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The Power of Enjoyment in Learning

The Power of Enjoyment in Learning

Well here’s a wild thought for you:

In the seventeenth century, a Christian teacher named John Comenius, came to believe that it was possible for students to enjoy learning.

Okay, before we get into that, let’s talk a bit about some of the educational ideas that had come before.  In order to give you a foundational grasp of this, I’d like to quote a bit from the eye-opening book, Education That is Christian, by Dr. Lois LeBar. (LeBar was one of the preeminent Christian educators of the mid-twentieth century, and was the chair of Christian Education at Wheaton for many years.)  She described two sets of factors that affect a student’s education: the inner factors (which refers to things inside of the learner—their attitudes, their experiences, their ideas, etc.) and outer factors (which refers to things outside of the learner—the teacher, the course of study, the room, etc.).  LeBar writes:

Diverse weightA quick survey of the history of education shows that the prevailing tendency of human nature is to overemphasize outer factors. In the ancient nations of Assyria-Babylonia, Egypt, India, and China, outer elements were practically the only consideration.  The general outlook was backward rather than forward, the major aim being to preserve the past or the status quo rather than to improve them.  Memory and imitation stand out as the chief methods in a transmissive, authoritarian system.  Because study was not interesting, discipline was severe.  Because individuality was suppressed, art and science were undeveloped, literature barren and formulistic. . . Even when education gave priests or artisans practical preparation for taking their places in society, this preparation was mechanical and stereotyped.  The stress was upon outward conformity.

“The education that the Lord God gave the Jewish people whom He chose for His own purposes was theocentric and practical, with a salutary balance between inner and outer factors.  They were to glorify Him in national destiny and personal character. He taught them by questions and moral discipline, memorization and sensory appeal.  Their worship of Him and their daily morality were closely connected.  These were also the methods of Christ Jesus, the Master Teacher. . .”

LeBar continues on through a brief synopsis of the history of education, closing perceptively with these thoughts:

“Thus we see that throughout the ages teachers have most often considered their tChild Discoveryask to be that of exposing pupils to factual content and of getting them to give back in words this outer knowledge.  They have relied almost wholly upon verbal communication of facts.

And then comes her zinger: “How much of the factual knowledge to which you were exposed in high school is now your personal possession?”

Ouch!  I don’t know about you, but very little of what I studied in high school remains with me to this day.  And that, my friends, is what we are seeking to change in the lives of our own children.

So, that brings us to John Comenius.  He lived from 1592-1670, spending most of his life as an educator.  Through personal experiences as a student, along with ground-breaking work as an innovator in academics, Comenius gave to the world brilliant insights on education—drawn from Scripture and from nature.  In fact, he had such an impact in the 1600’s that he became known as the “Father of Modern Education.”

With that as an incredibly brief background, listen to what Comenius wrote in his transformational book on learning, The Great Didactic. In the preface, he described his goal, “To seek and to find a method of instruction, by which teachers may teach less, but learners may learn more, by which schools may be the scene of less noise, aversion, and useless labour, but of more leisure, enjoyment and solid progress; and through which the Christian community may have less darkness, perplexity, and dissension, but on the other hand, more light, orderliness, peace, and rest.”  (emphasis mine)

Surprised GrandmaAmazing! Teachers teaching less, but learners learning more??  How is that possible? 

I believe that if we can make learning come alive through the power of enjoyment, if students are encouraged to play and be active, that something dramatic will happen in their education.  

I’m looking forward to next week, where we will actually address how teachers can teach less and learners learn more.  We’ll be looking at some of the most recent discoveries about the brain, and what has been learned about learning.

Remember, stay relational.


 If you are intrigued with this idea, and would like to see a curriculum that invites students into an enjoyment of learning, please click on the yellow button below.

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November 2022

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