Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

Gene Roth
Gene Roth

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News Release

News Releases

Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-9472

October 18, 2006

Professor to encourage classroom humor
at NIU Presidential Teaching Professor seminar

DeKalb — Gene Roth wants Northern Illinois University professors to get serious – about laughter.

“One of the things I realized when I won my presidential teaching award was that how I am perceived as a professor is greatly influenced by my use of humor,” says Roth, a Distinguished Teaching Professor honored in 2001.

“When I looked around the university, I saw it was nowhere to be found in preparing teachers. The word ‘humor’ was not in the graduate catalogue – until I developed my graduate-level course on humor and adult learning,” he adds. “Whether faculty members realize it or not, their use of humor greatly influences how they are perceived by students.”

So Roth, who freely admits he’s no standup comedian, is on a mission to add levity to classrooms across campus.

“If you’re using humor to help a student understand a concept – although they’re hearing just words – you’ll create an image in their heads that will help them remember it,” he says. “Humor is linked to motivation, classroom climate and retention of content.”

Roth will lead a Presidential Teaching Professor seminar from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, in the Capitol Room of the Holmes Student Center. Refreshments are served from 11:30 a.m. to noon.

The event is sponsored by the Office of the Provost and the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. For more information, call (815) 753-8381.

A professor in the College of Education’s Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education, Roth already teaches a course each year in humor and adult learning. His goal during the seminar is “to help people deepen their understanding of how humor works … or does not work.”

“I want to help people think deeply about humor in their own lives and how they apply it. In my teaching, I rely greatly on spontaneity, whereas other teachers might be very gifted at collecting video clips or being strategic with jokes,” Roth says.

“Most presenters will have the philosophy that ‘There are three major points I want students to walk away with.’ They need to use humor to help learners grasp those points. They need to make meaning through the use of humor,” he adds. “I want everybody to become more assertive with humor in their lives. I want them to be more assertive in seeking it out. I want them to think deeply about applying it in teaching and learning transactions.”

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