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flow 2

A classroom culture for absorption [Flow #2]

In our first flow blog we looked at the meaning of flow and the research behind it, and suggested you look out for those behaviours that might help pupils achieve flow.

This week we concentrate on flow-friendly cultures. Helping students to experience a state of flow in learning involves creating a culture in your classrooms that consistently offers opportunities for them to;

  • Find their element and create their own goals
  • Take time to develop how to become absorbed
  • Take up engaging activities
  • Recognise when they have been absorbed

‘Culture’ concerns the details of the micro-climate that you create in your classrooms. What you do and say, what you notice and commend and what you don’t, what type of activities you offer and how much learners are encouraged to do things for themselves. The micro-climate of a classroom can inadvertently stifle, or specifically enhance, the very behaviours you are seeking to promote.

How does your classroom culture help students to experience flow?

Here is a distillation of features that might begin to shape the emotional climate of your classroom to encourage flow.

Take a look and consider how far you already use any of these features, and which others you fancy trying.

(You can download the PDF to print, if that helps. The download button is to the right of the Zoom box.)

What do you think?

  • What are your first reactions?
  • Is this a realistic picture of a classroom?
  • Which aspects would be most challenging to put into practice?
  • Which one idea intrigues you most?

Make a note of:

  • Aspects of the diagram that are already a feature of your classroom culture
  • Aspects of  the diagram that you fancy having a go at
  • Intriguing features in the diagram that you want to find out more about


Achieving flow / absorption requires some complex capabilities which were discovered and explored across a broad field of study. While becoming absorbed is seen as natural in early childhood it can easily be squashed by home or school cultures.

Achieving a flow-friendly culture in today’s education system can be problematic.  Teachers often have to walk a tightrope between the traditional idea that ‘learning means being taught stuff’ and the more complex view of learning as  ‘individual sense making’. Shifting from the first to the second view is never easy but it is what ‘being in flow’ requires.

Being able to achieve a state of flow is one of the most valuable outcomes a school can pass on to its students. In the next blog we’ll explore three big ideas that influence flow across the curriculum.

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