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When Are Teenagers In The “Flow”?

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Po Bronson has written a very interesting piece at Newsweek’s site titled Motivation and Flow: The Teenager Edition.

He talks about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s famous research on the best experiences, which he called being in the “flow.”

Bronson then highlights Csikszentmihalyi’s research specifically with middle and high school students. Where did classtime rate in terms of “flow’?

“On average, flow is lower in class than at any other time during the week, except for when doing their paid job,” says Shernoff (one of the researchers who worked on the project).

I’d strongly recommend you read Bronson’s entire piece, but wanted to share a short excerpt here:

His research, though, suggested a way to fix this sorry state. Shernoff recognized that students were most flowlike in moments where they were doing group work or individual work. They were active and participating. The opposite was true for lectures and watching videos.

Unfortunately, classrooms where there was the most participation, such as art class, were usually the least challenging. The classes that were the most challenging, such as science, required students to spend the most time being lectured to. His deduction: we need to combine the methods of how art and social science are taught with the demanding nature of math and science classes.

“Only 15 percent of the time students spend in class was interactive, allowing for discussion or group activities,” notes Shernoff. “The abundance of lectures and taking notes leaves little time for active engagement. When active participation is so rarely invited, it’s no wonder students can’t engage.”

Surprise, surprise….

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

One Comment

  1. “Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys” by Wilhelm and Smith is a great book about flow and reading. “Strategic Reading” by Wilhelm, Baker and Dube also addresses flow. The books both do a great job of explaining Vygotsky in relationship to education.

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