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In a world in which 65% of primary school students will work a job that has not yet been created, one of the most important abilities to develop in order to be ready for the future is one’s ability to self-regulate towards Flow.
For the past 200 years, it is widely argued that linear curriculums have adversely affected the outcomes of many educational systems. Instead of teaching kids HOW to learn and succeed, we seem to be brainwashing them with predefined content in order to hit predefined targets. We have encouraged parrot-like repetition for the sole purpose of achieving state-led targets and producing “A+ students” at the cost of their curiosity, their love of learning, and their desire to think for themselves.
Students are not the only casualty, equally, teachers are often conflicted and pressured into top-down teaching specific content rather than fostering inspiration in their students and facilitating bottom-up learning. “State education departments and their surveillance systems, along with the “national” comparison assessment systems, in combination, have made many schools ‘stations of anxiety”. These demotivating ‘anxiety cultures’ are getting worse and have resulted in student mental health an all-time low. The teaching profession is suffering with teachers leaving in droves, including principals. “The current ‘education narrative’ is toxic and focusing on Flow would be a major step in the right direction”, explains John Hendry. John is a distinguished professor who was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his outstanding work in education and transforming Geelong Grammar School into Australia’s most sought after school.
Let's take a look at why and how we should use Flow in education.
The characteristics one experiences when in the Flow state are extremely conducive for optimal learning in education. As a state defined by extreme focus, zero distractions, and creative problem-solving ability, Flow has been long associated as the state for optimal learning and engagement. Not only does Flow induce short-term benefits such as enjoyment, gratification, creativity and a sense of mastery from overcoming the challenges inherent within learning tasks, but Flow also has longer-term benefits.
The positive feelings of Flow have been researched to encourage academic confidence and develop an individual’s desire to seek out further education; traits hugely important for academic success and an enjoyable academic experience.
The benefits of Flow doesn't stop with helping students.
Flow within music teachers has been reported to induce higher levels of motivation, greater control of their actions, and a deep sense of satisfaction and joy. In 2014, David Shernoff, Director of the Center for Math, Science, and Computer Education at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and his colleagues reviewed much of the research on Flow in education. They decided to assess, first-hand, how a variety of instructional activities designed to facilitate Flow would affect the learning experience. Their results were consistent with previous literature in that optimal learning environments were indeed created through facilitating flow. Student engagement occurred more frequently and for prolonged periods during conditions in which Flow had been intentionally incorporated into the activities.
Interestingly, the occurrence of Flow seemed to go beyond the individual benefit.