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Reflective Writing Journal

Reflection on concepts from PIDP 3250 Assignment #1

May 7th, 2017

PIDP 3250
Lois Thompson

Reflective Writing Journal - PIDP 3250

Running Head: Reflective Writing 2

By Lois Thompson

The concept of flow and adult learning


Csikszentmihalyis concept of flow is described as a state of being when a

persons involvement in an action or activity merges with the persons awareness
and the action becomes autotelic or worth doing for its own sake (as cited by
Barkley, 2010, p. 13). It is thought that when people experience flow they are so
deeply engaged in what they are doing that they do not require any specific result
or reward to keep them on track and/or interested (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). As the
concept of flow relates to adult education, Wlodkowski believes it is possible to
encourage a sense of flow by providing clear goals, consistent and timely
feedback, and a challenge that balances skills or knowledge with stretching
existing capacities (as cited by Barkley, 2010, p. 14). Flow, as it relates to adult
learning, is the subject of this portion of my journal.


I was intrigued when I saw the concept of flow in Elizabeth Barkleys book
about student engagement techniques. I was particularly struck by this concept
because I had heard about and contemplated the concept of flow several years ago,
in discussion with a family member. One of the first questions that came to me
when I saw this in Barkleys book was how I, in my role as a Provincial Trainer, could
promote a sense of flow in our staff when they do their training at Community Living
BC. When I think about having a flow type experience, I realize I have the following
beliefs and assumptions:

I experience a sense of flow when I am deeply immersed in an activity and

feel a high level of enjoyment;
I think some people naturally experience flow, whereas others do not seem to
have a flow type personality;
I feel there is a difference between having a sense of flow and experiencing
flow as an optimal experience where action and awareness merge together;
I think it is only possible to have a true flow experience when people have a
choice in the action or activity they are doing; and
I am not sure I can create a sense of flow for many of our learners, no matter
how hard I try.

I think for me the experience of flow is sometimes a spiritual experience where

time seems to stand still and other things that demand my attention seem
unimportant and almost superfluous in the moment. What I find interesting about
the section on flow in Elizabeth Barkleys book is the idea that instructors can
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encourage a sense of flow for their learners. I whole heartedly agree with the idea
that a sense of flow could result in deeper engagement in learning activities, as well
as a level of intrinsic motivation for the engaged learner.


About five years ago I had several discussions with my father-in-law about the
concept of flow, after he read a book about it. I had never heard of the author,
Csikszentmihalyi, but I thought the concept of flow had merit, albeit in a somewhat
esoteric way. My father-in-law was very interested in how a lack of flow could
impede someones ability to grow and change in areas where they were struggling.
At the time, I did not relate the concept of flow to the training I was doing at
Community Living BC or to the way our staff experienced their learning. Now when I
picture how a learner might experience a sense of flow when they are working on a
course, I picture someone who is very excited about what he or she is learning. I
also picture someone who does not require a lot of external prompting or reward to
embrace their learning experiences.

I can see several advantages for our staff if they can achieve a greater sense
of flow when they do their training at CLBC. First, it will make the courses, which
are largely mandatory, more enjoyable and easier to complete (because they will
not be so likely to resist the learning). Second, if people are intrinsically motivated it
will be much easier for them to connect with the ideas presented in the course,
even when those ideas challenge their beliefs and assumptions. Third, as it is hard
for staff to set aside dedicated time to complete their training, it is extremely
important that they feel engaged in their learning, and that they have at least some
level of intrinsic motivation to propel them forward. Finally, in courses where we
work with a group of learners, the sense of flow for one learner should have a
positive impact on other learners, even if those learners are unable to embrace flow
in their own learning experiences.

Although I have no difficulty embracing ideas that will encourage a sense of

flow for our learners, I also know this will be challenging because of the unique
aspects of being a trainer in a large government organization. For example: most of
our courses are mandatory, so staff are naturally driven by external motivation like
keeping their jobs; many of our courses are online and self-directed, so they do not
involve a lot of trainer feedback; and most of our courses involve technical training
or learning about policies and practices, which while very important to the work we
do are not exactly riveting topics that encourage deep engagement. I also recognize
that many of our courses do not do a great job of balancing challenge with the skills
and knowledge of our learners. However, none of this precludes the opportunity to
create and update courses in a way that encourages a sense of flow, and thereby
creates a better learning experience for our staff. Some of our courses lend
themselves much better to encouraging flow, especially the courses that are taught
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face to face and with groups in blended learning environments. I am very excited
about what can be done in these courses to promote a sense of flow for the


As I review, maintain, and develop courses, and then facilitate training for our
staff I will consider and work on ways to encourage a sense of flow for our learners.
For example, I will ensure that the goals or objectives that are outlined in the
courses are very clear, and that the course material considers and acknowledges
the current skills and experience of our employees. Many of our online courses do
not allow the opportunity for direct trainer feedback, but I can still look for ways to
make the courses more interactive so they incorporate some immediate feedback
for the learner i.e. quizzes, crosswords, interactive games, learning confirmations,
and other interactive learning activities.

In our courses that involve specific training and feedback from the instructor, I
will try to give timely feedback that is relevant to the learners role at CLBC. When
reviewing these courses, I will think about ways to increase consistency in the
feedback across all CLBCs courses. I will also reflect on and then look for
opportunities to enhance our course material to create a better balance between
challenge and stretching our staffs capacity, and working with our staffs current
knowledge and experience.

I am excited about the possibility of creating a sense of flow for our staff when
they do their training at CLBC. I am especially excited around how I, as an instructor
and developer, can encourage a sense of flow that will support staffs intrinsic
motivation and help them engage more fully in their learning.
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Barkley, E. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College

Faculty. San Francisco:

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: