In the adventure of learning we navigate between two beacons: that of boredom and that of anxiety. An adventure can be lived as long as it represents a challenge, one is not bored, and that this challenge is not insurmountable, in which case, it is no longer an adventure but survival.
Between the two, flow can appear and even lead to unsuspected levels of pleasure, creativity and achievement, insofar as the challenge corresponds to us, as much in terms of values, goals and abilities. Something like a harmony between the activity of learning this subject and oneself, a form of confidence that invites to invest and surpass oneself, to transform oneself. This harmony can even unfold at the level of a group. Energy is generated and circulates in full, with little resistance.
If we don't learn much new or the challenge is absent, boredom will scatter our attention. Why waste time? No energy to flow, no flow; no reason to invest. If, on the contrary, too many unknowns are submitted simultaneously, the pace is too fast or too much of our attention is solicited without having automatisms and references to help us filter the important, a feeling of incompetence will appear and a resistance will then monopolize our energy until the interest for something inaccessible disappears completely. Why continue when we are overwhelmed? The energy no longer flows, too much resistance, no flow. The challenge turns to survival.
The Target method, originally applied to sports performance, now extends to coaching and attempts to operationalize the principles of flow.
Recognizing the pleasure of learning
In distance learning, the responsibility for achieving and maintaining this state of flow is primarily that of the individual, whether the course is well presented or not. There is no one but the learner to know how he or she feels. Is he or she generating energy? Is his energy impeded?
An outside observer may see some signs, but the student may perceive it much earlier. A tutor can help him become aware of it. Learning data can also help him or her identify the area that followed the difficulty, but it remains for the student to concretely find the point to be resolved.
In the classroom, the situation becomes more complex, as interactions with others also enter the equation, especially if one comes to compare or criticize. The teacher gains from developing his or her students' skills and establishing discipline; thus, he or she will be able to release more attention.
This video from Syn-Lab does a good job of explaining how to do this in a classroom.
The idea of imposing a topic is odd in pedagogy, to say the least. In principle, any topic can be made interesting to anyone and only personal considerations make it acceptable or not. A matter of time, priorities, availability, values.... impossible to reach a state of fluidity without these considerations being taken into account, satisfied or erased.
Of course, one can disregard the fact that a subject is imposed and learn it with interest and pleasure, but very few people succeed in doing so. Who likes having something imposed on them? To recognize the power of decision of an individual is to recognize his competence to decide for himself. To the injunction one feels almost a duty to oppose, to resist. Resistance is opposed to flow. In order to achieve the flow, one imposes the least possible subject: one proposes it. The individual gives his consent to learn it and from there generates his energy and can direct his attention.
To generate and maintain flow, the conditions are simple: have something to move, generate current, and as little resistance as possible.
We tend to forget this, but there is a quantitative aspect to flow; in the case of learning, what there is to move are the elements of a subject.
To create flow, a difference in potential is needed: a challenge, a goal, a reason or a necessity.
To decrease resistance, we remove friction points, oil interactions, transcend obstacles, rally opposition; thus we increase conductivity, to arrive at something akin to understanding and the pleasure of learning.
The STEM approach has been implemented in the United States and around the world to attract young people to engineering and science majors, with mixed results. But what gives it this new lease on life? It all lies in one letter: the "A" for arts.