Making Fun of School, or Why does Learning have to be Such a Drag? Six Key Elements for Motivating Learning

By Wilkins-O’Riley Zinn.

Published by The Learner Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

There is a formula for drudgery in Willam Carl Ruediger’s 1932 book, Teaching Procedures. If interest is missing, Ruediger asserts, almost any kind of activity can be boring and unpleasant. For almost two decades, Dr. Wilkins-O’Riley Zinn has been asking people of all ages when learning is fun for them, and, through analysis of hundreds of surveys, has uncovered six common themes. As a creativity expert and former educator of at-risk youth who currently teaches pre- and in-service educators, Zinn focuses her current research on the scholarship of teachers which includes the application of the themes of fun to the creation of meaningful and engaging classroom and home•work processes and activities that nurture creative and critical thinking. Because survey respondents overwhelmingly identified the teacher as the most crucial element in making learning fun, the paper also provides insight into “connective teaching” (Zinn, 2004).
The paper will introduce the themes of fun and provide supporting research along with concrete ways to actualize them that build resiliency and lifelong habits of intentional learning while helping teachers engage students in and out of school. These fun•raising activities can be differentiated to meet individual learner needs and can also be integrated alongside accountability requirements.
In Choice Theory, Dr. William Glasser (1998) identifies fun as one of five basic human needs. The themes of fun in learning and the ideas provided in this paper can motivate and energize students and teachers, and are adaptable across grade levels, K-16, and in multiple disciplines.

Keywords: Fun in Learning, Motivation, Burnout and Dropout Prevention, Creativity, Differentiation, Lifelong Learning, Teacher Effectiveness

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 15, Issue 8, pp.153-160. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 552.186KB).

Dr. Wilkins-O’Riley Zinn

Associate Professor, School of Education, Southern Oregon University, Ashland, Oregon, USA

I am a pARTicipatory artist, poet, autoethnographer, funsultant, and teacher, and although I am an associate professor of education, my perspectives on the purposes and processes of education were crafted during two decades of private sector work as a newspaper editor, radio production director, and graphic designer, as well as by experiences as an adult learner. My interests include creativity, at-risk students (and teachers), adult learners, service learning, classroom management, and literacy, and I teach graduate courses in all of these areas as well as others including teacher leadership, adolescent development, and education research in which I focus on an original autoethnographic process I call The Collectory. My primary research includes ongoing data collection into when learning is fun for people and is linked to motivation theory, intentional learning, and creating successful spaces--both literal and figurative--for learning.


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