a positive learning environment. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/ASUS/Downloads/Humor-Paper__Submit_%20(3).pdf

Petraki, E. & Nguyen, H. H. P. (2016). Do Asian EFL teachers use humor in the classroom? A case study of Vietnamese EFL university teachers. System, 61, 98-109.

Pomerantz, A., & Bell, N.D. (2011). Humor as safe house in the foreign language classroom. The Modern Language Journal, 95, 148-161.

Ross, Alison. (1998). The language of humor. Routledge.

Schmitz, J. R. (2002). Humor as a pedagogical tool in foreign language and translation courses. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 15(1), 89-113.

Stolzenberg, E. B., Aragon, M. C., Romo, E., Couch, V., McLennan, D., Eagan, M. K., & Kang, N. (2020). The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2019. Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA.

Tait, G., Lampert, J., Bahr, N., & Bennett, P. (2015). Laughing with the lecturer: the use of humour in shaping university teaching. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 12 (3).

Tocalli-Beller, A., & Swain, M. (2007). Riddles and puns in the ESL classroom: Adults talk to learn. In A. Mackey (Ed.), Conversational interaction in second language acquisition: Empirical studies (pp. 143-167). Oxford University Press.

Tribble, M. K. (2001). Humor and mental effort in learning [Doctoral dissertation, University of Georgia]. ProQuest.

Wanzer, M. B., Frymier. A. B., Wojtaszczyk, A. M., & Smith, T. (2006). Appropriate and inappropriate uses of humor by teachers. Communication Education, 55(2), 178-196. DOI: 10.1080/03634520600566132



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2010-2023 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD.

Advances in Language and Literary Studies

You may require to add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list’ If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox'. Otherwise, you may check your 'Spam mail' or 'junk mail' folders.