Inside Iowa State
October 8, 1999

Views on teacher-as-entertainer query

by Linda Charles

Do good teachers need to entertain as they teach college students?

Insideposed this question to some faculty. Here are their responses:

Kristen Constant, associate professor, materials science/engineering
I think they don’t have to entertain, but it’s useful to maintain student interest if you do, especially with freshmen and sophomores. I’ve seen some very successful teachers who I couldn’t call entertaining at all, but they can somehow make it work for them.

James Espensen, distinguished professor, Ames Laboratory
They need to capture attention. For some, they use entertainment. I use other methods.

Suzanne Hendrich, associate dean, Family and Consumer Sciences
I think most of the time, good teachers are found to be entertaining. I don’t think you have to worry about being entertaining to be a good teacher. I think you need to worry about what the student needs to learn. Entertaining seems to go along with good teaching. It’s one way of keeping interest in the subject. But it (entertaining) can mean a lot of things. Not everyone tells jokes. Two people can have different styles but be perceived as entertaining.

David Hopper, professor, veterinary diagnostics and production animal medicine
You can certainly be a good teacher without being an entertainer, but I think there’s a little entertainer in good teachers. It helps keep the interest, enthusiasm and excitement in the classroom as the students are learning.

Ron Peters, professor, psychology
I don’t think entertainment is a necessary condition for good instruction, but I also don’t think it hurts. The emphasis always needs to be on trying to convey meaningful material to students in a way that expedites their learning, but I don’t think it hurts to be entertaining.

Christine Pope, associate professor, history
If "entertain" means "amuse," I don’t see it as a prerequisite for learning. But entertain can sometimes refer to an engaging manner that holds people’s attention. We all are familiar with those rare charismatic teachers whose personalities do just that. This kind of special talent may grease the wheels of learning for those entering students in large classes who are used to getting their information via TV and film. As students progress, however, they should find that the course content is itself so interesting and exciting that the need to learn by being entertained is not an issue.

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