Getting in the zone: flow experiences of high school students in language arts

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Sarah J. Pearsall (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Pamela Williamson

Abstract: There are severe gaps in reading achievement among students based on ability, race, and income levels. As a result, many high school students with reading difficulties, particularly those who are minorities and living in poverty, are not able to read with the same level of skill as their peers, which can affect their chances of success later in life. Flow theory may offer guidance regarding how to engage and motivate these students in school, particularly when it comes to reading. When individuals have a flow experience, Csikszentmihalyi suggests that intrinsic motivation to participate in that activity will increase and more participation may translate to improved performance. In this mixed methods case study, participants included a language arts teacher and 22 10th-grade students attending language arts classes at a Title I public charter school. A reading assessment was administered along with surveys measuring self-efficacy, motivation, and flow. On three occasions, students’ flow scores were evaluated and compared. Data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics, including hierarchical linear modeling and mediation analysis. Follow-up interviews were conducted with 13 participants to better understand their flow experiences including what motivates and engages them across contexts. These data were analyzed via domain analysis. Results indicated that although there were no differences in flow across activities, there were differences based on individual characteristics, including intrinsic motivation to read and perceptions of skill/challenge balance. In addition, reading ability and flow together explained a substantial portion of variability in reading motivation overall. Interview data centered on students being driven to succeed. Other themes identified related to teacher attributes, motivation, engagement, reading, and flow. Implications and suggestions for practice are also discussed.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2018
Flow theory, Language arts, Low income, Motivation, Reading disabilities, Self-efficacy
Reading (Secondary)
Books and reading $x Psychological aspects
Motivation in education

Email this document to