Helping Students Find Flow and Rhythm in Their Learning
In Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, he refers to a concept called ‘Goldilocks’ tasks. In reference to this task, Pink states that in our pursuit of mastery, being in ‘flow’ is a must. Flow is deemed to be optimal experiences when the challenges we face are matched just right with the abilities that we possess.
Think about all of the subject areas in school. Such an amazing array of abilities when we consider each of these subjects. Now I want you to think about physical education, in particular, for a moment. When the students come busting through the doors of the gym for PE, there is such a vast range of abilities that our young learners bring with them.
There are massive differences in cognitive, affective, and psychomotor skills that our students possess. From a purely psychomotor point of view think about all of the differences in physical skills such as dexterity, strength, speed, agility, grace, balance and manipulation.
If our ultimate aim as educators is to engage our young learners and get them intrinsically motivated and believing in themselves, we have to create an environment that allows them to get into their ‘flow’ regardless of their level of ability.
If we match the tasks we offer in PE to our students’ abilities and give them a sense of autonomy over their learning, chances are we are putting them in a better position to find their rhythm and flow. This is when they get lost in time and become much more focused on what they are doing. Excellent depth of learning and skill development take place in these moments.
As PE teachers, this requires us to greatly modify the learning experiences we offer our students including the resources and equipment used in the units we teach. This can be particularly challenging and requires educators to break down barriers in thinking as they plan their units and lessons, but I would argue that it is well worth the time and energy.
One of the most rewarding things to me is when I see students find their flow in PE while working on different types of skills and attitudes. However, this is not possible if I do not take the necessary time to plan out the most effective ways to deliver the learning experiences that I will have my students engage in. It’s a part of my teaching practice that I am always trying to improve upon.
How do you engage your learners in PE? Are you more one-dimensional in the way you deliver your lessons or do you strive to vary up tasks and equipment to best suit the ability ranges of your students? How can units such as net games, invasion games, movement composition, and individual pursuits be modified to help create more of a ‘Goldilocks’ task approach in your classes? Something to think about as you start or finish your teaching day!! Would love to hear your thoughts?