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Confusing fun with learning

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  • Diarmuid Fogarty
    Until they become more experienced it s convenient for teachers to assume that, if the students in their classes are interacting with one another in lively
    Message 1 of 7 , Jun 9, 2006
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      "Until they become more experienced it's convenient for teachers to assume that, if the students in their classes are interacting with one another in lively ways, successful learning is taking place. In effect, these teachers are confusing enjoyment with learning. "

      from http://education.guardian.co.uk/tefl/comment/story/0,,1783764,00.html

      Discuss.



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    • Robert M. Haines
      Until they become more experienced it s convenient for teachers to assume that, if the students in their classes are interacting with one another in lively
      Message 2 of 7 , Jun 9, 2006
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        "Until they become more experienced it's convenient for teachers to assume that, if the students in their classes are interacting with one another in lively ways, successful learning is taking place. In effect, these teachers are confusing enjoyment with learning. "

        from http://education.guardian.co.uk/tefl/comment/story/0,,1783764,00.html

        Discuss.

        ...says Diarmuid.

        Like many articles of its genre, this one follows the SPRE model (Situation, Problem, Response, Evaluation). I often go directly to the final paragraph (Evaluation) of these articles to get the gist:

        "Over the past 25 years CLT has proved to be a flexible and robust approach to the teaching of English. In the hands of experienced teachers it is a highly effective approach that provides students with multiple opportunities to engage actively in the learning process in interesting and worthwhile ways. However, in the hands of less experienced teachers CLT can lead students to believe that language teaching as it is practised in countries such as Britain and Australia is 'loose' - and that the classroom activities provided for them fall into the category of frivolous party games."

        Don't we have to know what constitutes 'experience' in Ms. Senior's mind, in order to properly guage her generalizations about teachers?

        The author makes valid points, but the article has a finger-wagging tone to it when I read it. That could just be the "renegade yank" (nod to Fiona) in me though.

        Rob

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      • Dennis Newson
        A one-setence comment. I can t prove it, but I m personally convinced that there is far more likely to be learning if there is enjoyment than if it is absent.
        Message 3 of 7 , Jun 10, 2006
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          A one-setence comment. I can't prove it, but I'm personally convinced that
          there is far more likely to be learning if there is enjoyment than if it is
          absent.


          Dennis


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Jane Arnold
          Anyone minimizing the importance of fun in learning is forgetting Horace s famous maxim about edifying and delighting being joined in the best learning. No one
          Message 4 of 7 , Jun 10, 2006
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            Anyone minimizing the importance of fun in learning is forgetting
            Horace's famous maxim about edifying and delighting being joined in the
            best learning.
            No one - I don't think even the new teachers referred to in the article
            - would (should) confuse just playing games and having a good time with
            all that we need to do in the classroom but the idea, as usual, is
            balance, and as has been said before, it is FUNdaMENTAL to remember that
            the FUN comes before the MENTAL.
            In a class of extremely motivated, highly disciplined, academically
            focused, very intelligent, totally committed students, anything we do
            they will learn from. In fact, they will even learn in spite of us.
            But how many of us have classes like that today? So somehow we have to
            touch their motivational fibers and one way is to incorporate some
            activities that are intrinsically enjoyable. Jill Hadfield says in her
            very useful book on classroom dynamics (and many others echo this, of
            course) that the atmosphere we create to a large extent determines how
            much learning will be taking place, and she points out that some
            activities may be justified just because they create this favorable
            climate but the best ones also carry important language learning work
            piggyback on the fun. I think this is something that could have been
            stressed more in the article to give a less finger-wagging impression.

            Jane


            Dennis Newson escribió:

            > A one-setence comment. I can't prove it, but I'm personally convinced that
            > there is far more likely to be learning if there is enjoyment than if
            > it is
            > absent.
            >
            > Dennis
            >
            > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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          • Marianne Dorléac
            I think that the article gave an original point of view : I read many articles and books about the importance of fun and indeed I was a bit fed up with the
            Message 5 of 7 , Jun 10, 2006
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              I think that the article gave an original point of view : I read many articles and books about "the importance of fun" and indeed I was a bit fed up with the *obligation* of teaching (or attending, as a student) a "fun" class. I make a distinction between fun and "enjoyment". To me (correct me if I am wrong), you can "enjoy" a class that is not "fun". Enjoyment is necessary to learning, not "fun". Because enjoyment always means pleasure, but "fun", to me, can be boring, since I am not always in the mood for having fun, or maybe just because I have a different sense of humour ? I just feel that "fun" isn't as deep : you can observe "fun", but you experience "enjoyment".
              Marianne

              Jane Arnold <arnold@...> a écrit :
              Anyone minimizing the importance of fun in learning is forgetting
              Horace's famous maxim about edifying and delighting being joined in the
              best learning.
              No one - I don't think even the new teachers referred to in the article
              - would (should) confuse just playing games and having a good time with
              all that we need to do in the classroom but the idea, as usual, is
              balance, and as has been said before, it is FUNdaMENTAL to remember that
              the FUN comes before the MENTAL.
              In a class of extremely motivated, highly disciplined, academically
              focused, very intelligent, totally committed students, anything we do
              they will learn from. In fact, they will even learn in spite of us.
              But how many of us have classes like that today? So somehow we have to
              touch their motivational fibers and one way is to incorporate some
              activities that are intrinsically enjoyable. Jill Hadfield says in her
              very useful book on classroom dynamics (and many others echo this, of
              course) that the atmosphere we create to a large extent determines how
              much learning will be taking place, and she points out that some
              activities may be justified just because they create this favorable
              climate but the best ones also carry important language learning work
              piggyback on the fun. I think this is something that could have been
              stressed more in the article to give a less finger-wagging impression.

              Jane


              Dennis Newson escribió:

              > A one-setence comment. I can't prove it, but I'm personally convinced that
              > there is far more likely to be learning if there is enjoyment than if
              > it is
              > absent.
              >
              > Dennis
              >
              > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              >
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            • Diarmuid Fogarty
              The reason I put the quotation up for discussion is because I think that it is not quite right. I would modify it by writing: It is fair to assume that, if
              Message 6 of 7 , Jun 11, 2006
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                The reason I put the quotation up for discussion is because I think that it is not quite right. I would modify it by writing: "It is fair to assume that, if the students in their classes are interacting with one another in lively ways, successful learning is taking place. Learning happens through confusion and enjoyment. " In fact, the title of this thread is particularly appropriate if one takes "confusing" as an adjective that modifies "fun".

                I don't think that this is a "convenient" falsehood. If students are happy AND interacting (I take it as read that the interaction is in L2) in a lively way, unless each and every student is of an identical level, learning will take place as the "lively interaction" becomes peppered with requests for clarification, doubts about appropriacy, new vocabulary being heard, games being played with the language etc.

                I was also surprised to see the writer apparently dichotomise learning and enjoyment. To some extent I agree with Rob's appraisal of the article ("[some] valid points"), but I am not convinced by the argument that says that you have to be an experienced teacher to make such things as CLT work. I know of many "experienced teachers" who try to use CLT and who are unsuccessful. I also know of many more experienced teachers who have probably never heard of CLT but whose learners excel.

                Isn't it much more to do with how agreeable an experience learners have in the classroom and much less about methodologies and/or years' teaching stuck under the belt?

                Diarmuid



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              • Robert M. Haines
                Diarmuid asks: Isn t it [learning?] much more to do with how agreeable an experience learners have in the classroom and much less about methodologies and/or
                Message 7 of 7 , Jun 14, 2006
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                  Diarmuid asks:
                  "Isn't it [learning?] much more to do with how agreeable an experience learners have in the classroom and much less about methodologies and/or years' teaching stuck under the belt?"

                  To be fair to Ms. Senior, she does write: "...it's easy for language teachers --- particularly novices who lack experience and who receive little in the way of professional support --- to confuse fun with learning." To me, that implies that the author believes any language teacher could slip into such confusion.

                  Diarmuid's observation has me thinking about that word 'experience', though, because Ms. Senior has used it to separate those of us 'in the know' from those in the dark if you will. Ms. Senior makes some hearty assumptions about the practice of experienced teachers, e.g. they use CLT effectively as an approach and explain the purpose of each activity.

                  As for students, she claims that ones "who have been taught by experienced teachers readily recognise the benefits of the communicative approach" and "see how being engaged in relevant interactive tasks with peers allows them to participate actively in the learning process --- rather than being spoon-fed by their teachers."

                  Perhaps there's more than one learning process in which students can actively, or passively, participate. I'm not sure students who've been taught by experienced teachers, whoever they are, necessarily realize and recognize all that Ms. Senior claims they do.

                  Jimi Hendrix sang "But first, are you experienced? Have you ever been experienced? I have." Every language teacher who ever set foot in a classroom has been experienced and is experienced. As a matter of fact, one month of enjoyment and lively interaction could mean more than a year of talk 'n chalk while the students nod off. Again, Ms. Senior seems to be separating those teachers who 'get it' from those who remain uninformed.

                  The article, which uses the term "successful learning", along with Diarmuid's post, bring up the familiar issues of what constitutes learning, how to make or let it happen, and so on. Maybe I'm not experienced enough to know.

                  Rob





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