flow theory in education
Motivating learners to continue to study and enjoy learning is one of the critical factors in distance education. Flow theory is a useful framework for studying the individual experience of learning through using computers. In this study, I examine students’ emotional and cognitive responses to distance learning systems by constructing two models to test the students’ flow states. The first model examines the cause and effect of the flow experience when students use distance learning systems. The second model considers the impact of three types of interaction on the flow experience. A questionnaire‐based field survey is used to test the two models. Data from 253 distance learning students are examined under each of the two models. The results from Model 1 indicate that flow theory works well in a distance learning environment. The results from Model 2 point out that learner–instructor and learner–interface have a positive relationship with flow experience, whereas learner–learner interaction has not shown a significant relationship with flow experience.
An earlier version of the article was presented at the Fourth Annual Hawaii International Conference on Business, Hawaii, June 2004. The author acknowledges the helpful comments on that paper.
The Flow Theory In The Classroom: A Primer
You know that moment when you are in the zone, on the ball, completely focused? You become so absorbed by what you are doing that your forget what the time is, you forget to eat, you miss sleep. That’s essentially what flow is. According to Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, being in the flow is the ultimate in focused intrinsic motivation.
As a learner, flow is when I am focused on my task, to the point that I do not care about the time because I am having so much fun doing what I am doing. As a teacher, the following questions come to mind:
Mihaly (2014) emphasizes that the role of the educator should be to direct students’ energy towards productive goals. By putting ourselves in the shoes of the students, the learners, we can become better equipped to make our students see why something is important. He suggests the following characteristics that all teachers should keep in mind to facilitate flow:
But you are the architect that can build the systems that make flow a reality in your classroom. If you’re interested in this, check out the free Flow Theory Blueprint and Toolbox at the bottom of this post.
One of the key ideas in flow theory is that the challenge has to match a student’s perceived ability level. Too often, kids give up because what they are doing is way too difficult and there is a sense that they will never learn it. Other times, students are bored and the excessive scaffolding becomes a hurdle they have to climb over.
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