LEARNING BEGINS WITH WONDER
CITY College, International Faculty of the University of Sheffield (GREECE)
Research shows that motivation and engagement are essential for effective learning. Student engagement is actually hard to define since there exist several domains and types of engagement including emotional, academic, psychological, cognitive, behavioral, intellectual, institutional and social just to name few. The challenge for educators lies in not only sparking the fire of engagement but keeping the fire burning. Keeping students motivated and engaged in the learning process requires developing and maintaining an effective teaching and learning environment which is hardly an easy task to achieve. This is because there exist a plethora of teaching and learning conditions that can play a role on student engagement. Such conditions include active student-centered learning, formal and informal interaction and participation, personalized learning, well-structured course, meaningful assessment, detailed feedback etc. These conditions are critical since they may trigger negative moods, anxiety, disengagement and boredom instead of promoting engagement and motivation. One of the most important learning conditions is the teaching style of the instructor.
Research shows that the teaching style of the instructor can have a powerful effect on the dynamics of the learning experience and may have a strong effect on the learner. Just as learners have favored learning styles, teachers have preferred teaching styles. Educators are constantly trying to find methods, tools and strategies to provide content in a way that will increase retention and keep students engaged in learning. Examples of such strategies include using humor, using real-life examples, using technology etc. A very innovative teaching method that can maximize the chances for strong and lasting engagement and motivation of students is the use of magic effects and illusions. Magic is the performing art or skill of producing baffling effects or seemingly impossible illusions by sleight of hand or apparatus. There are many categories of magic effects such as vanishing, transformation, penetration, teleportation, prediction etc. Being able to perform magic and illusions for teaching and learning purposes is undoubtedly an exciting, fun, and quite uncommon engagement strategy which has a strong effect on learners regardless of age, gender or race.
The purpose of the paper is to present the benefits of integrating magic effects and illusions in the teaching and learning process after ten years of academic experience in higher education in both undergraduate and graduate courses. More specifically the paper explains and demonstrates how magic effects and illusions that are properly interconnected with sound pedagogies can be used to stimulate innovation and creativity skills, inspire imagination and curiosity, arouse and sustain learner engagement and motivation and overall enhance the learning experience. While it may appear that the specific teaching method is not easy for everyone to follow, the paper concludes by proposing certain aspects and simple features that can effortlessly be adapted and used in the classroom in order to increase learner engagement.