Flow Theory and Student Engagement

Flow theory has its historical root in positive psychology, which is the study of positive emotion, positive character, and positive intuition. During 1950’s positive psychologists such as Roger and Maslow showed that human beings were intrinsically motivated to attain their highest potential. They did agree with behavioural approach that indicated human beings were externally motivated through incentives. The idea of intrinsic motivation implies that people have their own control of what they do. Mihalyi Csikszent’s personal experience led him to study positive psychology and this effort eventually developed the theory of flow. He identified seven characteristics of theory and four characteristics are associated with student engagement.

This brief posting mainly focus on those four characteristics of the theory of flow and their implication on student engagement. This theory indicates that to maintain student engagement in learning, the relevant activity should have a reasonable challenge. If the activity does not include any challenge, students are reluctant to engage in such an activity. Therefore, instructors should present challenging work for their learners to improve student engagement. This helps both teachers and learners to stay on the state of flow. Furthermore, to maintain student engagement, students should concentrate the work at hand and they should not distract from that activity due to other work. Therefore, to create the state of the flow, an instructor should create learning environment where students engage in active learning in the class room. When students engage in active learning, they analyze and compare new information with existing knowledge.

Merging action and awareness are other important aspects of the theory of flow. This means that to maintain the state of flow, an instructor should provide an activity for their learners which are compatible with skills. Furthermore, students should have clear goals to engage in active learning. Therefore, instructors should set up an activity which should have clear short-term goal. To maintain the state of flow, these short-term goals should be consistent with long-term goals such as getting a job, awarding a scholarship, and transferring to the university. Finally, instructors should provide constant feedback of students because such a feedback is very important to maintain the state of the flow of learning. Considering the above analysis, I would argue that the theory of flow provides good insight for developing learning strategies to student engagement at the classroom.



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