Questioning Joy (the noun not the lady/s)

Why should we look for opportunities to play and why would we encourage others, to do the same? These are questions that I have been considering over the last couple of weeks, following the excellent conference: ‘Remix Play Summit’, held at Coventry University’s Disruptive Media Learning Lab.


However, I don’t want this post to directly address the questions above, to become a review of the conference, or be an essay on the value of play (the presenters at Remix Play would do a far better job than I would). What I would like it to be is an opportunity to share one of the ideas (raised at the summit), that has challenged me to revisit my understanding of approaches to learning and teaching. The idea I would like to share (proffered by Prof. Nicola Whitton), is that we have “decoupled the joy of learning and the reward of learning.” (Whitton, 2017)


Surely any student choosing to study a particular subject in Further or Higher Education would have an interest and a passion for the discipline and would surrender with unbridled joy at the opportunity to learn all they can, regardless of the approach to learning and teaching. What difference does the approach make, given they ‘want to learn’ and successful completion of their studies offers the reward of recognition and accreditation in their field?


Perhaps, approaches to learning and teaching matter a lot and offering students the opportunity to enjoy the act of learning (whilst developing their subject knowledge and skillset), might be beneficial. This could result in a willingness to embark on independent study, engage with group working, learning outcomes being more readily achieved and summative assessments evidencing student learning, rather than being the goal of learning. Of course, not all aspects of learning and the manner in which we learn can be pleasant, but there are opportunities to introduce enjoyable learning approaches to engage and encourage, to enhance and enable. How might we do this?


To begin, we could develop an understanding of student motivations for learning: why are they studying and what do they hope to achieve? To add to this, we ensure a currency in our understanding of the subject/discipline and the professional body requirements (whether formal or informal), presently and in the future. This could be followed by aligning the curriculum design and learning and teaching approach to the specific subject/discipline and assessment requirements. We could also ensure learning and teaching occurs (where possible) in a context relevant environment, e.g. footballers develop an understanding of where to position themselves on the field of play by playing the game on a football field (with support from coaches, providing in-game feedback). If we do all these things will the learners and tutors experience be joyful? Maybe we add one last ingredient… a willingness to be creative!


The creative act requires courage, imagination, acceptance of failure, reflection and a desire to creatively ‘try again’ – to learn. Perhaps being creative is the most important ingredient; the one we mustn’t forget given increasing pressures to ‘deliver’, to meet targets and ensure consistency.


I’m closing this post with the thought that reconnecting the joy of learning and the rewards of learning might be possible by adopting a creative/playful approach. Pursuing these opportunities in one’s own practice could be the answer to the questions of ‘why we should look for opportunities to play and why we would encourage others to do the same’. I’ll be considering this over the next few weeks and if you’d like to add to the discussion or share your own experiences, please add a comment below.


Thanks for your time,




Whitton, N. (2017) Remix Play Summit. Coventry University, Coventry 15 February. Disruptive Media Learning Lab.


Jon Rhodes, Adviser (e-Learning and Learning Spaces), College of Learning and Teaching (CoLT), University of Wolverhampton. @JM_Rhodes

If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *