Research and Reports

November 07, 1984 2 min read

Teachers who regularly inject humor into their lessons are often viewed by students with “suspicion and hostility,” the results of a recent study conducted at the University of New Mexico suggest.

By using humor, teachers contradict expectations that their behavior will be “controlling and evaluative,” according to the researchers, Ann Darling of the University of Washington and Jean Civilky of the University of New Mexico. This finding held true regardless of the type of humor used or the sex of the teacher, the researchers said.

Both derogatory, insulting humor and innocent, hostility-free humor created a defensive classroom climate, the researchers found. They said they found particularly significant students’ defensive reactions to male teachers using hostility-free humor and female teachers using ridiculing humor.

To order a prepaid copy of the report, “The Effect of Teacher Humor on Classroom Climate,” send a check for $1 (made out to Ann Darling) to Ms. Darling, Department of Speech Communication, Raitt Hall, DL-15, University of Washington, Seattle, Wash. 98195.

Declines in Scholastic Aptitude Test scores do not necessarily signify that American schools are producing less literate students, according to Roger Farr, associate dean for research at Indiana University.

Mr. Farr studied 524 Indiana students who had taken the 1981 sat He also gave these students one of two standardized reading tests--the Metropolitan Achievement Test or the Degrees of Reading Power.

Mr. Farr found that students who scored in the bottom third on the sat’s were average or above-average readers, according to their scores on the standardized reading tests. Only 12 percent of all students tested scored at 9th- or 10th-grade reading levels on these tests, and less than 0.02 percent scored at 7th- or 8th-grade levels.

Mr. Farr said that almost all of the students in the study could be expected to read high-school textbooks with little difficulty, regardless of their sat scores.

“Small increases or decreases [in sat scores] don’t mean anything in terms of reading ability,” he concluded. “We were looking at differences of hundreds of points [in sat scores] and not getting big differences in basic reading ability.”

The sat’s “aren’t measuring basic reading ability,” he added, but rather higher-level reading and thinking skills and a student’s background knowledge on topics included in the test.

Mr. Farr said he undertook the study to prevent the results of sat tests from being blown “all out of proportion.” His findings suggest, he added, that the tests should not be used as a barometer of how well schools are doing their jobs or to justify greater use of minimum-competency tests or basic\skills training.

The results also indicate, he said, that high-school teachers who want their students to perform well on the sat’s will have to teach far more than basic reading skills.

A version of this article appeared in the November 07, 1984 edition of Education Week as Research and Reports