Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a leading researcher in the area of positive psychology, coined the concept of “flow.” Also referred to as being “in the zone,” flow is a pleasant experience in which a person is so focused and engrossed in an activity that they lose track of time. Another characteristic of flow occurs when a person is engaged in a task that is a slight stretch from his or her current skill set, not too easy but not too difficult. When the challenge is too high and skill level is too low, anxiety looms. On the other hand, when skill is low and challenge is high, boredom surfaces.
At Currey Ingram Academy, we seek to find this balance for our students. Creating “flowing” opportunities increases student engagement and, as a result, overall learning. “An engaged student at any grade level will invest - and therefore achieve - more than a disengaged student,” (Doubet & Hockett, 2016). Furthermore, there are many other ways to increase student engagement:
- Offer choice. Choice in the classroom gives students the power to decide what is learned, how something is learned, or how they will demonstrate their learning. Autonomy often results in increased intrinsic motivation. (Ryan & Deci, 2000)
- Make it relevant. People are more likely to do something if it is perceived as helpful. Linking assignments to real world situations, ensuring task variety, and clearly stating objectives help students to understand the “why” behind the “what”.
- Build community. High-quality relationships with teachers and deeper connectivity to classmates both have a powerful correlation with student success (Hattie, 2008). When a child feels cared for by his or her classroom community, he or she is more likely to want to please and willing to put in the hard work.
At Currey Ingram, we are conscientious of the need to provide an engaging learning environment for our students, especially when school elsewhere has typically not been very pleasant. Balancing the level of academic challenge with the child’s skill level is a critical first step; however, student engagement is only enhanced by the creative and varied activities teachers plan for their students, not to mention the close relationships that are built within the walls of the classroom.
- Doubet, K. & Hockett, J. (2016). The icing or the cake? Educational Leadership, 74 (2), 16-20.
- Hattie, J. (2008). Visible Learning. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
- Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68–78.