Approaching education with a creative learning environment has been a subject discussed for quite some time. I am always enlightened and intrigued to incorporate new ways for students to not only learn the material at hand, but to actually enjoy the process.
Enjoy learning? Yes! Extensive research has shown that the amount of serotonin released in the brain during pleasurable experiences enhances the ability to retain and recall, thus it makes perfect sense to attempt to make education pleasurable for students. How we as instructors do this is the true question.
It’s convenient to make a comment such as, “I hope you enjoy this lecture!” However, when you look out amongst the bored stiff, nodding off, doodling, staring blankly into the unknown faces in the room…it’s not hard to figure out that they are far from the word “enjoy.” Grasping the understanding that education can actually be taught in an enjoyable and even pleasurable way has reshaped the very way that I approach the classroom.
One of the comments that I have found extremely flattering on student evaluations is that students love coming to my class, and have fun learning the difficult material. I start pleasure learning on day one with an introduction to my life. I have found that becoming personal with students makes a huge difference in how they receive you as an instructor. I want my classroom to be relaxed and as stress free as possible, so from the beginning I attempt to make a connection with them that will give them confidence to participate in my open floor policy.
What’s that? Well, in my class at anytime if someone is struggling, we will pause for a question and answer explanation. The entire class will participate in helping answer questions. Of course, I will guide the session, but this allows students to shine and take pride in what they know. Students love this activity, and I always have great participation. I have over heard several students asking each other, “Hey, what was that you said about antibiotics the other day?” It engages them and helps them be a part of the class as opposed to just sitting there.
Another pleasurable approach I take would be humor. Ask anyone that has taken my class, and I guarantee they can remember at least one silly or funny story that I have told. You’ve heard that laughter is the best medicine…well it’s also a great educator! I have students come into the classroom on the first day of class and say “So what about the honey bees?” or “I’m suppose to ask you about the opossum!” I just smile and assure them I’ll tell that story when the time is right. Having students laugh and learn has been very successful in my class. I give them fun examples that are often real life experiences that they can not only relate to, but remember. Granted I do get some “pity” laughs since not all of my jokes are humorous…but then that’s in the arm anyway.
Attacking education with pleasurable experiences is a wonderful way to help students learn. Many instructors do this already and don’t even realize it! Students gravitate to certain professors because they know the class will be fun or exciting. Incorporating even a small amount of pleasure in the class can make a huge difference!
(pleasureteam note: Elizabeth Beverly teaches a popular course in medical microbiology at Hopkinsville Community College. Her students love her upbeat personality and her creative teaching style.)