Fulling-Smith, Jennifer A.

Committee Member

Pendleton-Helm, Heather

Committee Member

Weingartner, Angela

Committee Member

Moore, Mel


College of Education and Behavioral Sciences; Department of Applied Psychology & Counselor Education, Counselor Education and Supervision

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley, (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created



203 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


The following dissertation presented the findings from the first known Moustakas Phenomenological Analysis study exploring the experience of seven counselors-in-training (CITs) in the classroom with an instructor who utilized humor. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to investigate the lived experience of counseling students who had participated in master’s classrooms in which the instructor used humor. Previous research has explored the use of humor within counseling, though no research has explored the experience of CITs in a classroom with an instructor who utilized humor. Moreover, no literature has explored the experience of CITs within their instructor-student relationship with an instructor who utilized humor. This study addressed this gap in literature. The primary research question guiding the study was: How do master’s students in counseling experience instructor use of humor in the classroom? An additional sub-research question further explored CIT experience, specific to the student-instructor relationship: How does instructor use of humor in the classroom influence the student-instructor relationship for master’s students in counseling? Seven participants engaged in one 30-to-90-minute semi-structured interview, completed a demographics questionnaire, as well as participated in a member checking interview and member checked further through email correspondence. Three main composite themes emerged from the data: (a) Defining Humor, (b) Humor and Connection vs Disconnection, and (c) Humor and Learning. The Defining Humor sub-theme explored participants’ personal definition of humor including what they believed to make something funny and the subjective nature of humor. Humor and Connection vs Disconnection encapsulated participants’ experience of humor being a tool to humanize their professors, feeling more connected with their professors due to their use of humor, as well as some information on how humor could also foster disconnection. The final theme, Humor and Learning explored how students perceived humor as a learning tool in the classroom, some stating they felt more engaged and energized when humor was used as well as recalling content better, participants also explored how they felt emotionally in a classroom with humor being utilized, many of which felt more comfortable and less anxious in class. Each superordinate theme contained sub-themes when discussed further in the subsequent document. Much of the participants’ recounted experience matched that which had been seen in previous literature, others added new perspective to the construct of humor in the classroom. Results from this study could have unique implications within the field of counselor education. Results from this study could have the potential to inform counselor educators how students experience humor in the classroom. In turn, this information could better inform counselor educators how to appropriately utilize humor within their teaching to support student learning, comfort, as well as the student-instructor relationship.

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