More about “Flow” in Your Classroom

Flow Theory has lots of information which can be helpful when we begin to design an optimal classroom.   We know that the classroom of tomorrow will be project-based.  A student who goes through his school-years rote-learning skills, not generalizing his learnings,  and failing to make connections between his new ideas and his real-life experience, will not make it in the job markets of tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s jobs will require 3 things:  the ability to collaborate, the ability to innovate and add value, and the ability to communicate.   The student-becoming-employee or student dreaming of entrepreneurship will have to have gained supreme Problem-Solving skills during his years of education in order to compete for the jobs of tomorrow.  He will have to have been taught to solve real-life problems.

What about the skills that the student must learn in order to pass the required tests of his high school and the entrance tests of his desired college or vocational school?  All these testable skills will still be a necessary part of each student’s dossier, but the way they are presented will change.  The skills that the student is learning will be like the tools that the carpenters need to use to build a house.  The students will have a reason to gain the skill, because  he will need to use the skill to “build” the project, which he will have helped to select.  So, if his project is to create a solar automobile and test it against other solar autos, he will need to understand and have in his toolbelt, concepts of weight, speed, and energy conversions.

The new skills will be gained because the chosen project cannot go forward without them.  The urgency of the project creates a heightened readiness to gain the new strategies that the student needs, again, so that the project can go forward.

If the student is excited to think that he may be able to communicate freely with his grandmother who lives in London, England, he is eager and quick to learn the e-ssentials of using e-mail.    Learning how to negotiate the ins and outs of e-mail is a means to connecting with his grandmother, not an end in itself.  He has a greater urgency to pick up and digest this new method of communicating.

Will your Students experience Flow in your classroom?


Tomorrow’s Classroom Flows!

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, (pronounced, chick sent me high ee), a Hungarian-American psychologist, has a new idea that is changing the way we think about many fields of human endeavor, and, especially, Education.  After years of studying Happiness, and why some war survivors could move beyond their experiences when others could not, he found that the happiness of life came about from the experience of a “State of Flow”.

Flow, he came to believe, is related to the exhiliration of achievement.  It is experienced by people from all walks of life and comes about when one is totally involved in a challenging task for which immediate feedback is forthcoming.    One is completely involved in an activity for its own sake and in this experience time falls away.

Historical sources hint that Michelangelo may have painted the ceiling of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel while in a flow state. It is reported that he painted for days at a time, and he was so absorbed in his work that he did not stop for food or sleep until he reached the point of passing out. He would wake up refreshed and, upon starting to paint again, re-entered a state of complete absorption. [from Wikipedia, “flow (psychology)”]

One of the first impacts that Csikszentmihalyi’s discoveries produce in the classroom have to do with the teacher, not the student.  In the classroom of tomorrow, influenced by the idea of flow, the teacher will continually refresh his interest and passion for his field of teaching, and he will pass on his enthusiasm to his students.  The atmosphere in the classroom will minimize the impact of rules, testing and procedures, and learning challenges will closely fit the abilities of the student.