What do rap shows, barbershop banter and Sunday services have in common? As Christopher Emdin says, they all hold the secret magic to enthrall and teach at the same time — and it’s a skill we often don't teach to educators. The science advocate (and cofounder of Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S. with the GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan) offers a vision to make the classroom come alive.
By Michael F. Opitz, Michael P. Ford “I am not here to entertain students. I am here to teach them to learn specific content and skills,” commented a teacher in a workshop we were conducting. Imagine her surprise when we agreed with her! In our research on motivation and engagement, which led to creating our joyful learning framework, we discovered that the terms engagement and entertainment are often used synonymously when they are anything but alike. In this brief blog post, we point out the differences and provide some student engagement suggestions. We are drawing these thoughts from our most recent work, Engaging Minds in the Classroom: The Surprising Power of Joy. What is Engagement? Wlodkowski and Ginsberg (1995) defined engagement as the visible outcome of motivation, the natural capacity to direct energy in the pursuit of a goal. It usually happens when learners can sense success is within their reach, they value the outcome of the learning experience, and they feel safe in the classroom setting (Brophy, 2008). Attentive, committed, persistent, and meaning seekers are four characteristics of engaged learners (Schlecty, 2011). During a whole group lesson, a teacher would look for attentive students who are focused on completing a given task and persist if the task becomes difficult because they value what they are doing and derive meaning from it. One sure way to double-check these observations is to talk with students as they complete their work and listen to what they have to say about it. Engaged students might make comments such as “I am having trouble understanding this section but I really want to know about how gravity works. I think I need to look at more of the diagrams to help me understand.” So What Is Entertainment? The difference between entertainment and engagement is clear if we just think about the two words. We know that entertaining students is fairly easy (remember the Friday afternoon video?). As Katz and Chard (2000) remind us, engagement involves getting students interested in the word around them. If students become interested in their world, they will always be able to find something that interests them in their lives. Engagement draws us into our daily lives, whereas entertainment does the opposite; we seek it out to distract us from our daily lives. It diverts us from attending to important matters. In the end, entertainment is fairly fleeting and short-lived. So why make the distinction between these two terms? As educators, our job is to engage students rather than entertain them. We get them engaged by providing tasks that enable them to be attentive, committed, and persistent learners who strive to understand what they are learning, which leads to sustainable and longer-lasting pleasure than when they are entertained. Engaged students and teachers derive joy and pleasure from what they do; they do not need to be entertained (Schlecty, 2011). So What Does This Mean For Educators? While we emphasize the importance of engagement over entertainment, we also recognize that a bit of entertainment can lead students to engagement. In these instances, we want to use entertainment. For example, we might decide to dress up as a historical figure to engage students in learning about that figure. Or we might use a humorous story to entice students to learn content. We fully recognize that having fun allows students to build social relationships. Rather than seeing engagement and entertainment as an “either/or” issue, we suggest using both in purposeful ways to gain a full understanding of how engagement and entertainment contribute to the larger picture. Entertainment becomes a means rather than the end. Using props, humor, and other activities that students find fun in purposeful and meaningful ways can lead to engaged students. Engaged students are more joyful in their learning pursuits. As a result, their learning is learning with staying power. In essence, joy leads students to learning rather than away from it. References Brophy, J. (2008). Developing students’ appreciation for what is taught in school. Educational Psychologist, 43, 132–141. Katz, L. G., & Chard, S. C. (2000). Engaging children’s minds: The project approach (2nd ed.). Stamford, CT: Ablex. Opitz, M., and Ford, M. (2014). Engaging minds in the classroom: The surprising power of joy. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Schlecty, P. C. (2011). Engaging students: The next level of working on the work. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Wlodkowski, R. J., & Ginsberg, M. B. (1995). Diversity and motivation: Culturally responsive teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
This Concept Map, created with IHMC CmapTools, has information related to: Learning Theory v5, Organisation Kolb, Psychology Vygotsky, Psychology Bloom, Piaget genetic epistemology, Psychology Skinner, Montessori constructivism, Dewey constructivism, radical constructivism Knowledge as mental representation: 1a. Knowledge is not passively received either through the senses or by way of communication; 1b. Knowledge is actively built up by the cognising subject; 2a. The function of cognition is adaptive, in the biological sense of the term, tending towards fit or viability; 2b Cognition serves the subject’s organization of the experiential world, not the discovery of an objective ontological reality., social constructivism connectivism, Taylor Organisation, Holt homeschooling, unschooling, constructivism radical constructivism, Kolb experiental learning, Montessori Montessori education, Social anthropology Lave & Wenger, Vygotsky zone of proximal development, Lave & Wenger situated learning, Education Illich, scientific pedagogy Education based on science that modified and improved the individual., communities of practice Groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.
The culmination of my quest for more powerful learning grounded in theory and research came when recently I conducted an experiment in pushing constructionism into the digital age.
Constructionism is based on two types of construction. First, it asserts that learning is an active process, in which people actively construct knowledge from their experience in the world. People don’t get ideas; they make them. This aspect of construction comes from the constructivist theory of knowledge development by Jean Piaget. To Piaget’s concept, Papert added another type of construction, arguing that people construct new knowledge with particular effectiveness when they are engaged in constructing personally meaningful products.
Imagine my surprise and joy when I realized that I had arrived at constructionism prior to knowing that such a theory even existed. I believe that thousands of other educators are unknowingly working within the constructionist paradigm as well. Although many within the Maker movement are aware that it has it’s roots in constructionism, the movement is gaining impressive momentum without the majority of Makers realizing that there is a strong theoretical foundation behind their work.
After I came to understand this connection between my practices and the supporting theoretical framework I was better able to focus and refine my practice. Even more importantly, I felt more confident and powerful in forging ahead with further experiments in the learning situations I design for my learners.
Ralph has worked with educators for more than a decade to develop a planning matrix based on sound learning and thinking theory. The matrix combines Bloom's Taxonomy of thinking levels and Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory to provide teachers with a planning tool that caters for both learning styles (MI) and challenges thinking (Blooms).