VCoL & flow: Can Lectical Assessments increase happiness?

Last week, I received an inquiry about the relation between  flow states (Csikszentmihalyi & colleagues) and the natural dopamine/opioid learning cycle that undergirds Lectica's learning model, VCoL+7. The short answer is that flow and the natural learning cycle have a great deal in common. The primary difference appears to be that flow can occur during almost any activity, while the natural learning cycle is specifically associated with learning. Also, flow has been associated with neurochemicals we haven't (yet?) incorporated in our conception of the natural learning cycle. We'll be tracking the literature to see if research on these neurochemicals suggests modifications.

The similarity between flow states and the dopamine/opioid learning cycle are numerous. Both involve dopamine (striving & focus) and opioids (reward). And researchers who have studied the role of flow in learning even use the term "Goldilocks Zone" to describe students' learning sweet-spot—the place where interest and challenge are just right to stimulate the release of dopamine, and where success happens just often enough to trigger the release of opioids (which stimulate the desire for more learning, to start the cycle again).

Since psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi began his studies of flow, it has been linked to feelings of happiness and euphoria, and to peak performance among workers, scientists, athletes, musicians, and many others. Flow has also been shown to deepen learning and support interest.

Flow is gradually making its way into the classroom. It's featured on UC Berkeley's Greater Good site in several informative articles designed to help teachers bring flow into the classroom.

"Teachers want their kids to find “flow,” that feeling of complete immersion in an activity, where we’re so engaged that our worries, sense of time, and self-consciousness seem to disappear."

Advice for stimulating flow is similar to our advice for teaching and learning in the Goldilocks Zone, and includes suggestions like the following:

  • Challenge kids—but not too much. 
  • Make assignments relevant to students’ lives.
  • Encourage choice, feed interest.
  • Set clear goals (and give feedback along the way).
  • Offer hands on activities.

If you've been following our work, these suggestions should sound very familiar.

All in all, the flow literature provides additional support for the value of our mission to deliver learning tools that help teachers help students learn in the zone.

Here are a few links to additional information:

Support from neuroscience for robust, embodied learning

Human connector, by jgmarcelino from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, via Wikimedia Commons

Fluid intelligence Connectome

For many years, we've been arguing that learning is best viewed as a process of creating networks of connections. We've defined robust learning as a process of building knowledge networks that are so well connected they allow us to put knowledge to work in a wide range of contexts. And we've described embodied learninga way of learning that involves the whole person and is much more than the memorization of facts, terms, definitions, rules, or procedures.

New evidence from the neurosciences provides support for this way of thinking about learning. According to research recently published in Nature, people with more connected brains—specifically those with more connections across different parts of the brain—demonstrate greater intelligence than those with less connected brains—including better problem-solving skills. And this is only one of several research projects that report similar findings.

Lectica exists because we believe that if we really want to support robust, embodied learning, we need to measure it. Our assessments are the only standardized assessments that have been deliberately developed to measure and support this kind of learning.