Achieving Flow in the Classroom

Recently I came across an interesting concept on the Edutopia blog page by Elena Aguilar about flow. Flow is something I think a lot of us get to when we really enjoy an action that is engaging and challenging, but I doubt much of think of the object of our enjoyment is actually a psychological state of our mind developing and pushing the limits.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a positive psychologist who defines this time when we are actively engaged in what we are doing, that we lose all sense of self. We are not tired, or bored, we are thrilled and engrossed in what we are doing.  I watched his Ted Video informing about the bounty of being in a state of flow, and quixotic state the people who achieve it can feel.

Elena brings up a good point that we want students to get to a state of flow so that they truly enjoy themselves in the classroom, but Csikszentmihalyi points out that true mastry usually takes thousands of hours of practice.  In a typical school year, a teacher will spend at most 200 hours with a student, so how do we get our students into a state of flow?

Anita Roddick, a businesswoman who discusses how to find your life path.  "Look for your passion. What makes you excited? what turns you on?... Go towards companies that you really like, really admire... What do you admire about them? Spend if you can an internship there, or just knock on the door and say: "Hey, can I work here for cheap?' ... Find organizations that move your spirit if you can.  Work alongside them... And have fun.  There's so much fun to be had... When you spend 95% of your life in a work environment, it can't be dour."

Working for a company or in a field that you love brings you to these highs of flow.  But what about our students?  A lot of them are too young to have true mastry, so then how do we create a learning experience where they can be so engaged that they love learning it?  Personally I got that feeling in a lot of my social studies classes.  My mother taught me a lot about history and politics growing up, so I was always had a high skill set for my age, and that led me to enjoy challenging myself when it came to historical, economic and political theory construction.

Every child will really enjoy something in their life.  Whether it's video games, sports, playing with friends, talking, art... the list is endless.  One way of creating flow for whole classrooms, I believe, would be to find out what your students already spend a lot of time doing, and transform that into something very positive.  Take polls, talk to them, find out what they spend their time doing.  Take what you learn and create lessonplans about your subject in a way that they are engaged.  For example, if your students spend a lot of time with friends, perhaps a teacher can more fine tunely develop how to engage in the socratic method.  If many students are artistic, diagramming what has been learned can be used in the classroom.     If music is something they enjoy, have music playing while they work.  Make the learning experience fun for them, so that they want to engage more and more until they master what is being taught.

These are just some thoughts I have on creating lesson plans.  Please leave comments if you have critiques or other ideas for learning!