A few days have now passed since writing the first and second posts about motivation and learning.
A short article about Scenario-Based Education (eLearning Guild) returned my attention to the importance of learner motivation. The concept of “Flow Channel” is a compelling idea, with the Flow Channel existing in a zone between boredom and anxiety/frustration, where skills nearly match task challenges.
Learners located within the flow channel will have the skills (confidence and motivation) will stay engaged, seeking to solving problems that are neither too hard or too easy. In an eLearning context, situating a learner within the flow channel may involve providing content that is adaptable or tailoring curriculum to very specific learner audience capacities. As learner skills increase, the challenge needs to suitable increase as well or the learner will move out of the channel into the dreaded zone of boredom. The coordination of progressive challenges with increasing skills is obviously a difficult (but desirable) task.
Interestingly, the Flow Channel may also have resonance in our daily work as faculty as well. Engaging in academic work requires a strong foundation of skills, and personal satisfaction of high quality teaching and publishing productivity likely exists within a similar flow channel. Creative work is located within the zone of comfortable discomfort.
Faculty who are looking for additional challenges may be attracted to new teaching modes, such as eLearning, that will requiring new skills and opportunities for creative exploration. Of course there are no shortages of challenges that faculty must confront in their regular work. Administrative tasks, meetings, grant applications, reviews, more meetings and yet more meetings, which all compete for time and attention. The idea of investing “free time” for establishing new eLearning skills is rarely going to happen without strong internal or external motivation. If the faculty member is mandated to attempt eLearning delivery without suitable skill development they will quickly move out of the flow channel into the frustration zone, trying to accomplish challenges that exceed the skills.
Rewards and benefits associated with “staying in the flow” maintain and strengthen personal motivation.
The refined model of the flow channel (Nakamura and Czikszentimihalyi 2002) distinguishes between activities that are above or below the median skill level and involving low or high challenges. The more complex diagram is helpful for visualizing the relationships between converse emotions such as anxiety vs relaxation, worry vs control, and apathy vs flow.
The multi-domain flow model is very helpful for visualizing how learners (and faculty) can quickly move into emotional states that will challenge effective learning.
Read more at Google Book: Handbook of Positive Psychology
Let’s “go with the flow“.