Learning; it isn’t about fun.


Teachers often ask ‘how can I get students to learn X?’. The responses, instead of focussing on what research supports learning, often include making it fun, as though fun in itself is enough to make a learner learn.

Maybe we’re conflating engagement and fun here but it’s not enough (previous blog on why I don’t bother). Planning a lesson for engagement isn’t enough to ensure students learn. Many students are engaged but without planning for long term memory their ability to recall and apply knowledge will be limited.

It’s so simple but so many teachers have no idea either because it wasn’t on their ITE programme or their T&L lead hasn’t engaged staff with research on learning.

So instead of planning a fun lesson, I will recommend strategies that have some evidence of being effective for memory and long term application e.g a Lietner box or equivalent app.

The problem is, they generally aren’t based on a ‘one off’ lesson which is where most teachers become uninterested. They want instant solutions, a couple of weeks before exams. They call it ‘revision’ (it isn’t revision if they don’t know it!) It’s generally too late.

Whose job is it to train/inform/support teachers in learning and implementing  this? Or is it all just another big red herring to distract teachers?


4 thoughts on “Learning; it isn’t about fun.

  1. In one of my intervention groups last year I tested their times tables at the start of every lesson. I found some sheets with some marvel heroes on they were competing against. They had fun doing them (even I was a bit surprised by how much they liked it). They enjoyed getting better each time and in the end that is what sustained them. I could have taken away the marvel heroes and it would have still worked. Opportunity cost of making it fun was not much as resources there already but it cost someone their time.

  2. Oh how right you are. Fun is a distraction, now become the de facto expectation of many children about their school experience. It seems to have crowded out any higher expectations they might have. And it is making it increasingly difficult to do anything demanding with quite a lot of them.

  3. You say, and I must agree, that teachers confuse engagement with fun. I also think we are guilty of confusing the terms “fun” and “interesting”. All to often I’ve seen teachers bore the pants off their students… yes, they still learn something, but education is about the journey as much as its about the outcomes, and I find that if a teacher can do something interesting in the classroom, it becomes memorable to their students. Let’s face it… as subject specialists, who are supposed to be passionate about what we teach, if we cannot bring our subjects to life and spark the interests of others, then there’s really not much hope for a teenager who might at first struggle to see the value in that subject. Surely if she student is having some fun in learning a subject, the successful outcomes become a by-product of that?

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