clown

Hey kids!

Hang around college faculty for awhile and you’re likely to hear grumbling about how students with short attention spans expect a “dog and pony show” in the classroom. I’ve read this is the “Sesame Street Syndrome”: that is, a lifetime of being tuned in to quickly-changing stimuli from various educational media has created young people for whom it is difficult to focus for any length of time, and who expect that learning should be fun. (This attitude is crystallized in a remark from one of my former students: “Well, if you were boring, we’d all be falling asleep” – as if a student’s inattentiveness is the prof’s fault.)  Enter the much-derided (in higher ed circles anyway) concept of “edutainment.”

Perhaps it’s derided for good reason. First, in my experience, I have seen that most profs do work hard to engage their students and certainly don’t set out to be boring. Even so, despite students’ personal preferences, recent research contradicts the idea that students actually learn more while they’re being entertained. In fact, the study cited here indicates there was no significant difference between student learning after students had heard a lecturer perceived as charismatic and fluent and a lecturer perceived as “disfluent.” Interestingly, however, the students thought they’d learned more from the entertainer.

In the long run, surely what matters is what you’ve learned, not what you might believe you’ve learned. This is something to keep in mind, as a student, when you hear certain professors are “fun” and entertaining in the classroom . . . they may, indeed, be excellent profs and talented at teaching, but in the end – sorry, Ernie, Bert, et al – a higher “fun” level does not equate to a better education.

Article linked above is “Charisma Doesn’t Count,” Chris Parr, Inside Higher Ed, 5/30/13.

Image via mrg.bz / jade

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