Saturday, 4 April 2015

Mojo and Flow

After writing about my teaching mojo, I picked up Daniel Pink's  "Drive, the surprising truth about what motivates us". In it he talks about the work by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the 70's on flow.
 "Csikszentmihalyi conducted an experiment in which he asked people to record all the things they did in their lives that were “noninstrumental”— that is, small activities they undertook not out of obligation or to achieve a particular objective, but because they enjoyed them. Then he issued the following set of instructions: Beginning [morning of target date], when you wake up and until 9:00 PM, we would like you to act in a normal way, doing all the things you have to do, but not doing anything that is “play” or “noninstrumental.” In other words, he and his research team directed participants to scrub their lives of flow." (Daniel H. Pink, 2009).

The results were striking: after only a couple of day the adults reported severe enough psychological symptoms as to have to end the experiment. These included:

  • Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Being easily fatigued 
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank 
  • Irritability 
  • Muscle tension 
  • Sleep disturbance 


This list sounded horribly reminiscent of difficult times when I felt stressed, and on reflection it is not surprising that losing your feeling of self control would be so damaging!


Also it makes me wonder how the children I teach feel. How many of them enjoy their play? How often do they feel a sense of flow from the tasks that I give themselves? Hmm...! I guess this will be a good point to ponder for my planning for next term and as I consider how to include personalisation and choice.