The role of fun in learning to code

This article is based on a research paper published by Gabriella Tisza and Panos Markopoulos titled "Understanding the role of fun in learning to code". There has been a growing interest in game mechanics within education to ensure that classroom learning environments are fun and enjoyable for students. But how does this actually affect learning outcomes for students?

Despite widely held beliefs that fun improves learning, there is limited evidence suggesting this is true.

Surprisingly, the study found little evidence that to suggest a direct relationship between having fun and learning to code. This result echos earlier studies done by Iten and Petko (2016) and Sim et al. (2006), which not find any significant association between neither the self-reported or the measured learning and the experienced fun.


If having fun does not guarantee more effective learning, why are schools and teachers trying to bring fun into the classrooms and gamify learning? Are we heading backwards by trying to make classrooms more fun?


Fun motivates children to learn and engage.

We have all experienced how games can command out attention. From online shopping apps to stock trading apps, companies have used games and fun to try to get us to engage with the services more. This effect is also very present in the attitudes of children towards learning. Experienced fun while learning has a huge effect on motivation to learn and engage again with the content being taught.


Maintaining interest and curiosity is key when teaching younger kids to code

Exposing children under 11-12 to coding is challenging given how abstract the concepts are. Based on Piaget's work on cognitive development, it is not until 11-12 years old when children reach their Formal Operational Stage of intellectual development where children can start to relate to abstract concepts, such as algebra and science.


Exposing younger children to coding concepts must have an element of fun because children at 7-10 years old may not be cognitively ready to understand and appreciate these concepts, which raises the risks of frustration and ultimately losing interest in coding. Experienced fun encourages repeated engagement and keeps children excited about coding.

 

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