Flow – Integral to the Future of Education
In a world in which 65% of primary school students will work a job that has not yet been created, one of the most important abilities to develop in order to be ready for the future is one’s ability to self-regulate towards Flow.
For the past 200 years, it is widely argued that linear curriculums have adversely affected the outcomes of many educational systems. Instead of teaching kids HOW to learn and succeed, we seem to be brainwashing them with predefined content in order to hit predefined targets. We have encouraged parrot-like repetition for the sole purpose of achieving state-led targets and producing “A+ students” at the cost of their curiosity, their love of learning, and their desire to think for themselves.
Students are not the only casualty, equally, teachers are often conflicted and pressured into top-down teaching specific content rather than fostering inspiration in their students and facilitating bottom-up learning. “State education departments and their surveillance systems, along with the “national” comparison assessment systems, in combination, have made many schools ‘stations of anxiety”. These demotivating ‘anxiety cultures’ are getting worse and have resulted in student mental health an all-time low. The teaching profession is suffering with teachers leaving in droves, including principals. “The current ‘education narrative’ is toxic and focusing on Flow would be a major step in the right direction”, explains John Hendry. John is a distinguished professor who was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his outstanding work in education and transforming Geelong Grammar School into Australia’s most sought after school.
Let’s take a look at why and how we should use Flow in education.
The characteristics one experiences when in the Flow state are extremely conducive for optimal learning in education. As a state defined by extreme focus, zero distractions, and creative problem-solving ability, Flow has been long associated as the state for optimal learning and engagement. Not only does Flow induce short-term benefits such as enjoyment, gratification, creativity and a sense of mastery from overcoming the challenges inherent within learning tasks, but Flow also has longer-term benefits.
The positive feelings of Flow have been researched to encourage academic confidence and develop an individual’s desire to seek out further education; traits hugely important for academic success and an enjoyable academic experience.
The benefits of Flow doesn’t stop with helping students.
Flow within music teachers has been reported to induce higher levels of motivation, greater control of their actions, and a deep sense of satisfaction and joy. In 2014, David Shernoff, Director of the Center for Math, Science, and Computer Education at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and his colleagues reviewed much of the research on Flow in education. They decided to assess, first-hand, how a variety of instructional activities designed to facilitate Flow would affect the learning experience. Their results were consistent with previous literature in that optimal learning environments were indeed created through facilitating flow. Student engagement occurred more frequently and for prolonged periods during conditions in which Flow had been intentionally incorporated into the activities.
Interestingly, the occurrence of Flow seemed to go beyond the individual benefit.
A study examining 178 music teachers and 605 students across 16 different music schools, concluded that Flow is contagious; meaning it crosses over from the teachers to the students. The studies concluded that the teachers, and specifically their own ability to find Flow, may play a more pivotal role in establishing student Flow than first thought.
In order to apply Flow into education, educational entities must ask themselves, what type of human being are we creating?
Are the current learning methods the best way to engineer learning?
Students can certainly be disciplined into memorising spelling and grammar through traditional top-down driven learning, but does this make them competent at writing a good story or a persuasive argument? Does it make them a writer?
The educational institutes which flip the equation and place a student’s experience and learning first, aim to develop students’ intrinsic desires and passion to learn. As a result, students are better able to self-regulate their motivation to learn, manage their concentration and derive meaningful takeaways from their learning. In this manner, organisations that put Flow first actually reap the results of high engagement that most learning organisations suggest that they desire.
Interestingly, schools examining Flow reported that students’ Flow scores at the end of semester 1 were predictive of academic performances at the end of the year. In fact, researchers such as Jean Heutte, Professor of Education at Lille University in France, even advocate measuring Flow in addition to the usual exams at school that traditionally assess memory retention and cognitive thinking. The logic being that understanding a students ability to find flow gives great insight as to a student’s current capacity and self-determination to learn; a great benchmark for future grades and performance. This has already been adopted in preschool children and onwards in Denmark.
Even if a systemic change is unlikely in your organisation, perhaps examine whether it would be fruitful to assess how much Flow is already experienced. It may well be the difference that makes the difference.
If you are interested in cultivating Flow into your life experiences, we have an excellent team of experts who have dedicated their lives to understanding and teaching flow in others. We have provided several academic institutes with the knowledge and training to facilitate Flow in their classrooms and workplace. As well as one-to-one coaching and evidence-based online courses updated constantly based on cutting edge flow research. Join our community and learn more about how the Flow state can help you and become a Flow Seeker.
Think less, be more.