Flow in Learning
Imagine a world where class time flies by because the students understand and engage in the information presented, are not distracted by other students in the class, and most importantly, enjoy what they are learning. Sounds to good to be true? What if I were to tell you that there is a way to foster this experience…. Plus the onus isn’t solely on the teachers either, the students have the power to harness Flow and make this environment a reality!
Q1. What is Flow?
The term ‘Flow’ is translatable to many other contexts, not just exclusive to the sporting arena and is well established with over 40 years of research within psychology, physiology and neuroscience. Flow is an optimal state of functioning where there is concentration on the task at hand and total immersion in the moment. The present-focus replaces any self-concern with an inherent enjoyment of the moment. The experience feels effortless as within the act we are able to execute the exact skill set required with complete control.
Q2. What are the benefits of finding Flow in education?
Flow is more acknowledged during acts of excellence in pressured situations like a high performance in an examination setting, but Flow can also occur in everyday learning experiences. Previous research suggests that finding Flow in education induces the short term benefits like enjoyment, gratification, and a sense of mastery from learning tasks for both teachers and students. Longer term benefits include academic confidence, a desire to seek further education, and a predictor of future academic performance.
The process of seeking Flow induces a growth principle. The student grows, develops and fulfills their potential by constantly extending themselves beyond their perceived ability, due to the pursuit of Flow. This process feels so good that the student is compelled to repeat this experience enabling continuous growth. Which is why finding oneself in an optimal state of functioning frequently is highly positively correlated with well-being. As well as well-being Flow fosters motivation and creativity, but perhaps most importantly, a sustainable performance. When students are able to find Flow, learning becomes a rich and meaningful experience helping them to digest more information and increase their motivation towards their studies.
Q3. How do the characteristics of Flow interact with the learning environment?
In education, it is important to enhance the aspects of Flow that are most relevant to learning. In a classroom setting, the main goal is to create an optimal learning environment. Optimal learning environments are those that support a state of Flow within the process of learning. Research suggests that cognitive absorption, time transformation, loss of self-consciousness and an autotelic experience can all play a pivotal role within the classroom context. Cognitive absorption is an increase in concentration and immersion in the task. This can be experienced by being transfixed in a particular topic of interest. Time transformation is an alteration in the perception of time, often leading to a lengthened duration of immersion in the task. A loss of self-consciousness or lack of self-concern is emphasised by a heightened awareness of the importance of the social aspect of learning. Lastly, an autotelic experience refers to an intrinsically motivating and rewarding experience where individuals engage for the pleasure of learning, nothing more. This type of motivation enhances persistence and the desire to engage in the activity again.
Q4. How can Flow be increased in an educational environment?
The state of Flow can be increased by manipulating the individual’s culture, context and level of self-management. An in depth understanding requires some focused attention, and those interested may want to enquire about our ‘Learn and Flow’ programme dedicated for educational contexts.
From an individual level, self-management is critical. An individual’s ability to be self-efficacious about their skills directly affects their ability to meet the challenge and enter a state of Flow. Confident individuals approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered rather than as threats to be avoided. So setting up the classroom and helping students to self-regulate their perspective when meeting a challenge and have a huge impact on whether the students may find Flow.
Importantly, Flow is accessible to any person in any field. The difficulty that most individuals’ face is persisting with the pursuit of Flow and not becoming sidetracked by other agendas that may seem more important on the surface. To leave you with a thought. Harness the yearn to learn!
Authored by Jessica Stout and Cameron Norsworthy