Where is the value in fun?

Essentially I believe Physical Education to be about the learning of movement and all things associated with movement. For that learning to occur I believe we need to help students find the value in movement rather than just the fun in it. This post is an attempt to clarify my thinking behind why I favour value over fun within my PE classroom.

Fun in movement

Without doubt fun is a key element of intrinsic motivation and the children I teach use it as a compliment when they think a lesson I’ve taught is a good one. Therefore I think many PE Teachers hypothesise that if they make their lessons ‘fun’ then students will be motivated to learn. However fun is such a vague and individual concept. When I was younger one of the things I found fun was pushing myself to my physical limits and was drawn to middle distance training. Pushing myself hard, whilst my body was screaming in pain and full of lactic acid, was a lot of fun. Many of my friends did not share this idea of fun, and this is where the fun hypotheses fails for me.

What is fun for one person may not be fun for another. The work of Amanda Visek and colleagues have tried to unravel and deconstruct fun through their work on the fun integration theory. Although looking at youth soccer and not PE, it demonstrates that there are a lot of different factors that make up fun. If fun were to be the driving force of our lessons in PE we should find out exactly what fun means to our students. Do we as teachers assume what is fun for our students, without actually engaging them in a conversation what exactly makes it fun? Can we make lessons fun for all pupils all of the time, especially if we put fun at the centre of our planning, content, curriculum and delivery? Ted Temertzoglou as a guest on the PE podcast The Fundamental Movement in the episode What’s “Fun” got to do with it? makes a good point that I wholeheartedly agree with. If as PE Teachers we make the classroom environment inclusive, safe and allow children to take risks regardless of success and failure and not judged or labeled by the teacher or peers then there is a good chance that fun will be a by product of that. I have many questions about fun’s central role to learning within PE that I’m yet to find answers to in my experience or reading, so I have tried to find something that is able to.

Value in movement

I don’t use it in the sense of an economist, where we place a measurement on the benefit of something, but how it is used in ethics and the degree of importance it has. Especially when linked to its potential in making a significant contribution to a human flourishing in its widest interpretation. It is the child who perceives, interprets and judges what is of value in physical education. The value of movement therefore must always be from the perspective of the child and not what interpretation may be put upon them by others including the teacher. Rather than trying to make things fun for them, I want to guide them to explore what value they can get from movement and how that can lead to a richer and fuller life. That may include the inherent fun and enjoyment of the act of movement itself, but not just exclusive to that. Be it cognitive, aesthetic, social, moral and health development or anything else that might be important to them. That the learning of movement doesn’t just mean they can reach their potential, but helps shape their potential in all areas and aspects of their life. I do not necessarily use the term ‘value’ with the children I teach though. What I do try to do is help them clarify and understand those values of movement for themselves and get them to share it with their peers.

Fun and enjoyment are important in my classroom, but I don’t think they are always necessary for learning to occur. I personally feel fun is fleeting and values can be more enduring and long-lasting. I also believe that explicitly helping children to individually explore and understand how movement can be valuable to their lives within lessons, be that through experiencing joy or something else, means that they will be able to take responsibility in finding additional or alternative values in movement beyond school. Therefore allowing them to be able to take responsibility for purposeful movement and physical activity throughout the rest of their lives.

 

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10 thoughts on “Where is the value in fun?

  1. Great post again. Fun is something I have always struggled to define when coaching. It really is down to the individual. As coaches we need to know our players well enough to understand their definition.

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    1. Hi David. Thanks for your comment. I wonder if there is a difference between fun, not fun and killing fun? That learning being fun is what all coaches and teachers would aspire to, but that learning not being fun is okay as well. however if the practice is killing fun then perhaps we need to stop and question it. Does that make any sense?

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    1. Hi Doug. I definitely haven’t got this right in my own head yet, but I think allowing children to explore how movement can be of value to their current lives, is a worthwhile activity. I’m not saying fun isn’t important, but I do question whether it should be the key driving force in curriculum, content and delivery. Thanks for the link to some further reading. Will follow it up.

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  2. Some great thoughts!

    I agree that teaching the value of movement is more important than fun and I think we’ll see kids that value movement enjoying it more than those that don’t – fun like you said becomes the natural byproduct.

    I also think we should should always be aware of the factor that fun and enjoyment play in a student seeing the value in movement. Students having a blast with an activity makes for a great teachable moment about the importance of finding physical activities that you enjoy as part of a healthy lifestyle.

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    1. Hi Ben, I think the point you make of guiding (or explicitly showing) the link between them finding an activity fun and making movement meaningful is an important one. Too often we just make it fun in the hope that it leads to something else.

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  3. I think that making practice “fun” should be high priority for a coach of young athletes. However, you are right – what is fun? “Fun” means different things to different individuals and I believe that the use of the term in coaching is often misunderstood to mean playful, not serious, and maybe even “mucking about”. I think that coaches must find out what fun means to the athletes that they coach. The easiest way to to do this is to ask them. I have written about my experiences with doing this in an article titled “Fun Tops the Charts” at https://coachingyoungathletes.com/2015/06/01/fun-tops-the-charts/

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    1. Hi Darren. I really like the post you have shared with me and I shall pass on to members of my department. The point about finding out what your athletes think is fun about the sport of activity you are coaching is a pertinent one and how you try to include elements from the top 10 into your sessions seems a sensible and manageable one for teachers and coaches a like. Thanks for sharing it with me.

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  4. […] In the past I thought fun a distraction from learning. I felt fun and enjoyment was an excuse to make PE a respite from the real learning that was happening within school, rather than complimenting it. However Scott Kretchmar’s writing on meaningful PE has challenged that idea. That fun and enjoyment are a part of an interconnected series of experiences that are individual to the learner which also include increased motor competence, social interaction, challenge and delight. If the experiences we provide children in PE and Youth Sport aren’t enjoyable, do we lose them forever? As Mark O’Sullivan recently tweeted ‘The responsibility of a child’s first coach is pure and simple – inspire them to play independently of you.’ So how do we as PE Teachers and Youth Sport Coaches plan for enjoyment? How do we ensure that it is not viewed as the only focus of a physical education lesson or youth sport coaching session but rather as an effective vehicle for, and therefore integral component of, meaningful experiences? How do we ensure it is neither ignored, nor prioritized at the expense of Kretchmar’s other criteria for meaningful experiences? […]

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