Flow in education -> FLOWER

Can you imagine a deeper water than dropping someone into the waves of unknown situations? The person either comes out right by overcoming fears and learning something new about herself or sinks into the canyon of fears. Now, this is what I had to go through recently when I participated in my very first conference (actually at the 10th Annual Mentoring Conference) held in Albuquerque, New Mexico. What scared me the most was that I had to present. Twice. First on Tuesday afternoon – presenting the whole concept with a slideshow, and then again on Thursday – standing next to my poster and answering questions. You can tell, that I definitely was not in flow just by thinking of the challenges that I had to face to while I had to talk about a program that supposed to help teens to identify flow conducive activities and situations.

OK, but what do we have to do with “flow” at school? Why is it important? Stand still for a second and look at your own life: when you had to choose between universities, which one did you chose: the one you were really interested in, or the one your parents told you to go to? Does the work you do induces “happy” moments throughout the day or do you work only for the money and experience flow only outside of work?

You might also ask yourself: what is this FLOWER project at all? How is it related to Prof. Csikszentmihalyi and his flow theory? What do I have to do with it as a manager, a serious adult person?

First of all: FLOWER is 10 weeks long online self-coaching questionnaire for teens with gamified elements, blended with 12 weeks long self-improvement course that contains in-class activities. The FLOWER name refers to the optimal experience of our everyday life: flow and also to the goal of the program itself: our aim is to help teens to blossom by finding their own strengths and those activities that they enjoy doing. Besides incorporating Prof. Csikszentmihalyi‘s flow theory into the program by giving an overview to the students about this state of mind, we also linked the ESM questionnaire to the map of everyday experiences.

On the below photo you can see Prof. Csikszentmihalyi himself checking how the gamified flow-map works. In a nutshell: after answering basic questions, like: what you are doing in a given time, where you are, whom you are with, etc. and scaling the emotions related to the given activity, the gamified flow map shows the person what feeling he/she might experience while doing such things. This gamified element gives immediate feedback and helps to understand the different emotions a person might go through over a lifespan or even within a day. This activity also might help in identifying flow conducive activities.

The other gamified element in the online FLOWER program so far is a slightly modified and expanded version of the “Johari-window”. First of all, we have created 2 – each contains 42 attributions, skills, abilities – “beehives” for students and 1 (with 26 attributions) for the teachers. Once a person has indicated those 5-7 attributions that he/she thinks are the most typical ones about him/her, then a link appears that can be sent to friends, teachers, peers for doing the same thing. As answers are coming in, a colorful (literally) illustration of a person’s strengths appears on the screen. We used only positive traits of a person helping students to realize the good in others.

The whole concept behind the FLOWER program is focusing on personal strengths and solutions. All the self-coaching questions are directing to a positive outcome and a future where happiness might be part of a person’s life. By encouraging students to set a realistic, reasonable and achievable goal and to stay persistent on achieving it, we expect them to improve on risk-taking and come up with creative ideas and solutions.

How anyone (even a manager, a serious adult) could benefit from this whole project? Just simply by looking into the reflection of the “Johari-windows”, seeing how certain activities affect his/her mental state and by answering such self-coaching questions as e.g.: what will show you that your strengths are in balance with your specific goal? what motivates you in achieving the given goal? what can help you to overcome arising obstacles? how do feedbacks arriving from your family, friends affect you? etc.

And why I immerse myself in this whole project, despite the fact that I am working on it mostly alone, and get wondering looks from my direct colleagues, when I am talking about such concepts as the Johari-window, setting up SMART goals, the “miracle question” and questions based on the concept of solution-focus coaching. I got similar looks at the conference – and I was quite surprised by it –  when I started to talk about the Prof. himself and the notion of flow. But it felt so good when some people indicated their interest in this program. Not talking about the proudness when finally had the chance to introduce it to the Prof. in person and through skype as we used to do.

The answer to the question above is what Prof. Csikszentmihalyi said in the below video: if students find a way to enjoy work at school they will do quite well after a while, even if their test scores are not the best. Talent alone does not help to do good at school, if the student does not have the feeling that he/she really wants to do this because he/she enjoys the given activity.

In case you would like to know more about Prof. Csikszentmihalyi’s research about this age group, check out the following books that we have used for designing the program: Becoming AdultBeing Adolescent: Conflict and Growth in the Teenage YearsTalented Teenagers and also the ESM (experience sampling method) questionnaire.

The paper I submitted to the conference is available here: FLOWER_Nuszpl,J.