Student perceptions of humour in teaching politics and international relations: a focus group study


  • Alexander P Martin Mediterranean Institute of Technology, South Mediterranean University, Tunisia


Pedagogy, Education, Politics, Humour, Focus Group research.


Politics and International Relations (Pol & IR) lecturers can capitalise on the established relationship between comedy and political analysis by using humour techniques to enhance the student learning experience and to develop students’ critical analysis skills. Using collected data from focus groups with 21 British and International undergraduate students from four UK universities, this small-scale empirical study advances a methodology that enables participants to engage in collective meaning-making without being restricted by a closed-ended question survey. This research highlights student perceptions that humour attempts can make concepts memorable, improve student-lecturer rapport, and increase student engagement and motivation when lecturers consistently adopt a friendly persona and use humour to supplement high-quality lecture content. Mild self-deprecation by lecturers improves the student-lecturer relationship. Lecturer "banter" with students is risky, but might be acceptable if the lecturer’s persona is consistently humorous and sufficient student trust is developed. Participants considered that analogies and pop culture references are beneficial explanatory tools, especially for complex Pol & IR concepts or theories. Memes were considered to be most effective when used as a summarising or concluding point, thus corroborating the "educate before subvert" principle.


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How to Cite

Student perceptions of humour in teaching politics and international relations: a focus group study. (2022). Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, 19(5).