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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.
© 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
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
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,
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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
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
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
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
Implications for ELT
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
58 Ibrahim and Al-Hoorie
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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.
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
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... Examining PBL/CAPBL in terms of its affordances and relationship with traditional, DIKR, instruction-led teaching, there is compelling evidence from Chen and Yang [25] which suggests it could be an effective alternative. However, this highlights a theme present in much of the literature on PBL/CAPBL that whilst acknowledging its value in terms of motivation [28], engagement, and attainment [12], research does not suggest or seek to replace, with any kind of exclusivity, other forms of teaching practice. It is also clear that there are influencing factors that can support or hinder effective implementation. ...
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CAPBL is an example of a student-led, Creative Arts/Project-Based Learning (CAPBL/PBL) curriculum approach to working with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) learners. This mixed-methods, quasi-experimental study seeks to explore staff and student perceptions of working in this way and establish key themes for practice in relation to equity and inclusion. Although the literature on PBL is widespread, CAPBL is novel in that it brings these ideas to a specialist SEND, post-16 context, Further Education (FE), with a particular focus on arts education currently absent from the existing literature. This small-scale research project is positioned as a participant-led action research project involving qualitative/quantitative mixed-method instruments, bassline testing, questionnaires, and semi-structured interviews. Preliminary findings indicate that students and staff experience several benefits to working this way, including positive engagement with learning, self-efficacy, and ownership. This paper attempts to provide workable conclusions for practice located within theoretical frameworks that offer professional resistance to prevailing preoccupations with prescription in curriculum design and pedagogy both nationally and internationally. Specifically, civic compassion and pedagogical partnership are considered in relation to the experiences of learners and staff attempting to work this way. By challenging dominant paradigms of knowledge-led learning at a national level, CAPBL seeks to actively include SEND learners in the global processes of curriculum design itself.
... In this way, learners can incrementally 'track' improvements in their performance over time. Thus, the temporal aspect of goal-tracking means that learner engagement may build over a series of tasks as the end goal is approached (Aubrey, 2022b;Dörnyei et al., 2015;Ibrahim & Al-Hoorie, 2018). ...
... Implementing goal-tracking with performance criteria may thus lead to touted benefits of mastery goal-orientation, such as high levels of effort invested (Diefenbach & Müssig, 2019;Domínguez et al., 2013) and high overall learning achievement (Bong, 2009). Furthermore, as criteria provide clear end-goals for achievement, learners might progressively increase their effort over time as they approach their idealized task performance (Aubrey, 2022b;Ibrahim & Al-Hoorie, 2018). Future research should collect engagement data during goal-tracking interventions to verify such claims. ...
This study investigates the impact of using a criterion-referenced goal-tracking system on task engagement. The study was conducted during a fully-online TBLT program that consisted of 24 task performances of an interactive task type, Giving Directions, sequenced from less to more complex. Seventy-eight first-year English for International Communication majors at a university in Thailand completed the 6-h TBLT module in either one of two groups: 1) Goal-tracking, which required learners to reflect on whether they had met pre-determined criteria for successful task performance, and 2) non-goal-tracking, which required learners to reflect on their performance without the provision of any performance criteria. To determine the impact of goal-tracking on task engagement, task performances before and after the module were analyzed for indicators of Engagement in Language use (ELU) and included words and turns produced (behavioral engagement), backchannels (social engagement), and negotiation of meaning sequences (cognitive engagement). A multivariate analysis revealed that learners significantly improved in ELU after completion of the TBLT module regardless of group. However, while goal-tracking resulted in significantly more negotiation of meaning sequences (cognitive engagement), non-goal-tracking did not. Results are discussed in terms of how goal-tracking within a TBLT course might be implemented to improve task engagement. Download the full text here:,7ttAA2RF
... Overall, the project aimed to be embedded in a new instructional unit on peace, with the students using authentic materials designed by the teacher to investigate security issues and to design messages of peace and security through a multimedia-based oral presentation (peace and security is a current, national topic in Mali). Group-DMCs are exceptional motivational peaks that a group of language learners can experience while they are working on a collaborative project (Ibrahim & Al-Hoorie, 2019;Muir, Florent, & Leach, 2020). However, the classroom-based studies by Ibrahim and Al-Hoorie and by Muir et al. that demonstrated that Dörnyei et al.'s theory (2016) on group-DMCs is true in the language classroom were conducted in classrooms in United Kingdom and Sweden, respectively. ...
... Regarding the qualitative data collected with the student diaries and interviews, I used thematic analysis (Clarke & Braun, 2017) to have insight to the factors that facilitated the purposeful generation of DMCs and also other features that characterize them such as feeling an intense sense of productivity or achievement, a powerful sense of focus and of being absorbed, generating important levels of energy or effort, a proper challenge-skill balance, and a sense that they were very highly motivated during the whole duration of the project. These features are used to determine the existence of DMCs based on prior work (Ibrahim & Al-Hoorie, 2019;Muir et al., 2020). The qualitative diary and interview data from this research are published in the Supplemental file with identifiers removed: They are in the Supplement's Appendix S5 and S6, respectively (Koné, 2023). ...
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The current study investigates African college students’ (ages 17-30) group-directed motivational currents (DMCs), a positive motivational aspect related to flow (Dörnyei, Henry, & Muir, 2016) in relation to their performance-based English development. The study measured the students’ motivational currents as they participated in an oral, integrated and multimedia presentation project. Two DMC questionnaires were taken by 100 students before and after they participated in the project (the first questionnaire was given after they received the project instructions, the second after they completed the project but before obtaining their scores). Five focal participants wrote diaries and participated in interviews to examine whether they experienced purposefully generated currents of motivation. The 100 students responded positively to the oral presentation project at both questionnaire administration times (pre- and post-project). Significant score increases from the pre-project to post-project appeared on most motivation variables. These significant increases observed at the post-project phase could be explained by the authenticity and importance of the project and its connectedness with the learners’ lives, as described by the five focal students. The results suggested that group-DMCs could be purposefully facilitated in African EFL classrooms, providing evidence for the validity of the DMC theory in an EFL context that is understudied.
... One such positive affective state gaining attention is optimal experience, commonly known as flow, a subjective state of full affective and cognitive engagement that occurs while immersed in meaningful and appropriately challenging activities (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990(Csikszentmihalyi, , 2014Webster et al., 1993). L2 researchers have examined how L2 classroom flow interacts with a wide range of individual difference factors (Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2014) and language tasks, both in the classroom (Aubrey, 2017b;Cho, 2018;Czimmermann & Piniel, 2016;Egbert, 2003;Ibrahim & Al-Hoorie, 2019;Kirchhoff, 2013) and online (Payant & Zuniga, 2022), using various implementation variables (Zuniga & Payant, 2021). While these studies offer valuable insight into L2 classroom flow as an epiphenomenon emerging from the dynamic interaction among teachers, learners, and task variables, results have been mixed and remain incomplete, especially regarding our understanding of the impact of varying universal task features on flow experiences. ...
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Flow is an intrinsic motivational state associated with full task engagement, positive affect, and enhanced performance. While research has examined how different language tasks interact with flow experiences, no study has examined learner flow experiences in a wide range of tasks using an experience sampling method to determine how universal basic task features (e.g., modality, participant structure, information distribution, and targeted skills) interact with flow. The present study aims to respond to this gap in the research. Participants were 13 teachers and 327 students from 18 intact French L2 classes in a Canadian postsecondary school. Teachers selected and implemented an average of six tasks from their personal repertoires at random moments throughout the semester. Immediately following each task, learners anonymously completed a flow experience questionnaire ( N = 1408; α = 0.91), and teachers a task description questionnaire containing 17 basic task features ( N = 81). Statistical analyses show that 10 of the 17 variables significantly interacted with learners’ flow experiences. The results not only validate a frequently used flow measurement and establish norms for future research but also outline a framework language teachers can use to evaluate and modify practices to improve learners’ subjective classroom experience.
... Research into this area may unveil the real picture of this experience, such as real-time behaviours and affective states. Considering the conflicts among different empirical reports regarding some core concepts, such as the role of vision (Henry et al., 2015;Ibrahim & Al-Hoorie, 2019), and the existence of negative emotions (Sak & Gurbuz, 2022), such real-time research seems especially necessary for understanding the essential characteristics of fully fledged DMCs. There is also a need to revisit the outline of this long-term motivational phenomenon. ...
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Directed motivational current (DMC) is portrayed as a highly intense motivational surge oriented towards a much-desired goal over a prolonged period. While we have seen a proliferation of studies examining various aspects of this new construct, the current evidence on longitudinal detection seems inadequate. In response to repeated calls for research in this field, this qualitative study addresses this gap by scrutinizing the real-time experiences of seven English learners in China through three rounds of in-depth, semi-structured interviews and study diaries for each participant for a period of 3–12 months. The data acquired were analysed in line with the principles of thematic analysis. The findings in general bring insights into specific features of DMCs, especially regarding motivated behaviours and emotional responses. Along with three proposed defining characteristics of DMCs, the analysis reveals the significance of optimizing motivated behaviours and implementing coping strategies for negative emotions. Another finding is relevant to the overall developmental pathways of motivated behaviours and emotional properties of DMCs, aimed at demystifying its internal mechanism and revealing the essence of this complex and dynamic psychological phenomenon. This study also identifies the interactive relationship between motivated behaviours and positive/negative emotions. Overall, these findings carry significant implications for long-term second language learning and pedagogical purposes in English as a foreign language setting.
... Egbert (2004) conducted one of the pioneering studies on flow in the EFL context and claimed that teachers can facilitate flow in L2 learners through assigning tasks that lead to flow. Since then, a number of researchers (Cho, 2018;Czimmermann & Piniel, 2016;Ibrahim & Al-Hoorie, 2018;Liu & Song, 2021) have confirmed the role of flow in facilitating EFL learners' engagement in classroom activities. Tardy and Synder (2004) examined EFL instructors' flow experience and, as they rightly asserted, the peak moments of flow can motivate teachers in shaping their classroom practices. ...
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The present study explored Iranian English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers' experience of flow in online teaching. To this aim, interviews were conducted to explore the conditions reported to facilitate or hinder the experience of flow among teachers. Twenty-four Iranian EFL teachers (eleven males and thirteen females) were selected for semi-structured interviews to collect qualitative data concerning their perceptions towards the online teaching-learning process. Participants had limited experience of online teaching Findings revealed that all teachers had experienced flow in online classes. It was also found that, besides previously used concepts which led to teacher flow, students' digital literacy, teachers' feeling of dominance on the subject, and peer communication were influential in enhancing teachers' flow in online classes. Finally, the inability to judge learners' physical and emotional condition, technical obstacles as well as limitations due to face-to-face interaction were reported to be the main obstacles hindering teachers' perceived flow in online classes. Possible implications for teacher education programs are discussed.
... Pietluch (2021) conducted a teaching experiment on 16 adult EFL learners and the outcome revealed that the language teaching curriculum with the efficacy-building characteristics may generate the prospective DMCs. At the group level, Ibrahim and Al-Hoorie (2018) found that the construction of group identity, the personally-related significance of the group project, along with the opportunity for leaners' autonomy were the vital parameters to boost the motivational currents of group learners. Similarly, Garcia-Pinar (2022) conducted the intervention experiment on four undergraduates and found that the clearly-defined and personally meaningful tasks could generate the group's motivational currents. ...
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Under the framework of Directed Motivational Currents (DMCs), the present study aimed to explore the motivational dynamics of Chinese tertiary-level EFL learners’ English learning and to identify the possible parameters that influence Chinese EFL learners’ DMC-typed motivational states in their English learning. Data were collected from 10 focal Chinese tertiary-level EFL learners through reflective journal, trajectory equivalent modeling and semi-structured interview over a two-semester-long IELTS training course. The collected data were examined with thematic analysis and the findings indicated that: (1) Chinese tertiary-level EFL learners experienced the clear DMC-typed motivational surges during their journey of English learning; (2) Chinese tertiary-level EFL learners’ DMCs states were affected by various contextual factors which could be examined under three major themes, namely important others, instructional elements, and the exam pressure. The findings not only add to the literature on the validity of DMCs construct in the Chinese EFL context, but offer implications about how to facilitate the DMC-typed motivations in the classroom language instruction.
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This study aims to analyse the scientific outputs of Zoltán Dörnyei (1960-2022) using metadata extracted from his 84 publications indexed in the Scopus database. It describes and visually represents his network of collaboration in terms of institutions and countries, along with revealing the scope and topical foci of his research by identifying and elaborating on the main themes of his research interests, including (1) individual differences in SLA, (2) research methodology, (3) theology and biblical interpretation, and (4) multilingualism. This study can help language teachers, practitioners, and researchers better understand the abundance and quality of Dörnyei's research outputs throughout his academic career.
Gaelic is an endangered language, but the traditional music associated with it thrives. Among individuals committed to learning Gaelic as a heritage language who also engage in traditional music-making, intense experiences shape the connection between language and music. The present study examines the connection between intensely motivating ‘flow’ experiences in music and language using qualitative data. In this context, flow is defined both at the individual level, consistent with much of the literature, but also at the group level which contributes a more nuanced, group-oriented conceptualisation of flow experiences. Data come from a sample of 54 participants recruited via social media and associated with traditional music and Gaelic language. The results show the depth of connection to traditional music developed over years that appears to feed into a motivation for language learning. The concept of group flow is prevalent in the descriptions, even though it was not measured directly. Group flow offers a nuanced lens through which to view how the connection between music and language developed in a context where language revitalisation is taking place.
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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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.