Beautiful Minds

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10 Insights to Enhance the Joy of Learning

The essence of the joy of learning

Over at The Creativity Post, Annie Murphy Paul has an excellent piece called "Where's the Joy in Learning?", in which she mentions the research of Taina Rantala and Kaarina Määttä. The purpose of their research was "to create a concept of the joy of learning and the factors enhancing it in the classroom environment." Using a combination of video and photography, they observed 7 to 8-year-olds engaged in the learning experience of a Finnish school class. Based on the transcriptions of the students' emotional dialogue and actions, they came up with ten "theses" of the joy of learning.

I think their insights are so important, and should be considered by teachers at every grade. Below I list their excellent insights. You can read the full article here.  

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#1: The joy of learning comes from the experiences of success

"A teacher should favour such teaching methods that enable the achievement of little intervening goals as a part of a greater learning process: smaller achievements func- tion as catalysts towards greater overall goals. These small steps are important when it comes to the joy of learning." 

#2: Play provides a possibility to experience the joy of learning in the early school years

"Although a child does not consider play as a tool for learning, play itself represents important and meaningful activity. Even if play does not produce anything significant or concrete from an adult’s point of view, a child structures his/ her own environment through play. Thinking and action merge during play, and by means of play, a child takes over in terms of handling their social, cognitive and physical environment. Playing is the child’s way of seeking pleasure: why is this matter not tapped into more in teaching?" 

#3: The joy of learning enjoys an environment of freedom

"Children’s free play should not be regarded only as side action that occurs when nothing important is happening and all the ‘real’ tasks are completed. Free play is relevant to a child and can be considered free, typical and valued child activity without any demands from adults or attempts to subordinate it as an instrument. A free student is inquisitive and creative." 

#4: The joy of learning does not like to hurry

"As the joy of learning is often connected with finishing a task or solving a problem, hurry does nothing to enhance the achievement of these goals. The activity itself can act as a significant source of pleasure and joy." 

#5: The joy of learning springs up in situations in which a task and can actor converge

"The balance between a learner’s abilities and the task is crucial to the joy of learning. A learner has to consider the task meaningful to him/herself because true commitment to the task does not occur without considering the task valuable. One also has to feel able to manage the task. The feeling of capability provides a learner with courage and represents the meaning of the joy of learning as daring to meet challenges."

#6: A student naturally strives for the joy of learning

"A student wants to learn. One adds one’s energy in order to attain positive experiences and with these experiences gains positive emotions in a pleasant situation." 

#7: The joy of learning is often a common joy, too

"The company of other students and friends and a teacher’s genuine interest are premises for experiencing the joy of learning."  

#8: The joy of learning does not include listening to prolonged speeches

"A student should be at the centre of the learning situation. If a teacher alone is active and talks considerably, the student’s role is just to listen, get tired and bored with the lack of action and doing." 

#9: The joy of learning is based on a student's abilities

"The students’ opportunities to participate in the decision-making of their own learning and to be allowed to make choices that support their learning, strengths, and success, strengthen the joy of learning." 

#10: The joy of learning is context bound

The joy of learning appears differently in every teacher’s classroom. There are many ways to establish a learning environment that enables students to experience the joy of learning... the most important thing is for every teacher to consider the joy of learning or lack of it in his/her classroom and to think of ways to provide his/her own group with opportunities to experience joy." 

© 2012 by Scott Barry Kaufman.

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Scott Barry Kaufman is Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

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