Hobbies: learning while having fun

Hobbies: learning while having fun

Liu, C.C. and Falk, J.H., 2014. Serious fun: Viewing hobbyist activities through a learning lens. International Journal of Science Education, Part B, 4(4), pp.343-355. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21548455.2013.824130?scroll=top&needAccess=true

The article reviews a wide range of literature applicable to understanding why and how hobbyists learn.

Almost everybody has a hobby, and before reading this article I wouldn’t have thought that a hobby was a type of free learning experience. Well, every day we are learning new things, by reading the news, a book, chatting with a friend, by observations to our surroundings, everything could be a learning experience even if we are not consciously thinking about it. I found it very interesting how the different authors have studied a good-sized amount of people to do research on how they are acquiring new knowledge through their different hobbies.

People spend considerable time learning outside of school upon people’s innate interests. When people are motivated it’s more likely to persist in tasks over time and expend effort to master them, especially when they experience feelings of enjoyment and value for the activities, hobbies belong to these kind of activities (Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2000).

Papert (1980) described hobbies as ‘hard fun’ activities from which the practitioners gain fulfillment, and in which they work hard to learn and to achieve their goals.

In the article they also talk about how hobbies involve active pursuit of knowledge and skills while feeling joy, happiness and fulfillment expected from a satisfying leisure experience, which gives you freedom.

When learning something motivated by your own interest and you achieve the goal you were looking for there’s a sensation of anything being possible. I think you can feel more excited when you finally get to understand and do something you couldn’t before, also every time you do it gives you the same or more satisfaction as when you started it.

Gelber (1999) found that hobbyists spend a substantial amount of time ‘thinking’ about their hobby while they are not ‘doing’ it. I found this happening to myself, one of my recent hobbies is slacklining which I have never done before coming to New Zealand. And even when I am just walking in the streets and see something similar where you can do some equilibrium I think about how would it feel to be in the slackline different from the wood or pavement that I am trying to balance at that moment. It is so fun!

The article mentions four notable characteristics of hobbyist learning:

1.     The situated, real world nature of what is learned: content to be learned is directly and specifically focused on the particular needs and realities of the hobby. For example, a typical ornamental fish hobbyist will need to know about a wide range of subjects, including fish  biology  and  ecology,  water  chemistry,  fish  taxonomy,  physics,  and  veterinary medicine, as well as skills such as plumbing and electrical wiring.

2.     The social, community aspect of the enterprise: watching demonstrations by instructors and experienced hobbyists, sharing knowledge and mentoring newcomers is an important value for community. There are organizations that can provide benefits such as equipment, information, and activities from which hobbyists can learn more about the hobby.

3.     The development of expertise or mastery: expertise is frequently considered a goal of education, hobbyists focused more on the functional components of any system, since they are more self-directed and self-motivated they could master their hobby dividing the subjects they want to learn first.

4.     The important role played by interest and intrinsic motivation: individuals who have an interest in a topic are more likely to be motivated learners; they are more likely to seek out challenge and difficulty, use effective learning strategies, and make use of feedback(Lipstein & Renninger 2006).

They conclude that being surrounded and accepted by like-minded individuals create a particularly reinforcing environment for hobbyists.

Studying hobbyists affords an important opportunity to build a better understanding of how individuals engage in learning across their lifetime, particularly since it represents a prime example of persistent, long-term learning driven primarily by the learners’ interest in and motivation for a subject.

Hobbies are such an important part of our understanding of many things, I wouldn’t have thought before. What do you think about this? Do you agree with what they mention in the article? Tell me one of your hobbies that has made you feel you have to do more research to master it.


Gelber, S. M. (1999).Hobbies: Leisure and the culture of work in America. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Linnenbrink, E., & Pintrich, P. R. (2000). Multiple pathways to learning and achievement: The role  of  goal  orientation  in  fostering  adaptive  motivation,  affect,  and  cognition.  In  C. Sansone &  J. Harackiewicz  (Eds.),Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: The search for optimal motivation and performance(pp. 195 – 227). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Lipstein, R., & Renninger, K. A. (2006). “Putting things into words”: 12 – 15-year-old students’ interest  for  writing.  In  P.  Boscolo  &  S.  Hidi  (Eds.),Motivation and writing: Research and school practice(pp. 113 – 140). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.

Papert, S. (1980).Mindstorms: Children, computers and powerful ideas. New York, NY: Basic Books.

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