Make me laugh, clown!

An analogy: It’s less stressful for your brain to watch a dumber than dumb comedy than a heavy movie where you’re intended to think about the issues being discussed in it. One is taken at face value (and may be your ab workout for the week) and the other is something that can help you grow (if think about the messages and talk about it with your peers). Same thing applies to education. This post was inspired by another post, here.

If our primary goal is to entertain, we risk the chance of becoming a little like this. Obviously this isn’t as bad as the overt racism example we heard about during our last seminar, nor is it what the other post if referring to, but we have here both the professor and students using foul language and being – albeit mockingly – disrespectful to each other. Not a healthy learning environment…

I think there’s definitely a balance between entertainment in the classroom and motivating a student to own up to their part of the bargain.  It is our job to get the student to occasionally want to watch the heavy movie…or at least get them to engage in some deeper thought about the face-value one (there’s always some sexist, gender-ist, racist text or subtext that these movies play off of for humor that, while maybe still being funny and/or innocuous, should at least be recognized for what it is). But let’s be real, you can’t move every students world every time you teach a class. So what’s the balance between being entertaining and being engaging?

I always find it help to think in pure definitions when answering basic questions:

Student Entertainment occurs when students are being provided with amusement or enjoyment.

Student engagement occurs when “students make a psychological investment in learning. They try hard to learn what school offers. They take pride not simply in earning the formal indicators of success (grades), but in understanding the material and incorporating or internalizing it in their lives.” (you caught me, that’s a wiki definition).

The balance is having the student mentally present in the classroom on a level that requires something other than mindless laughing at lame jokes, but at the same time is hitting multiple levels of “engagement” – the Fowler-coined “deep dive” vs high level thinking. The idea is to challenge them to meet their end, but not over do it. We’ve said in this class if they’re too challenged, they’ll do something equally as undesirable as being a zombie – curl up under their shell and hide, skate by with the bare minimum because if they’re trying the feel too exposed.

OK. So another thing to balance. Check. How do we challenge them just the right amount?

Experience? Yeah, maybe not helpful to those of you, like me, that haven’t taught a full-on class yet. But I guess that opens the floor to find your voice as a teacher – which is what that worksheet was all about from seminar.

I also wonder what the expectation of students is when it comes to content, vs engagement, ve entertainment. I feel like we’ve read about our side of the deal, but I’m curious to know what students, as a whole, think about this concept.


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