Executive Summary

Using the information that was collected on the surveymonkey on the topic of Learning, Boredom, and Fun, I quickly found that the method of presentation had a lot to do with how "fun" or "boring" the presentation was. Learners that were bored often reported that they were to listen, watch, sit still and remember. They were not an active part of the instruction. On the other hand, the learners that were having fun reported that they were active in the class. The were often asked to not sit still, they were interactive with learners and teachers, moved around rather than sit still, and did things such as present or perform, and would think creatively or critically.

What Makes Learning Boring?

Outside of the instruction itself not being active, I found a few other other common threads. All of the boring situations occurred in a classroom or lecture type setting. In come cases it was mentioned that the course content itself or the book used was boring or difficult to comprehend. From reading the description of the event "boring" can be caused by a range of things including:
  1. The setting (summer time, lack of air conditioning) got the class off to a bad start. While all the the respondents reported being an a lecture or class setting in a large theater in addition some noted lack of air conditioning, or being the first day of summer. Chump reported he "just couldn't get my head into learning that day."
  2. It was not always the instruction but sometimes the topic. In some cases it was "difficult to comprehend", As Shel put it "physics class...need I say more".
  3. The delivery method and length played a role in the learning. Many of the classes were reported as long, times reported ranged from 2.5 hours, 4 hours, all the way to 3 days or just plane "long". They all seemed to be a classroom setting or some sort of lecture. None were noted as being a nontraditional outdoor classroom or field trip.
  4. The tone of voice of the instructor can affect learning. Japan Dale reported the "instructor droned on" and another respondent reported "minimal eye contact".
  5. Large class size was a factor. While not all the responses included the class size there were some that sited things such as "200 people", large, or hundreds of students.

What Makes Learning Fun?

"Fun" learning occurs where there is activity in the lesson. The learners are all doing something. Seldom was it reported that the fun activity took place in a lecture. Many of the events were at a museum, on a field trip, or in some type of "outdoor classroom". The learners report such things as:
  1. Teaching through simulations. There was a large range of things mentioned from buying stocks, dressing up like characters, doing a simulation exercise of taxation without representation, and taking on the role of the confederate soldiers. One learner remembered building houses and trying to blow them over with a leaf blower to simulate strong winds in a hurricane.
  2. Smaller class size became a factor. Respondents mentioned everything from splitting the class into two groups, having 15-20 students in the class to having 8 people in a group.
  3. Moving around and working with other students made it more fun. Students had more fun when they did things such as go into mines, participate in an audio guided tour, or use probes.
  4. Learners found story telling to make the experience more fun. They reported instances of the teacher telling stories of their travels. Soccer Mom reports that the "textbook was replaced by personal accounts when they read diaries from the civil war.
  5. Students had fun when they got to do such things as perform or sing. Learners reported signing the song that was learned at recess because they had so much fun learning it. Other described doing things such as making a commercial or a film that was later shared with the class.

Could the Survey be Improved?

After viewing the descriptions that the respondents gave for their boring experiences, I began to wonder what the learners ideas of the event were prior to the start of the event. I came across a few responses that described the topic or the book as "boring" . Is it possible for an instructor to overcome these preconceived ideas? How many of the learners that had a fun time, were already interested in the subject matter, so they were already engaged in the topic? We have all had a required class that we took, that we didn't want to take. Can we really blame the instructor for it not being fun if we went into the situation expecting it to be boring? Yes, there are times when we are surprised that a teacher could make such a topic interesting, but is that the exception to the rule?

I wish we could add one more question to each section about what was your interest in the subject prior to the learning experience. I would like to see how many of the times we expected it to be boring it was boring and how many of the times we expected it to be boring we came out having a fun experience. Do most of our fun experiences come from classes that we expected to be fun? How often is a topic that we are interested in, turn boring because of the delivery methods of the instruction? Would we still have fun if we liked the topic, but the delivery method was not active?

As for trying to analyze the data, I attempted to search using the filters, but found too much difficulty. To search and look at those that have been to college or vocational school (thinking these are people interested in learning therefore inactive learning may not affect them as much) was not as valid to me since some of the respondents may be interested learners, but they are still in elementary or high school. Searching Searching by age was much to difficult since the ages were entered as numbers and not as ranges so I would have had to enter every possible age number. The only real thing that I could separate out in the filter was male and female, and this really didn't bring me to any new conclusions.

Implications

It is clear from this survey that the active learner is having more fun than the inactive learner. With this knowledge, I need to have my classes engages in lessons that have them moving around and intereacting with others. While it isn't clear from the survey data if those that were bored did not learn the material as well, the assumption made that when we are having fun, we are more engaged and therefore obtaining more of the information.

Class size also seems to be important. There is a trend for class size reduction at the lower grades. I don't believe that the origin of the idea was to make learning more fun, but rather to allow the teacher more student contacts with each student. It does beg he question, if students in small classes are having more fun, and therefore learning better, why do we have so many large lectures in college? Are colleges in the business of teaching or just making money off students?