In Csikszentmihalyi book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990), he reports that Flow – the state of consciousness is the primary criteria to ensure a high level of learning.
But how do we create this optimal state. Many of us will remember occasions when time just flew by because we were lost in the activity. Awareness of time fades and we become so absorbed that the experience is pure pleasure. In fact, it is easier for children, teenagers – the people we teach every day, and athletes to find themselves in this flow state – than adults.
Ideas to creating Flow in your learning space:
- Challenging: Set material that is intrinsically challenging. It must not be too easy, but not too hard and have an element where there is choice. The moment we empower the student to make a choice it becomes personally relevant. The brain desires to think about relevant material.
- Stress Free: Always manage the stress level. The brain does not think clearly under high levels of stress. Ensure that the stress-o-metre is reading low to moderate. A little stress can be useful at times. Avoid HIGH stress as it shuts down thinking and the brain operates in survival mode.
- Think & Do: Focus student attention on thinking and doing. The call to action must be for the student to THINK about an ACTION that must be performed.
- Curiosity: Generate curiosity and when a student latches onto something allow them to explore it. The latching on process it a launch pad for FLOW.
- Anticipate: Build in anticipation. “I wander what would happen if …..?”
- Chaos: Allow a little confusion from time to time. Confusion serves as a good motivator when it is used occasionally. Remember, creativity always occurs on the EDGE of chaos.
What does the Science say?
Sophisticated imaging equipment shows that when students are given mental tasks that are increased in difficultly as well as complexity, brain activity increases. Increased brain activity means multiple pathways are being laid to different areas of the brain.
Interestingly, even f the student is unsuccessful with task and finds it challenging, the brain will be activated. Many of us know that when we compete against someone who challenges us, we play a better game. However if we play against someone who is much weaker than us or much stronger, we lose interest.
Again, the art of teaching to to set the tasks to be engaging, relevant and challenging, but not too challenging to reduce interest.