The Joy of Learning – September 2017

In today’s world, it is sometimes easy to forget that learning should be joyful. Too often we project a jaded or cynical countenance when discussing school. “I have to go to school,” or “I can’t wait until spring break,” are common expressions regarding our attitude toward education. Learning can be hard, and sometimes it is difficult to see its usefulness immediately. However, learning is much more than simply finding out more about a particular topic; in fact, in many ways, learning is at the core of what it means to be human.

A recent study of Finnish 1st– and 2nd-graders, done by Taina Rantala and Kaarina Maatta, resulted in ten conclusions regarding education and how joy can be found in learning. Briefly summarized, they were:

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

“A teacher should favor such teaching methods that enable the achievement of little intervening goals as a part of a greater learning process: smaller achievements function 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…”

#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 an 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 center 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 ability to make choices

“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.”

In other words, joy is the natural result of adults helping children to experience success through play and encouraging exploration so as to allow them time to discover, feel appropriately challenged, engage in social activity and learn within a supportive environment. It is my hope and challenge that parents and teachers will ensure that this school year is a joyful one!

Reference: The research report can be found here: http://bit.ly/RSDjoy

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