Flow Theory of Motivation and the Adult Learner

Motivation is the key to success with most things in life… the odd thing about motivation techniques is that often just one approach does not always activate motivation in a person nor an engaged learner in all cases. As an educator you will often have to take a multifaceted approach, this is where the Flow Theory of Motivation developed by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi enters center stage.


While the Flow Theory of Motivation might seem like a “fluffy” approach in general, we need to look at it a little deeper than a meditative, reflective, blissfully happy way of “being”. When we look at the core framework of the flow theory applied as a teaching strategy we can see it is rather rooted in Andragogy; the widely accepted and applied theory for adult learning.

If we take a close look at how this framework  could be applied at a high level within education we can see some principals that would be appealing to the adult learner:

  • Actively challenging a person just above their current ability
  • Making assignments relevant to the student’s life or experiences
  • Encouraging Choice, autonomy allows for individualization of learning
  • Set Clear Goals and give feedback
  • Building Connection (positive relationships)
  • Foster deep concentration, losing oneself in the activity or content
  • Practical real-life application exercises
  • Humour as a motivator


Within each of these highlighted approaches, a wide variety of strategies can be employed in order to find the sweet spot for a group of students within a classroom setting.


Have you ever been a project or hobby at home or at work you absolutely loved working on and the next thing you know hours have gone by… using flow theory of motivation you are trying to optimize the learning experience through motivation, one of the reported results is that the learner can feel so immersed in the content or in the activity that they have lost track of time…

Having an awareness of where your students are and how you might be able to contribute to moving them towards the sweet spot flow is a very interesting thing to contemplate when developing your curriculum, choosing your learning activities and delivering your instruction… I think all educators want their students to be engaged, nobody wants to be that educator that has a room full of bored, apathetic or even anxious students!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s