Thursday, January 12, 2006

Still flowing. Still in the zone.

More information on the concept of Flow - what sportsmen call 'being in the zone,' and what psychologists call a state of being in focused attention (about which I previously wrote here): here's a short interview with Mikhail Csikszentmihalyi (Dr Mike), answering questions on his work with Flow and a few more of its applications, this time for education. Money quote:

Q: Why aren’t teachers creating more of a Flow-like atmosphere in school?
A: First of all, schools are a recent phenomenon. We have had 200,000 generations who grew up without schools and they learned perfectly well. In the last six generations, we developed this method of teaching, which we call school, and it’s a pretty sorry experiment at this point...
This is a subject not just of academic importance. 'A typical day is full of anxiety and boredom,' says Csikszentmihalyi. 'Flow experiences provide the flashes of intense living against this dull background.'
It’s the name we give to the experience that people report when they are completely involved in something, so they forget themselves, forget time. It seems to be the kind of moments when people feel the most alive and their life is the most meaningful. Over the years, I’ve [tried] to see whether it’s possible to transform everyday life — whether in school or family — into something that resembles the state of Flow.
Unlike many psychologists, who view every positive human attribute as somehow a negative -- work hard and you're obviously 'craving the approval denied you in childhood'; become a successful artist and discover that Freud declares that you simply want to mould your own faeces -- Csikszentmihalyi's studies work at "providing further insight on what makes life prosperous and full." His Quality of Life Research Centre was founded with that explicit aim. Amongst the online research papers there is one giving more detail about the concept of Flow, and how it can help transform education for the better.

Linked Articles: Using ‘Flow’ and creativity to motivate learning in school and home
Clapton on Robert Johnson: In the Flow
Student Engagement in High School Classrooms from the Perspective of Flow Theory

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