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Abstract

Flow refers to a special experience of total absorption in one task. Sustained flow (also known as directed motivational currents) is the occurrence of flow in a series of tasks aimed at achieving a certain outcome (for example improving proficiency in a second language). In this article, we investigate shared, sustained flow—which occurs when a group of individuals working collaboratively experience sustained flow. Interviews were conducted with five participants (two teachers and three students) to find out the conditions perceived to have facilitated this experience during pre-sessional language courses at two British universities. The results point to three main conditions: forming a group identity, attaching personal value and providing partial autonomy. We discuss how teachers can apply these findings to design motivational out-of-class activities.
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© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press; all rights reserved.
ELT Journal Volume 73/1 January 2019; doi:10.1093/elt/ccy025 51
Advance Access publication June 28, 2018
Shared, sustained flow: triggering
motivation with collaborative
projects
Zana Ibrahim and Ali H. Al-Hoorie
Flow refers to a special experience of total absorption in one task. Sustained
flow (also known as directed motivational currents) is the occurrence of
flow in a series of tasks aimed at achieving a certain outcome (for example
improving proficiency in a second language). In this article, we investigate
shared, sustained flow—which occurs when a group of individuals working
collaboratively experience sustained flow. Interviews were conducted with
five participants (two teachers and three students) to find out the conditions
perceived to have facilitated this experience during pre-sessional language
courses at two British universities. The results point to three main conditions:
forming a group identity, attaching personal value and providing partial
autonomy. We discuss how teachers can apply these findings to design
motivational out-of-class activities.
An area that has recently attracted some interest in the L2 motivation
literature is the so-called directed motivational currents (DMC, Dörnyei,
Henry, and Muir 2016; Al-Hoorie 2017). DMC refers to an intense
motivational drive sustained over a period of time. DMC experiences are
very similar to flow (Csikszentmihalyi 1990). Both flow and DMC involve
the unique experience of total absorption, the pursuit of a goal in a rather
structured and predictable manner, and the satisfied feeling after that
experience. The primary difference between flow and DMC is that DMC is
‘a prolonged process of engagement in a series of tasks’ (Dörnyei, Ibrahim,
and Muir 2015: 5, original emphasis). Both flow and DMC are potentially
relevant to ELT due to the markedly high motivation they generate in
learners.
In this article, we refer to the DMC phenomenon as sustained flow for
two reasons. First, this term explicitly acknowledges the contribution of
the mother ‘flow’ construct. Adding an adjective to qualify the original
construct is in line with other recent developments in this field such as
experiential flow, directed flow (Novak, Hoffman, and Duhachek 2003),
shared flow (Nakamura and Csikszentmihalyi 2009), social flow (Walker
2010), collective flow (Salanova, Rodríguez-Sánchez, Schaufeli, and Cifre
2014) and relational flow (Moore, Drake, Tschannen-Moran, Campone,
Introduction
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and Kauffman 2005). Second, following this convention would avoid
contributing to the unnecessary proliferation of terminology that is
witnessed recently in the field. That is, we feel that a growing number of
terms are being introduced to the L2 motivation field without adequate
attention to the resulting terminological overlap and its consequences.
One example is the proliferation of ‘selves’, including anti-ought-to,
rebellious, imposed, bilingual, multilingual, private, public, possible,
and probable selves. Such terminological proliferation raises the risk
that researchers would speak different languages even when they study
very similar phenomena (cf. Dörnyei and Ryan 2015: 102). In the hope of
avoiding this situation, we refer to a DMC experience as ‘sustained flow’,
even though the two terms refer to the same phenomenon.
A second area that has recently attracted interest is out-of-class learning
activities (for example Nunan and Richards 2015). Such activities provide
the opportunity for autonomous, collective and extended engagement with
the language. Although some out-of-class activities require a relatively
short time to complete (for example one night), other projects require
a collective effort extended over longer periods such as weeks or even a
whole semester. When such projects are authentic (for example working
for a charity, or presenting before a real audience), research suggests that
learners enjoy the activity and improve their language proficiency (Pontes
and Shimazumi 2015).
Shared, sustained flow (SSF) occurs when groupwork is coupled with flow
over a period of time, potentially making learning both effective and highly
enjoyable. However, this type of activity poses unique challenges to teachers.
On the one hand, the nature of preparation required is different from that
of everyday lessons. Teachers are responsible for ensuring that the learners
engage in productive groupwork, manage the various aspects involved
in their project, and avoid distractions and procrastination—all of which
without the teacher’s direct supervision (as such activities are occurring
outside the classroom). On the other hand, there is little evidence-based
guidelines for teachers about how to prepare for such activities, especially
when it comes to the conditions that could facilitate SSF experiences.
Because SSF could potentially be a highly stimulating activity that ELT
teachers can utilise in many contexts, and because there is little research
that sheds light on this unique phenomenon, we attempted to fill this
gap by examining experiences of successful SSF. We conducted a
qualitative study in order to obtain a rich description of these experiences.
Our primary research question was: What are the conditions that the
participants believe facilitated their SSF experience? By ‘conditions’, we
did not limit ourselves to initial conditions, but also investigated other
factors maintaining the SSF experience or satisfaction derived from it. We
believe that this is an important question as it might offer valuable insight
to ELT teachers regarding how to design effective out-of-class activities.
A call for participants was announced on social media and circulated
among different universities and language schools in the UK. The call
invited both students who experienced SSF and teachers who observed
it. All cases that came forward were evaluated against the standard SSF
Methodology
Data collection
52 Ibrahim and Al-Hoorie
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criteria: goal-orientedness, positive emotionality and structure. Structure
consists of predictable stages that SSF typically goes through, including
launch, behavioural routines, progress checks, affirmative feedback and
closure (Dörnyei, Henry, and Muir 2016). Many cases were excluded for
being typical motivational experiences rather than SSF (see Ibrahim 2016
for details).
The data presented here were collected from two teachers (Sophie and
Leila). These two particular cases were selected because they represent
a context of interest to many ELT practitioners: pre-sessional courses on
English for academic purposes. In these courses, students whose L1 is not
English are required to attain a sufficient level of proficiency before they
can enrol in their (typically graduate) studies. The two cases also came
from two different British universities, thus lowering the possibility of
reporting features idiosyncratic to a particular university. Furthermore,
unlike some other cases that came forward, both of these cases occurred
shortly before the call for participants, making the experience relatively
fresh in their memory.
The first teacher, Sophie, observed the occurrence of SSF while teaching
a public speaking course. She described an SSF experience occurring over
a whole semester. The second teacher, Leila, identified two project groups
of students who stood out as uniquely motivated while preparing for a
presentation project called ‘the booster weekend’. This project lasted over
a three-day weekend due to a bank holiday in the UK.
Because the teachers provided retrospective accounts of these motivational
surges experienced by their students, we utilized a number of strategies to
achieve validity. First, we attempted to contact some of the students who
had experienced SSF first-hand. We were able to interview three students
from Leila’s class: Haun, Tom and Sami. Both teachers were interviewed
face-to-face, while the students provided answers to questions via email or
phone. All contacts were made in English.
Second, instead of describing the theoretical components of SSF, we gave
the participants the classic SSF example of an overweight person going
through a regimen for a while in pursuit of losing weight. The participants
were then asked to describe how they experienced their long-term
engagement and what their feelings were like throughout. Third, validity
check measures were sought once the themes were produced for each
participant’s narrative. The participants were given written summaries of
emergent themes to check whether each reflected an accurate account of
their experiences.
Finally, our data collection approach relied heavily on volunteers coming
forward, and therefore self-selection bias might have had an effect on our
results. We discuss this limitation and its implications later.
All interviews were transcribed verbatim, resulting in a corpus of 11,232
words. We employed a two-stage approach to the analysis. First, to gain
descriptive accounts of what happened, we utilized a phenomenological
approach to capture the ‘universal essence’ and meaning of the
phenomenon in question as lived and experienced by our participants
Data analysis
Shared, sustained flow: triggering motivation with collaborative projects 53
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(Creswell 2007: 58). Second, to learn about what might have contributed
to the SSF cases, a thematic analysis method was deployed to ‘highlight
the most salient constellations of meanings present in the dataset’ (Joffe
2012: 209).
At the first stage of the analysis, the entire dataset was examined to extract
a list of non-overlapping statements. Three criteria were employed for
selecting these statements. First, a statement needed to be around an
SSF experience (for example not giving a general opinion on how to best
learn an L2). Second, it had to provide a new—not repeated—piece of
information. All the similar codes with variations, slight or prominent,
were fully considered. Third, a statement had to involve a descriptive
or narrative account reflecting what happened or how it happened,
respectively. The entire data analysis involved an iterative process to
identify these themes. Close attention was paid to ensure that the final
themes thoroughly and closely represented the dominant themes, and
so the final presentation described the bulk of the data rather than
deliberately selecting extracts to support specific claims.
At the second stage of the analysis, a thematic approach was used to allow
for interpretation of ‘explicit and implicit content’ (Joffe 2012: 209). At
this stage, rather than generating statements that explicitly described a
motivational state, attempts were made to develop themes that would
best reflect the data and hence explain why the participants experienced
what they reported they did. The analysis was conducted in an inductive
(bottom-up) approach allowing the opportunity for reaching data-driven
findings.
Despite these safeguards, we acknowledge that our qualitative approach,
by its nature, will always inherently involve an element of subjectivity.
However, we hope that it would also provide richer data to which many
readers could relate.
Overall, the results revealed that the students in both cases went through
experiences described as unique. That is, the students interviewed
believed that the interest and motivation during these times were above
the average levels typical of other classroom activities. This elevated
level of motivation was also very evident to the teachers, emerging as a
recurrent theme throughout the analysis.
One student, for example, described his experience as ‘a really great
experience and unforgettable memory’ (Tom Q1), while another recalled
that it was the most motivating project he had: ‘the experience was overall
amazing and enriching and satisfying’ (Sami Q1). Sami also argued that
all group members shared a very similar feeling:
The good thing was that everybody was motivated, everyone was
motivated. However, some people were motivated but they didn’t
show it, but we knew they were motivated. Some people were silent
all the time, so we find some other work for them in order for their
participating, like one girl, her conversation skill was not very good,
so we just assigned her to write the script and just write everything
we do, and she was motivated to do it and she was valuable for the
Results and discussion
Overall motivation
54 Ibrahim and Al-Hoorie
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group. So everybody was doing something specific and everyone was
motivated. (Sami Q2)
The teachers agreed with this view. For example, Sophie believed that all
of the group members, including those who were otherwise unmotivated,
displayed interest during the group project:
Based on that presentation, they were all equally involved and
enthusiastic. There was one Thai girl who was not interested in the
course at all; she was always on the phone, not interested. But during
the presentation, she was very much there; she was really really
involved, and as motivated as the others. (Sophie Q1)
In terms of location, these experiences took place outside classrooms.
Because the time students had during class was limited, the students
were able to devote more time and energy as they worked outside the
classroom. Their out-of-class projects involved extended (but informal)
meetings and discussions, which further facilitated a sense of purpose and
the seriousness of the task. Leila described the productivity of her students
as they worked outside the class:
in just about two days, they produced a massive amount of work that
showed that their motivational level was very high… they spent pretty
much every minute of that weekend working… and they worked much
harder and the quality of work was higher. (Leila Q1)
Analysis of the interviews revealed three main conditions facilitating
the SSF experiences: forming a group identity, attaching personal
value and providing partial autonomy. These three themes appeared
consistently in the data from both the students and their teachers. The
following discussion elaborates on these themes and then reflects on
their implications for ELT teachers. Readers interested in more detailed
analyses are referred to Ibrahim (2016) for a complete presentation.
The data suggest that forming a group identity is perhaps the most crucial
feature facilitating SSF experiences. At first, individual members went
through an initial challenging stage while forming this shared identity.
For example, Sophie explained that her students first struggled to function
as a group:
But after a few sessions, I could see that the group gradually became
more cohesive… Part of it, I think, is because they developed friendship
among themselves. So they liked each other. (Sophie Q1)
Likewise, the students had the perception that they were now part of a
collective unit aiming towards one shared goal and being assessed based
on their collective performance. This pushed them all to put in effort
to excel at the final product. Tom (Q2), for example, noted: ‘Our group
members were assessed together. If I didn’t do my role in a team, our
team got lower marks. In other words, not me but all.’ This shared final
goal seems to have motivated them and helped them to develop stronger
relationships and to work collectively. As Haun (Q1) stated: ‘To finish
Conditions
facilitating SSF
Forming a group identity
Shared, sustained flow: triggering motivation with collaborative projects 55
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task we have to stay together and have more chance to know each other…
Everybody have the same aim to win the prize, so we are all motivated.’
A further factor that facilitated the resulting rapport seems to be the
opportunity to meet off campus. As an illustration, Sami described that
the cohesiveness of the group increased when they met at an informal
setting. The relaxed atmosphere seems to have made the group members
more comfortable:
we thought about working in the library, but the library would close on
Monday, but Janna, one of the team members, said ‘I have six chairs in
my kitchen in my flat’. And we were all friends with Janna. And she was
also open and easy-going person, so she also said she would cook for us
on the first day… (Sami Q2).
As a result, they formed high expectations towards their final outcome,
which would be the result of working together as a group. Sami (Q3) felt
that their collective effort to produce the final poster and presentation was
rewarding at the end of the project: ‘And when we finished, we all thanked
each other, we knew we did a great job, you know what I mean.’
The data indicate that the SSF experience was facilitated when the group
felt they identified with the activity. In one case, the students initially
questioned the benefits of the assigned project until they personally
and individually associated with its value. In addition to signalling the
linguistic benefits, students needed to endorse their activities as valuable
to their personal lives such as by knowing how it might make them better
people or how they could benefit from the content of the activity in the
long run. Seeing the linguistic value of a project was not sufficient to
promote SSF. Sophie, for example, first tried to convince her students of
the linguistic value of the activity:
So I would be telling them actually whatever jobs that you have…
even I was telling them that when you talk to your boss in a lift, that’s
a bit like small talks that you do, which are not public speaking, but
conversation and that’s still presentation in a sense. (Sophie Q3)
But that did not seem enough. The students also had to find a topic of
personal value:
they were struggling, they were still looking for a topic, and then they
found a topic which they liked. It was about Facebook… so, they could
relate, they liked the topic, and they knew that people would find it
exciting… they found something important and meaningful to talk
about. (Sophie Q4)
The students similarly reported that the personal relevance of the activity
enhanced their motivation:
My interest is designing the poster to make it more appealing. It is
something you have genius freedom to do what you want like a really
business person instead of utilising business tool which is too limited
thing you can do. (Huan Q2)
Attaching personal value
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we had to present in front of the whole course, which was about 100
students. And it was motivating for me because I like presenting in
front of people, and when we started I thought it would boost my self-
confidence or it would boost my presentation skills more. (Sami Q4)
In the SSF cases, the groups refrained from seeking much advice from
their instructors mainly because they thought it could jeopardize their
sense of efficacy and autonomous accomplishment. Although the learners
were provided with clear assessment criteria and enough instructions on
the expected final product, their autonomy was not restricted in terms of
how they were to reach their target. This level of autonomy seems to have
helped them embrace their project and foster a sense of belonging and
group pride as they drew from each other’s resources and expertise.
Although autonomy was helpful, there were at least two aspects where
the teacher’s support appeared to still be important—thus the label
‘partial’ autonomy. First, teachers had to give adequate explanation of
the target outcomes so that the students could have a clear picture of the
requirements. For example, Leila reported that her students needed initial
guidance before becoming autonomous:
So they had to work together on their own with no help from us really
apart from the initial, first half an hour of guidance… So it was quite
autonomous in that way. (Leila Q3)
A second area where groups might need help is suggesting group leaders.
The data suggest that a charismatic leader plays a central role in reaching
group consensus and cohesion. Once such a leader is selected, groupwork
can proceed more smoothly. Tom reported a vivid SSF experience once he
became a group leader:
I checked time, each member’s task and progress of our job. Being
a leader itself made me more involved in that project… I took full
responsibility of our project. Not to fail the project, I checked everything
in my group. And when someone’s task was beyond or below my
expectation, I helped that member and reallocated our tasks to do our
project efficiently. (Tom Q1)
These three conditions are by no means a revelation to the ELT field.
However, our analyses suggest that their combination in out-of-class
projects may facilitate SSF.
Many teachers would appreciate the opportunity to engage their students
in out-of-class activities that are both stimulating and effective. However,
little guidance is currently available for teachers, especially in the context
of inducing SSF experiences. The previous section has presented three
conditions that, according to the participants, were instrumental in
facilitating SSF experiences. This section summarizes these conditions
and reflects on their implications to teachers.
First, an important condition is the formation of a group identity. When
the students felt that they were working as a cohesive group towards a
common goal, they became more motivated and more productive. This
suggests that teachers should ensure that the activity is not perceived
Providing partial
autonomy
Implications for ELT
teachers
Shared, sustained flow: triggering motivation with collaborative projects 57
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merely as a language task, but also a social opportunity for students to
demonstrate their group identity. For example, the students could discuss
issues like project title, group name, roles of each member and social
activities (such as group dinners). To enhance pride in the activity, an
external audience may be invited for the final presentation, which could
be filmed. As such, the groupwork may become a stimulating social event
rather than merely an academic assignment to gain grades.
Second, to achieve a group identity, individual members also need to
recognize both the personal value of the project, as well as the prospect of
succeeding as a group. Teachers therefore can help students to develop
a sense of ownership through activities that students find authentic and
meaningful, and that also go beyond merely improving certain aspects of
the language. Examples include asking students to conduct a study about
an important community issue and to present the findings in front of city
officials and the public, or to collect data to find solutions to an important
educational or social problem such as bullying or drug addiction.
Similarly, a project on ways to improve the lives of homeless people or
sick children might stimulate a powerful SSF-inducing project because it
is perceived as meaningful, worthwhile and also gaining people’s respect
and admiration.
Third, providing adequate autonomy to the group members would
increase the personal value of the activity and the sense of ownership.
The students could be given the chance to choose individual roles, when
and where they study together, and how they deliver the final outcome.
At the same time, it may be an overstatement to say that teachers should
give their students full autonomy to do what they want, because designing
effective tasks requires a lot of preparation on the part of the teacher. It is
therefore more accurate to describe it as partial autonomy. Furthermore,
some students might fall back to familiar tasks at the expense of gaining
new skills (cf. the girl in Sami Q2 above), and this is an area where the
teacher’s intervention can be beneficial. Most of the teacher’s work
takes place in the initial stages of the project, such as clarifying its goals,
timeline, and other requirements. Students can ‘earn’ more autonomy
once they demonstrate sufficient understanding of the task and the
teacher’s expectations.
In addition to the above conditions, other considerations emerging from
the data include choosing an appropriate time-scale and group size.
In the SSF cases, two time-scales were observed: semester-long and
weekend-long. The choice was rather pragmatic, considering students’
curricular and extra-curricular load, exam times and breaks, in addition
to students’ availability and willingness to engage in the project within
the assigned time-scale. The semester-long project required several hours
of preparation per week, whereas the weekend-long one required a more
intensified effort. The weekend-long seems more appropriate for projects
not requiring special resources that might be available only during
working days (for example labs).
At the same time, we are hesitant to recommend inducing SSF too
frequently. We speculate that this could lead to student burnout. Instead,
it might be more appropriate to view it as a motivational injection
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introduced occasionally with careful consideration of the situation.
Poorly-designed SSF activities may not only lead to failure but also to
student frustration.
In terms of group size, the SSF cases suggest that large groups may
be less likely to achieve SSF. Larger groups pose challenges to group
cohesiveness as well as providing less room for individual contribution.
Smaller groups of five to ten may be more effective. For this reason, both
teachers divided their classes into groups with the same final goal and
assessment criteria.
Finally, in some SSF cases, students showed a certain level of frustration
when they did not win a final prize even though they thought they had
produced an outstanding product based on their unprecedented amount
of collective effort. Therefore, just valuing the product without regard to
effort expended to produce it might lead to student dissatisfaction.
An important limitation of the current study is that, because SSF
experiences are relatively rare, we had to recruit our sample through a
call for participants. It is plausible that this small sample may not be
representative of others who did not come forward. This self-selection
bias constitutes a potential threat to external validity, where the results
may not be generalizable. Still, this is not atypical of early research into
a novel area. To address this limitation, further research is needed to
explore different teaching contexts. Indeed, different contexts involve
unique dynamics and pose different challenges (for example younger
learners), thus possibly requiring an alternative set of conditions to initiate
and maintain SSF. Having said this, the results emerging from our study
seem reasonably easily translatable to many teaching contexts. Overall, we
believe that our results can provide important insights into SSF, as well as
potential directions for future intervention research.
Final version received February 2018
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The authors
Zana Ibrahim is the chair of the English Department
at the University of Kurdistan Hewlêr. He holds a
PhD in English from the University of Nottingham,
and an MA in TESOL from the Indiana University
of Pennsylvania. He has taught courses in academic
reading and writing, language acquisition, applied
linguistics, TESOL, and materials development
at several universities in Kurdistan. His research
interests lie mainly in the area of SLA and pedagogy,
applied linguistics, L2 motivation, complexity
theory, and positive affect. He is the co-theorist of
the directed motivational currents concept and has
co-authored the first publication on the construct.
Email: zana.ibrahim@ukh.edu.krd
Ali H. Al-Hoorie is an assistant professor at the
English Language Institute, Jubail Industrial College,
Saudi Arabia. He completed his PhD degree at the
University of Nottingham under the supervision of
Professors Zoltán Dörnyei and Norbert Schmitt. He
also holds an MA in Social Science Data Analysis
from Essex University. His research interests include
motivation theory, research methodology, and
complexity.
Email: hoorie_a@jic.edu.sa
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... Ghanizadeh & Jahedizadeh, 2017;Gümüş & Başöz, 2021;Li, Tang, & Zhang, 2021;Muir, 2020). There has been another set of studies which discussed how to facilitate the pedagogical application of DMCs: a) conceptual ones (Dörnyei et al., 2016;Peng & Phakiti, 2020) and b) empirical ones (García-Pinar, 2020;Ibrahim & Al-Hoorie, 2019;Muir, 2020;Sampson, 2016;Watkins, 2016). ...
... It is suggested that the intensity of DMCs cannot be attained unless a clearly defined ultimate goal is accompanied by a mental image of its accomplishment (Dörnyei et al., 2014). However, this finding of the study accords with some earlier findings Ibrahim, 2016b;Ibrahim & Al-Hoorie, 2019), which showed that learners could experience DMCs without engaging in visualization of their desired states (Jahedizadeh & Al-Hoorie, 2021). ...
... As a characteristic of DMCs described by Dörnyei et al. (2016), all cases reported that they had a specific goal. However, when it comes to vision, it was demonstrated that without engaging in vision of her end-goal, one EFL learner managed to achieve DMCs, which is in line with other empirical reports Ibrahim, 2016b;Ibrahim & Al-Hoorie, 2019). Thus, this finding calls for a need for further investigation into the role of vision on DMCs as it is hard to reconcile with the argument that vision during DMCs is of paramount importance in terms of encouraging learners to reconstruct their goal by experiencing it as a current reality and direct their intense energy toward a well-defined goal (Dörnyei et al., 2016;Magid & Chan, 2012;Muir, 2016). ...
Article
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Recent trends in the field of L2 learning motivation have led to a proliferation of studies that examine Directed Motivational Currents (DMCs). However, there remains a paucity of evidence on the factors that trigger the launch of DMCs and previous research findings into the central components of DMCs have been contradictory. This qualitative study addresses these gaps by looking at the possible parameters that trigger DMCs, and examining the initial conditions necessary for the launch of DMCs, and the (non)defining core features of it. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 27 EFL learners pursuing a bachelor's degree in Turkey. The factors triggering learners' DMCs were negative emotion, emergent opportunity, single and explicit goal, good teacher/classmates/motivating class group, moments of realization, a sense of achievement, a passion/interest for something, element of competition, external pressure, a big life decision, vision, outcome led, belief that the work had real value, and inspiring experience. Perceived behavioural control and challenge-skill balance were two initial conditions necessary for DMCs to begin. Goal orientedness, salient facilitative structure, and positive emotionality were found to be the core features of DMCs. The findings offer significant implications for how teachers could exploit these motivational surges to promote learning in EFL settings.
... Group cohesion can also increase learners' autonomy, and thus motivate them to give more attention to their project. Furthermore, Dörnyei et al. (2016) and Ibrahim and Al-Hoorie (2019) suggest that autonomy is the key to success in group project work because it allows learners to function outside the classroom and to make their own decisions, such as selecting a topic or deciding on a meeting time. ...
... Dörnyei et al. (2014) and Muir and Dörnyei (2013) introduced directed motivational current theory to explain language learners' motivational surges. The concept of shared, sustained flow (SSF) was first used by Ibrahim and Al-Hoorie (2019), who state that the two terms are interchangeable. DMCs/SSF are exceptional motivational phenomena that can be experienced by an individual learner or a group of students determined to achieve a significant learning goal such as speaking a foreign language fluently (Dörnyei et al., 2014;Ibrahim & Al-Hoorie, 2019;Muir & Dörnyei, 2013;Muir & Gümüş, 2020;Sorayyaee et al., 2022). ...
... The concept of shared, sustained flow (SSF) was first used by Ibrahim and Al-Hoorie (2019), who state that the two terms are interchangeable. DMCs/SSF are exceptional motivational phenomena that can be experienced by an individual learner or a group of students determined to achieve a significant learning goal such as speaking a foreign language fluently (Dörnyei et al., 2014;Ibrahim & Al-Hoorie, 2019;Muir & Dörnyei, 2013;Muir & Gümüş, 2020;Sorayyaee et al., 2022). They are characterized by generating parameters, goal/vision orientedness, a salient facilitative structure, and positive emotionality (Dörnyei et al., 2016;Dörnyei et al., 2015). ...
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Intensive project work framed within a directed motivational current theory can transform an assessment into an engaging learning opportunity. Accordingly, a project built around the “The BIG Issue” framework variant was implemented in an English as a foreign language classroom to explore the purposeful generation of group-directed motivational current experiences. The study additionally examined the parameters that facilitated total absorption in the project. To reach these aims, learner diaries were used to collect qualitative data from five students working in small groups. A thematic analysis of the data revealed that the participants experienced purposefully generated group-directed motivational currents. They also indicated that certain features related to well-designed projects, such as authenticity and congruence, engendered an exceptional productivity that helped informants sustain their heightened, motivational drive until they achieved their project work goals. As a result, learners’ test taking anxiety was maintained at an optimal level, which in turn fostered complete engagement in project work. The findings of the study not only provide empirical validity for the purposeful facilitation of group-directed motivational current experiences, but also suggest that language teachers can use these experiences as an alternative in second language assessment to increase learners’ engagement and productivity. Keywords: absorption/engagement; assessment; group-directed motivational currents; project; the big Issue framework
... Through what came to be known as "frameworks of focused interventions," it has been proposed that practitioners can deliberately induce DMCs in their learners (Dörnyei et al., 2016). One of the most common approaches is collaborative projects (e.g., Ibrahim & Al-Hoorie, 2019). This approach draws on group DMCs, where learners engage in groupwork and cooperate to achieve a shared goal. ...
... The above review shows that DMCs are posited to represent a novel and qualitatively different construct that might have useful implications as a motivational tool for classroom practitioners (e.g., Dörnyei et al., 2014;Ibrahim & Al-Hoorie, 2019;Muir, 2020). At the same time, some concern has also been expressed about the broader paradigm that constitutes the theoretical basis of the DMC construct and that emphasizes self-and vision-based motivation (e.g., Lamb, 2012;Moskovsky et al., 2016;Papi & Abdollahzadeh, 2012). ...
... Our review also points to concerns about the evidence for each of the three characteristics posited for DMCs. When it comes to vision, though it has been argued that a DMC cannot be achieved without it (e.g., Dörnyei et al., 2014, p. 13), several empirical reports have demonstrated that learners were in fact able to achieve a DMC without engaging in vision or visualization of their desired states (Henry et al., 2015;Ibrahim, 2016b;Ibrahim & Al-Hoorie, 2019;Murphy et al., 2017; see also Muir, 2020). Some participants explicitly denied that vision was essential to their DMC experience when directly questioned about it (Murphy et al., 2017), while others even reported deliberately avoiding vision (Ibrahim, 2016b). ...
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Directed motivational currents, unique and intense goal-directed motiva-tional surges lasting over a period of time, have received increasing attention recently. This article reports the first systematic review of this phenomenon. A total of 21 reports appearing between 2013 and 2020 were included in the analysis. The results show that the majority of empirical reports were small-scale qualitative studies (median = 18 participants). The evidence on the three characteristics proposed as necessary and/or distinguishing conditions of directed motivational currents (vision, salient facilitative structure, and positive affect) is inconclusive due to the presence of directed motivational currents cases not exhibiting these features, and the absence of direct comparative analyses with non-directed motivational currents cases. A few intervention studies (N = 4) were conducted, but their results are also inconclusive due to a number of methodological limitations. Contrary to the claim that directed motivational current experiences are the "optimal form" of motivation, the results additionally showed that these experiences could lead to intense stress, anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, and panic attacks, thereby raising ethical concerns about deliberately inducing directed motivational currents in learners. We conclude that, although the concept of directed motivational currents is Safoura Jahedizadeh, Ali H. Al-Hoorie 518 promising, more research is needed to reach a better understanding of its potential. We end this article by suggesting directions for future research into directed motivational currents, including renaming them as sustained flow.
... The existing body of research on DMCs has focused primarily on analyzing the micro-level theoretical properties and components of the construct (Dörnyei et al., , 2016Ibrahim, 2016;Muir & Dörnyei, 2013). So far, there have been few empirical investigations into DMC within the realm of L2 learning (e.g., Ibrahim & Al-Hoorie, 2018;Safdari & Maftoon, 2017;Sak, 2019). Previous studies on the subject have yet to address the issue of how DMC-type motivation can be fostered in language classrooms. ...
... Watkins (2016), who aimed to investigate whether it is possible to launch learners' motivational currents through planning a curriculum focused on the core characteristics of the DMC, found that the curriculum was effective and successful. In another study conducted by Ibrahim and Al-Hoorie (2018), it was reported that building a group identity, considering the project as personally important, and providing learners with the opportunity to experience autonomy are among the most important parameters for increasing the motivational power of DMC through group projects. ...
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This study adds new empirical evidence on how commonly the Directed Motivational Current (DMC) phenomenon is recognized and experienced among tertiary level L2 learners. This study also investigated DMC manifestations across such demographic factors as gender and domain of study. To this end, in this quantitative study, the Turkish version of the DMC Disposition Scale (Muir, 2016), validated by the researchers through a confirmatory factor analysis and reliability checks, was administered to 1083 first-year EFL students pursuing a bachelor's degree at twelve different faculties of a state university in Turkey. The data were analyzed through chi-square analyses, t-tests, and analyses of variance. Of all participants, 20.8% (n = 224) reported having experienced DMCs either once or on multiple occasions. The responses of the DMC group corroborate previous assertions that DMC is a unique motivational phenomenon experienced by a minority of students rather than being a widely experienced phenomenon. However, when the nature of the context is considered, the number of true-DMCs is promising. Gender and domain of study were not found to affect the propensity to experience DMCs among tertiary level L2 learners. These results are discussed and implications for theory and practice are provided. The intriguing nature of motivation and its predictive role in second/foreign language (L2) learning achievement have aroused the interest of researchers pursuing a better understanding of this construct in the field of L2 learning. Following Gardner and Lambert's (1959) seminal study on L2 motivation over six decades ago, motivation has been studied from different perspectives, and various models of L2 motivation have been proposed (e.g., Dörnyei, 2005; Dörnyei & Ottó, 1998; Williams & Burden, 1997). Even though motivation was primarily viewed as a stable individual difference (ID) variable, along with the emergence of process-oriented approaches to L2 motivation,
... Even so, Nindy still hopes that she can carry out learning offline since studying together with many friends in class is certainly more fun than studying alone at home. Apart from the fact that English requires verbal interaction, (Ibrahim & Al-Hoorie, 2019) found that a student's positive motivation can affect the motivation of other students. ...
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p class="Abstrak"> Abstract: This study aimed to find out learners’ attitude and motivation toward online English learning during COVID-19 outbreak. Eight first graders were involved in an interview session to reveal their perspectives through metaphor. The results of metaphor analysis showed that the learners have low motivation and attitude although they tend to get good score in English subject. Due to many obstacles in its implementation, students, teacher, and parents hope that the English teaching and learning activities can be done face-to-face completely to result in effective learning process. Abstrak: Penelitian ini bertujuan untuk mengetahui sikap dan motivasi siswa terhadap pembelajaran bahasa Inggris online selama wabah COVID-19. Delapan siswa kelas satu dilibatkan dalam sesi wawancara untuk mengungkapkan perspektif mereka melalui metafora. Hasil analisis metafora menunjukkan bahwa siswa memiliki motivasi dan sikap yang rendah meskipun mereka cenderung mendapatkan nilai yang baik dalam mata pelajaran bahasa Inggris. Karena banyak kendala dalam pelaksanaannya, siswa, guru dan orang tua berharap kegiatan belajar mengajar bahasa Inggris dapat dilakukan secara tatap muka sepenuhnya untuk menghasilkan proses pembelajaran yang efektif.
... Flow has been widely studied in psychology but has not been as widely examined in language learning contexts see however (Aubrey, 2017;Cho, 2018;Czimmermann & Piniel, 2016;Egbert, 2003;Hong et al., 2017;Ibrahim & Al-Hoorie, 2018;Liu & Song,2021). Using their original 2014 database, Dewaele and MacIntyre (2022) focused on a previously unanalysed variable: proportion of FL class time in a state of flow. ...
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The present study focused on differences in intensity of Foreign Language Enjoyment (FLE), Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety (FLCA), and proportion of time in a state of flow among 761 English FL learners and 825 FL learners of Languages Other Than English (LOTE). Participants in the LOTE group reported significantly higher levels of FLE and a higher proportion of class time in a state of flow, as well as lower levels of FLCA than the EFL group - although the effect size was very small. This suggests that the global status and prestige of English does not mean that learners around the world enjoy the classes more, spend more time in a state of flow or experience less anxiety. The relationships between FLE, FLCA and proportion of class time in a state of flow were also found to be higher in the LOTE group, suggesting stronger emotional involvement. KEYWORDS: Foreign Language Enjoyment; Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety; Flow; English; Languages Other Than English (LOTE)
... Because a learner's ability to maximize use of pre-task content is limited by the time restrictions of short tasks, use of the L1 in planning for extended or connected tasks is particularly recommended. This may also apply to project-based instruction, which often requires learners to work collaboratively, exert high levels of creativity and autonomy, and attach personal value to project outcomes over longer periods of time (Aubrey, 2021;Ibrahim & Al-Hoorie, 2018). Importantly, this research also suggests that synchronous technology can be used to implement tasks with largely similar effects to face-to-face settings such as Aubrey et al. (2020). ...
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This study examined the impact of collaborative pre-task strategic planning followed by rehearsal on the quantity and novelty of content used in task performances when strategic planning is performed in different language conditions in an online classroom. Forty Japanese university students of English as a foreign language (EFL) from two intact online classrooms were separated into pairs and performed second language (L2) problem-solution monologue tasks in two conditions. The first condition involved collaborative strategic planning in the second language (L2SP), which was followed by a task rehearsal; the second condition involved collaborative strategic planning in the first language (L1SP), which was followed by a task rehearsal. Task performances were analysed in terms of idea units generated and, by examining strategic planning transcripts and planning worksheets, were coded for how they were prepared. As a measure of problem-solving creativity, ideas used in task performances were coded in terms of their novelty. Findings revealed a non-significant difference between the number of ideas used in each planning condition. However, performances that followed L1SP and rehearsal contained ideas that were significantly more novel/rare than performances that followed L2SP and rehearsal. The L1SP condition led to more planned and rehearsed ideas used in performances than the L2SP condition, which likely meant learners spent more time refining and formulating language to express L1-generated ideas, leading to more creative solutions to the task problem. A content analysis of post-task questionnaire responses revealed that learners perceived L1SP to be beneficial in terms of conceptualizing ideas while L2SP was perceived to be beneficial in terms of formulating language. Additionally, learners felt that online synchronous communication facilitated collaboration during planning. These findings are discussed in terms of using the L1 as a tool to enhance creativity in L2 tasks and using online tools to enhance collaboration during pre-task planning.
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The present study adopted a mixed-methods approach using a convergent parallel design to focus on the role that positive and negative emotions have in the Foreign Language (FL) classroom on the ontogenesis of positive flow. Participants were 1,044 FL learners from around the world. They provided quantitative and qualitative data on FL enjoyment (FLE), classroom anxiety (FLCA) and experience of flow via an on-line questionnaire (Dewaele, Jean-Marc & Peter D. MacIntyre. 2014. The two faces of Janus? Anxiety and enjoyment in the foreign language classroom. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching 4. 237–274). FLE was a significantly stronger predictor of frequency of flow experience than FLCA. Further statistical analyses revealed that flow experiences are typically self-centred, infrequent and short-lived at the start of the FL learning journey and when the perceived social standing in the group is low. They become an increasingly shared experience, more frequent, stronger and more sustained as learners reach a more advanced level in their FL. What starts as an occasional individual spark can turn into a true fire that extends to other group members. The findings are illustrated by participants’ reports on enjoyable episodes in the FL classroom in which some reported complete involvement in an individual or collective task, merging of action and awareness, joyful bonding with classmates, intense focus and joy, loss of self-consciousness, sense of time and place.
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As the effect of contextual factors is increasingly acknowledged in language learning, a greater emphasis tends to be placed on the quality of the learning experience (Csizér & Kálmán, 2019). Educationalists’ quest for the optimal learning experience led them to the concept of flow, which has been researched in different school contexts ever since (Csíkszentmihályi & Larson, 1984; Shernoff & Csíkszentmihályi, 2009). As flow can be defined as “the holistic sensation that people feel when they act with total involvement” (Csíkszentmihályi, 1975, p. 36), and it is an experience which typically accompanies an activity that people are willing to perform for its own sake, its educational benefits seem straightforward. Interestingly, flow in language learning has not yet been widely researched although interest in the topic seems to be growing. This review paper aims to assist researchers who see a potential in investigating flow experiences in language learning. Besides defining flow and describing the conditions that lead to it, this paper provides insights into the evolution of Csíkszentmihályi’s flow theory. This theoretical overview is followed by the examination of different methods that have been used in psychology and education to measure flow, in an attempt to highlight potential new tools to be used in applied linguistics. Finally, existing empirical studies of flow in our field are discussed from a measurement perspective, and conclusions are drawn.
Article
This paper examines the involvement of sixteen undergraduate students across four disciplines in a practice-led research project to create the “Once Upon a Time in Palestine” XR documentary by exploring how they performed when given complex challenges, to create this novel and complex practice-led research project. The students were trained and mentored but also were trusted to work under minimal supervision. This created a high level of engagement with the expectation of high-quality output and presented the students with opportunities not afforded to them within the rigid structure of their academic programs. This paper examines the engagement of the students, and their willingness to learn new technologies and apply this learning to produce high quality output under tight deadlines with minimal supervision and the value of interdisciplinary collaboration across multiple fields of study. The paper concludes that while there was a steep learning curve, the students were able to achieve high-level engagement and produce professional results within the specified deadlines, using the latest technological advances in the field, while learning new skills outside their academic program and also enhancing the outcome of the successful project.
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This article offers a historical analysis of the major themes that the language motivation field has examined in its 60-year history. The discussion starts by briefly reviewing the social-psychological and the situated–cognitive periods. The former was primarily concerned with affective factors in intergroup relations, while the latter with learners in classroom contexts. The second half of the article surveys a number of emerging themes in the field to highlight major findings and potential future directions. These themes include the dynamic, affective, unconscious, and long-term aspects of motivation to learn English and other languages, as well as the implications of the pervasive presence of technology in daily life.
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A DMC is a potent motivational surge that emerges from the alignment of a number of personal, temporal and contextual factors/parameters, creating momentum to pursue an individually defined future goal/vision that is personally significant and emotionally satisfying. The experience of a DMC carries with it the excitement of journeying down a ‘motivational highway’ towards new pastures; thus, it can be seen as vision-led self-regulation along a fitting, made-to-measure pathway that augments and sustains exerted effort. Most people will have encountered a DMC at some point in their lives – the phenomenon occurs in numerous guises within the social world. DMCs have been used to transform individuals, groups and situations that have lost their ‘zest’ or lacked a clear future vision, by offering a pathway of intensive motivated action. If a DMC is successfully launched, people – and even organisations – can become caught up in it and can move on to new levels of existence or operation. From the perspective of researching CDS, the significance of the generated motivational surge of a DMC lies in its capacity to align diverse factors, to override various obstacles and to regulate emotional fluctuation. Once a DMC has commenced, the main parameters of its movement and its aimedfor outcomes become, to a large extent, predictable. This is not unlike the launch of a rocket that, after take-off, will follow a set path as determined by the conditions surroundings its launch. It is in this sense that a DMC can function as a regulator of human motivation and activity; it has the potential, if only for a limited time, to override the complexity and chaos of the surrounding world and to channel behaviour down a goal-specific course of action. The resultant steadfast stream of system behaviour can be described in a systematic manner, providing a vital opportunity for research. In other words, DMCs offer us not only the possibility to tap into vast hidden resources of motivational power, but also a window for systematic research in our chaotic world.
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The aim of this study is to extend the Channel Model of Flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975, 1990) at the collective level (workgroups) by including collective efficacy beliefs as a predictor of collective flow based on the Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura, 1997, 2001). A two-wave longitudinal lab study was conducted with 250 participants working in 52 small groups. Longitudinal results from Structural Equation Modeling with data aggregated at the group level showed, as expected, that collective efficacy beliefs predict collective flow over time, both being related reciprocally. Findings and their theoretical and practical implications in the light of Social Cognitive Theory are discussed.
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A survey study and two experiments were done to test the hypothesis that social flow is more enjoyable than solitary flow. In the survey study it was found that recalled social flow experiences were rated more enjoyable than solitary flow experiences. In the first experiment when challenge and skill were the same across social and solitary conditions, social flow was reported to be more enjoyable than solitary flow. In the second experiment when the level of social interdependence was manipulated it was found that participants in highly interdependent teams reported more joy in flow than individuals performing less interdependently. In both experiments, people playing simple paddleball games reported and expressed more joy performing with others than alone. Taken together, the three investigations support the conclusion that doing it together is better than doing it alone. Solitary flow, while quite enjoyable, is not as enjoyable as social flow.
Article
This thesis is concerned with the issue of motivational intensity and sustainability in second language (L2) learning through investigating a recently-conceptualised phenomenon theorised by Dörnyei and colleagues (Dörnyei, Ibrahim, & Muir, 2015; Dörnyei, Muir, & Ibrahim, 2014) and termed Directed Motivation Currents (DMCs). The phenomenon is characterised by intensity of engagement, sustainability of effort, and positive affect, in which individuals display highly motivated goal-governed behaviour and achieve outcomes exceeding expectations set at the outset. DMCs are postulated to represent the optimal form of long-term engagement. The aims of this thesis were to investigate the DMCs in regard to their theoretical justification and empirical validation. The initial chapters present the argument for why the L2 motivation field needs a new motivational construct. It is posited that although aspects of DMCs are discussed in many existing theories, mainstream motivational psychology has not previously captured periods of motivational surges people experience in pursuit of valued personal visions. Accordingly, the main queries guiding this research were to examine what it was like to experience a DMC and what the motivational sources of such motivational drives were. Deploying a phenomenological method of data analysis, exploratory qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted with a number of students who had experienced, or were experiencing, a DMC, whether individually or as part of a group. In addition to providing empirical validation for the DMC phenomenon, results revealed what conditions led to a DMC, what a DMC-cycle entailed, and how DMCs made use of a salient structure. The findings suggested that developing a facilitative structure immediately upon a DMC launch was key to the longevity of the current in part due to the effect of behavioural routines and their role in ensuring continued engagement and protecting it from competing temptations. The findings also implied the central role of positive affect in altering the perception of effort and rendering volitional self-control dispensable. As a result of eudaimonic happiness and a sense of growth, the participants experienced positive affect whereby effort was enjoyed and engagement was sustained until goal attainment. However, what accounted for most of the positive affect was not the pleasure of engagement itself or feelings associated with merely learning a second language. Rather, happiness was due to the sense that one was going through a transformational process in which one’s image and identity, level of operation and skills, as well as one’s entire personal entity was being developed. This somewhat indirect link between personal growth and happiness through L2 learning was seen as a new, promising, but challenging area of research. The results also revealed that DMCs could be experienced by groups of learners and at various levels and timescales when combined energy was directed at a shared goal. Furthermore, it was argued that group DMCs were the ultimate form of group performance in large part due to their potential immunity from social loafing which prevents groups from functioning at their highest capacity. In summary, empirical evidence presented in this thesis suggested that long-term motivational momentum in DMCs was the outcome of optimal aggregation of motivational properties that jointly enabled individuals and groups to operate at their highest levels and achieve outstanding results in a fast-track pathway towards goal attainment. While in a DMC, due to the impact of positive affect and a functioning structure, renewable motivational energy is utilised, which empowers long-term and self-propelled engagement without the need for volitional self-regulatory measures. Once applied in L2 settings, DMCs are argued to provide an exceptionally powerful boost to language learners’ motivation and performance.
Book
Preface One thing is certain; there is no shortage of materials written about language learning motivation. Besides the ever-growing number of books and edited volumes published on the topic over the past decade (now easily into double figures), literally hundreds of articles—both theoretical and practical—have appeared in journals, periodicals and various collections of papers. So, the obvious question is: Why do we need another book on the subject? In this Preface we would like to briefly summarize why we think that the topic of this book—directed motivational currents (DMCs)—forms a special part of motivation theory, and why we believe it is worthy of further exploration. We will do this by answering four central questions: (1) What are directed motivational currents? (2) How are DMCs related to language learning motivation? (3) Are DMCs use-ful? (4) And, finally, who is this book for? What Are Directed Motivational Currents? Our thinking about motivational currents originates in an observation. We have seen, both in our own lives and in those of others around us, that there are specific periods when we seem to find ourselves in a particularly intensive state of focused productivity which allows us to achieve a great deal, often much more than we would have believed possible at the outset. It is as if every piece of a jigsaw falls magically into place and we 'get into the zone.' But, what is this 'zone'? Although it is difficult to describe the phenomenon precisely, even a cursory search online reveals that many people show at least some awareness of having experienced this heightened motivational state for varying lengths of time. For example, in an expressive blog entry on the topic of achievement, Bronnie Ware captures exactly the kind of fulfilling and productive absorption in a project that is the hallmark of a DMC: When I am absorbed in a project, my time is used efficiently and enjoyably. When the project is completed, I get on with enjoying
Book
Over the past decade, the focus of inquiry into the psychology of SLA has shifted from the analysis of various characteristics within individuals towards a greater consideration of individuals’ dynamic interactions with diverse contexts. This revisit of the bestselling The Psychology of the Language Learner reflects on these developments by challenging some of the assumptions upon which the original text was based, maintaining the familiar structure of the original, while situating the discussion within a very different theoretical framework.
Article
Recently, it has been proposed that creating compelling experiences in the distinctive consumption environment defined by the Internet depends on facilitating a state of flow. Although it has been established that consumers do, in fact, experience flow while using the Web, consumer researchers do not as yet have a comprehensive understanding of the specific activities during which consumers actually have these experiences. One fruitful focus of research on online consumer experience has been on two distinct categories of consumption behavior—goal directed and experiential consumption behavior. Drawing distinctions between these behaviors for the Web may be particularly important because the experiential process is, for many individuals, as or even more important than the final instrumental result. However, the general and broad nature of flow measurement to date has precluded a precise investigation of flow during goal-directed versus experiential activities. In this article, we explore this issue, investigating whether flow occurs during both experiential and goal-directed activities, if experiential and goal-directed flow states differ in terms of underlying constructs, and what the key characteristics are—based on prior theory—that define “types” of flow experiences reported on the Web. Our approach is to perform a series of quantitative analyses of qualitative descriptions of flow experiences provided by Web users collected in conjunction with the 10th GVU WWW User Survey. In contrast with previous research that suggests flow would be more likely to occur during recreational activities than task-oriented activities, we found more evidence of flow for task-oriented rather than experiential activities, although there is evidence flow occurs under both scenarios. As a final note, we argue that the role that goal-directed and experiential activities may play in facilitating the creation of compelling online environments may also be important in a broader consumer policy context.
Chapter
What constitutes a good life? Few questions are of more fundamental importance to a positive psychology. Flow research has yielded one answer, providing an understanding of experiences during which individuals are fully involved in the present moment. Viewed through the experiential lens of flow, a good life is one that is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. In this chapter, we describe the flow model of optimal experience and optimal development, explain how flow and related constructs have been measured, discuss recent work in this area, and identify some promising directions for future research. © 2014 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. All rights reserved.