If They're Laughing They're Learning
One thing all the good and memorable teachers I've had in my life have in common is that they could made me laugh. From a high school history teacher who threw erasers at sleeping students to a grad professor who could tell you you sound terrible in a way that made you look forward to hearing it. They weren't all Jerry Seinfeld but they had humor in their own way. Some witty, some dry, some sarcastic, some even a bit shocking, but all funny. I remember these teachers more vividly than the rest and I remember their lessons more clearly. Is there a correlation between laughter and learning?
I've always said that a laughing student is a happy student and happy students make happy parents. But it seems there's more benefit to laughter than just a happy student. It turns out that laughter can have some tremendous physiological benefits on learning. Laughter activates regions in our brains which release the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is the major component that regulates desire and motivation, it reinforces pleasure-seeking behavior and greatly influence our happiness. In other words, dopamine makes us feel good! If something makes us feel good we'll want to do it again! More than that though, it turns out dopamine secretions improve our memory. It helps us retain information. Studies have shown that when dopamine is present during an event or experience, we will remember it; however, if it is absent, we usually won’t. Dopamine is tied to your reward center, so if you don’t feel interested in specific activities or learning certain subjects, then dopamine levels will decrease in your prefrontal cortex. If this happens, then your brain will not feel the motivation to remember the facts presented to you. So if you make your students laugh, not only do we get happy students and happy parents, a laughing student is learning.
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Will Armstrong is the founder of WillYouLearn. He's a professional pianist with over 20 years of teaching experience.