The concept of Flow was developed by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (try saying it three times fast). It is a mental state where people are happy and find a balance between difficulty and interest. I was introduced to this concept by two people. The first was Robert (Bob) Kull during a conference and in his book “Solitude”. The second was Dr. Keven Elder, Superintendent of BC School District 63.
Since first hearing about it, I have been intrigued with it as a way of thinking about engagement in students. We often look for this “sweet spot” when teaching where students are challenged just enough and they are learning something new at a rate where they are comfortable. This becomes difficult because it is different for each student.
One solution that I believe helps teachers to guide students into a state of Flow is technology. Using different tools, students can search for their own information, they can organize their own ideas, they are in control of the rate of information and then show their learning in a way where they feel comfortable. The teacher is there as a guide to help create the state of Flow.
I am also convinced that we need to be flexible in our instruction and in what we ask from our students. Is this state easy to attain when we are asking all students to work at the same rate? When they are all doing worksheets and studying for a standardized test?
When planning, we can ask ourselves how we are going to help students find the right individual balance between these factors (differentiated instruction)? We can also ask how we are going to know that the material is at an appropriate level of skill and challenge (assessment for learning)? Are we allowing our students to work at their own rate and share their knowledge with others in way they choose?
If you are interested in this idea, you can watch this TED Talk from 2004: