Education, Imagination and Enjoyment

If any 3D Eye readers have yet to discover then we suggest you take a look at the website at

“This website has been written and designed by teachers for schools that are interested in developing new and effective pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning.

All the materials on this site have been tested in the classroom using methods researched and developed over thirty years. They are designed to make learning exciting, meaningful and challenging. They work on the principles that people learn best when they understand the purpose of their learning, how it can be applied and where it matches their own interests and motivations.

The planning units on this website create imaginary contexts for learning allowing you to work in collaboration with the students in your class. Why are they imaginary and not real? Because in imaginary contexts you and the children can be anyone, at anytime, anywhere, doing anything. Mountain rescuers in a snow-storm on the side of a mountain, explorers delving into giant strange holes, or archeologists opening an ancient tomb.”

The imaginative-inquiry team takes its inspiration from the work of Dorothy Heathcote – a truly great drama teacher and academic who invented mantle of the expert and many other revolutionary dramatic-inquiry approaches to teaching and learning.

For many of us, the discovery of drama as a way into holistic, engaging, experiential learning was, at some point in our careers, a revelation. Dorothy Heathcote’s work demonstrated that when adults also take on roles in drama-based learning which is co-created with students then incredible learning experiences become possible. This is not an alternative to the acquisition of “powerful knowledge” – it’s a way into it. Furthermore, it’s a route that has the potential to engage even the most reluctant learners. It’s often exciting, enjoyable and – yes – fun.

This particular F word seems to pose some difficulties for certain people in the profession who take a dim view of children having fun, since they suspect that fun gets in the way of real learning, and may even be a substitute for it.

This thought has prompted Tim Taylor and the team at imaginative-inquiry to write a blog post under the heading –

Why learning and having fun are not inimical

Of all the arguments I’ve read, from the plethora of education bloggers over the last year or so, the one I find hardest to get my head round is the supposed dichotomy between enjoyment and learning.

Learning, it seems, is a very serious business and teachers who look to make their lessons fun are committing the cardinal sin of putting their student’s enjoyment ahead of knowledge acquisition and skills development. When I first read this argument I was a little perplexed and it took me a while to unpick the different strands. In so doing, I came to the conclusion that the ‘anti-fun’ bloggers had a point, but that they were overstating their argument. This blog is an attempt to explain why.

Please read the rest of this post by clicking here

As the following BBC link makes clear, ‘play’ is an essential part of early years education, and it’s through play that young children can learn key concepts and skills, including social skills, physical skills and language skills:

Why would anyone object to children having fun when they ‘play’?

Learning by Doing

Learning by Doing (Photo credit: BrianCSmith)

Similarly, children taking part in drama, dance, drawing, painting, poetry, creative writing, model-making, athletics, music, science investigations, mathematical inquiry, problem-solving, debating, researching, word-processing and scores of other activities often describe their experiences as ‘fun’.

As Tim points out in his post we should be concerned first and foremost with whether children are learning. If they enjoy learning and enjoy school then the chances are they will want to do more learning, and will look forward to going to school. If they feel that learning and schools are fun, then that’s a huge bonus.

It’s a pity we have to defend the idea of children having fun at school, but it seems as though we need to do so when various Gradgrinds actually denounce teachers who celebrate their success in making schools places where children experience delight, wonder, excitement, pleasure and indeed fun.


(c) 3Di Photography

No teacher I’ve ever met saw their primary role as being an entertainer or the creator of ‘fun’. However, we could ask ourselves whether it’s ever possible for children to have ‘fun’ whilst being force-fed through ‘direct instruction’ the knowledge required in high-stakes timed tests and exams.

Perhaps the question ought to be – do we actually need those high-stakes tests and exams at 11+ and 16+?

It’s also time to ask how can we ensure that children learn better and learn more through greater personalisation and enjoyment of their learning, and through proper involvement in co-creating their learning – whether or not it’s in preparation for tests and exams.


(c) 3Di Photography



PS Please read for a very fine description of what happens when teaching stops being creative and ‘fun’, and what causes teachers to feel like weeping. Consider the pressures on teachers to conform to ridiculous and unwarranted expectations (in order to achieve arbitrary targets and to pass Ofsted inspections) and then consider what happens when we inflict similar pressures on our students. We can do better than this.

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at or see our website at
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