Class is Fun: Is That a Compliment?

Early on in the semester, I had a student message me and tell me that she was finding my class to be fun. Since then, several others have said the same thing. And you know what? I’m glad. I want class to be fun, and I’m not ashamed to say it. Having our classes be fun does not make them less rigorous or mean they are easy. It simple means students are enjoying themselves.

I thought about it – this idea of fun – and realized something. As you know, I recently changed jobs¬†. In my previous position, I was an Associate Professor with typical Associate Professor responsibilities. In my new position, I have been promoted to Full Professor and have an endowed chair that comes with all sorts of responsibilities. I also moved across the country from North Carolina to Wyoming. I tell you this because when thinking about the idea of class being fun I recognized that my new job is fun. Way fun. Super fun. Gets funner by the minute. But my job is also challenging and has moments when it is hard. That is to be expected. I have a whole new set of responsibilities. Some things look familiar but a lot of stuff is different. I imagine it will get easier each year as I settle in. But, and here’s my point,¬†even when things are challenging and hard, I still love my job. I still think it’s super fun and the most amazing thing ever.

So can’t class be that way for students? Of course it can! It can be challenging and hard and still be something students get excited about (usually).

When I designed my fall class, I wasn’t focused on making it fun. It didn’t cross my mind that students would or should have fun in the class. If you had asked me about it, I probably would have said that fun would be a by-product that some students might experience, but I certainly wasn’t going to get hung up on it. And that’s still the case. I’m not out designing classes with fun as my number one (or even number two) goal.

But what I do is try to make experiences and content engaging and relevant while also challenging. I try to offer choice as much as possible. Usually that choice is somewhat restricted, and sometimes there are things that have to be done. But my guess is that when students say the class is fun it is because of these things. Because I have worked to make content engaging, relevant, and challenging, and provided lots of opportunities for choice, students end up with a fair amount of control over what they want their experiences within the class to look like. If you have a fair amount of control, shouldn’t most of what you do be something you enjoy? And if you make a choice and end up not liking it next time you can just make a different one. So I would imagine that would make things not so miserable.

So if a student tells you class is fun, take it as a compliment. I see it as meaning they want to show up and do the work. I see it as meaning they are engaged with the work and getting meaningful experiences from it. Which is exactly what I want them to be doing. Going forward, I’m still not going to be concerned about making a class fun. I’m just going to focus on making it relevant, meaningful, and challenging which offering a wide range of choice.

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