Flow Theory

The forum discussion on Flow Theory (facilitated by myself) continued on for its 2nd week. This week has been another busy week for the facilitation on the forum. I’ve been participating in the other forums as well as facilitating this forum. Its taking me quite a lot of time in the evening to participate in everything as well as prepare for my 2 hour daily lectures and my 2 hour daily lab/clinic demonstrations and activities.

I added another thread to the forum discussion this week, adding on Flow Theory and Student Engagement. I’m thinking of adding on either Flow Theory and online courses &/or Flow Theory and group work for the final week.

I started off this weeks forum on Flow Theory and Student Engagement and by asking the following questions. How do we create an ideal environment for students to be absorbed individuals? Where students are totally engaged in their learning and totally enjoying it at the same time? An environment where skills and challenges are in balance to achieve flow theory?

After adding this video on Flow, I posed further questions. Do you think it’s possible to establish an environment and curriculum that will help students to work in a flow-centered manner? How can we engage students to achieve the flow? Any ideas?

I received a few responses to these questions. It was suggested that engagement was the key and that we should look for boredom. Using well-timed activities and recognizing the time of day (lull times) is a good way to help establish flow.

Activities need to be frequently changed up to stimulate student engagement and being aware of the time of day plays a huge part in the activities. I always find students aren’t even focused first thing in the morning either. Right after a morning break seems to work well for engagement as students have usually had some fresh air and some coffee. In the afternoon activities need to be changed frequently as the lulls begin. I am very fortunate to have my program run 10-3 with theory first and then 1-3 for the lab component. In the afternoon when energy is low, students are engaged with hands-on learning. This leads to some students wanting to spend more time on certain areas due to their interest and nobody falling asleep.

Staying present in the moment and being mindful of what you are doing can be quite invigorating. I think this could help students to be absorbed in their work. Not every student will find the topic as interesting as others. Some students may be absorbed, while others may find it quite a challenge (force) to perform the same task. I think that as instructors if we can encourage these “flow” times when we see it in our students, they will benefit from it. This “flow” will definitely come easier to students learning a topic that they are truly interested in as well. They seem to have that intrinsic motivation to learn more.

It was suggested that what if “flow” directs students to spend too much time in an one particular area that they forget or push a side other elements that they need to focus on? Unfortunately their absorption took them away from other learning. It seems like the flow theory has lots to do with the wanting to learn more in something that they’re really interested in. This particular student wasn’t able to finish the program due to their absorption in only one portion of it and no interest in the rest.

The next question then was do you think it’s possible for students to achieve this flow in the courses that they really have no interest in? It does seem that the interest and passion of the content helps to intrinsically motivate them to learn more.

It would be interesting to find out if this student ever followed where her flow led her or not. When we see this in our students in another area of studies, it would be great to be able to recognize it and encourage it. You never know where their learning will take them. It could be that wonderful feeling of flow theory that makes them consider another interest or possibly a much later career.

The next question that followed by one participant was whether it was possible to achieve flow in group work? If achieving flow requires the following then, why can’t it be achieved in group work?

-An activity that is challenging enough to be just above one’s current level of ability

-Activity needs to be relevant to their lives

-Students need to have choice on how they get there

-Need clear goals

-Need to have positive relationships around them

-Need to be able to foster deep concentration

This was a very good point. All of the above mentioned are needed to achieve flow. It was also suggested that maybe allowing students to choose who and how many would be in the group would also help to achieve flow. It would need to have clear goals  and a smaller group to be able to foster deeper concentration and help keep the relationships more positive Also allowing students to do individual self-assessments.

I’m not sure how much flow would be achieved in group work, so many variables. It definitely could be, given that all students were able to work well together. Good suggestion of allowing students to choose who and how many to each group, this could eliminate other issues that arise when groups are pre-formed. I generally think of flow being achieved during individual work, so the question about achieving this in group work has me pondering. I then asked the forum, does anyone else have any thoughts on flow theory in group work?

Thus far, nobody else has participated in the forum on their thoughts on achieving flow in group work. This is such a good question, that’s why I’m considering beginning a new thread on this topic next week.

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