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No, really? Research shows instructive classroom sarcasm helps learning, trust

Teachers in urban high school settings who use sarcasm as a form of deliberate and meaningful instruction can help to build communities of trust and learning, new research shows.

The Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy recently published new research focusing on urban education in settings where students live in high rates of poverty, including Rochester.

Joanne Larson, a professor and researcher at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education, worked with two co-teachers – Timothy Morris, an English teacher, and Kristen Shaw, an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher -to conduct research at East High School. The trio served as co-authors.

“Sarcasm, as an ironic speech act, promotes critical language awareness and thinking instead of conditioned response, which is common in high schools,” the co-authors of the article found.

The research focuses on how the use of sarcasm can build a positive rapport with students, including English as a New Language (ENL) students, that is sustained over time. Observational field notes, along with formal and informal interviews, and documents and photographs were the basis for the research during the first 18 months of the EPO partnership between the University of Rochester and East High School.

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