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Week 5 (Oct. 25- Oct. 31)- ZPD and Flow as Ultimate Engagement

Even though our course is only an overview of all the issues and ideas that surround the the concept of student engagement, I could not end the course without at least a look at the concepts of ZPD and FLOW. 

Zone of Proximal Development by Saul McLeod.  On this webpage you can learn about the importance of engaging students with work that is slightly above their ability level.  It is in this zone (with scaffolding and assistance from a knowledgable other) that the best learning occurs). 

What issues of engagement are inherent in aiming instruction toward the zone of proximal development (zpd)? Discuss this in our comment area for this task.

Csikszentmihalyi, researcher on happiness and author of the book Flow, shares with us some of his findings about the nature of "flow."  Flow is a state of being that people enter when they are properly challenged.  In flow, a person can lose sense of time because they are "lost" or really "fully engaged instrinsically" in a given activity.

How can we promote the experience of flow in our classrooms and learning environments? Discuss this in our comment area for this task.

Task Discussion

  • AnnetteV   Nov. 12, 2011, 5:04 p.m.


    "Flow" would be the ultimate in student engagement.

    As I listened to Cskiszentmihalyi talking about the poet & ice skaters feeling of flow I tried to relate to instances that students may get to experience and feel that feeling of 'flow'.  One is texting - where the students no longer think about where each letter is on their cellphones but think in words (sequences of letters) - much the same skill as me touch typing this message (I am not thinking about my fingers but in sentences).  Driving would be another instance of "everyday" flow - the mathematical calculations we are undertaking simply turning a corner are complicated - but are done on automatic pilot. Both are skills which took time to achieve - but they happened.  Perhaps these examples could be used when encouraging students - to keep on going/trying - in order to reach that experience of 'flow'.

    I also liked Cskiszentmihalyi's 7 point table of How it feels to be in Flow:  Points  (3) knowing what is to be done - knowing how well we are going; (4) knowing it is doable; knowing our skills are adequate to the task are things that as teachers we could assist with to help students gain that sense of flow.  eg:

    Knowing what is to be done - could equate to giving good student instructions;

    knowing how well we are going - to effective feedback. 

    Knowing it is doable - teachers giving students tasks they know are attainable - with exemplars, scaffolding and support.

    Knowing our skills are adquate to the task - having students do formative tasks that prove to both students and teacher that the skills are there; and if not fixing the gaps.

  • Jessica Powell   Nov. 8, 2011, 12:50 a.m.

    The zone of proximal development is extremely important in that students who are not in this zone will not be engaged. If a student has not yet reached the zone of proximal development, then it is essential that a teacher recognize this and help the student get to where s/he needs to be! You cannot take Japanese 202 without first taking Japanese 101, 102, and 201!

    There are many steps to becoming proficient. Students cannot be engaged unless they are in a place where they know HOW to be engaged!

    The best way to model scaffolding is to ask questions that the students will know how to answer when prompted with clues that promote them to remember, recall, and use prior knowledge. Scaffolding is useless if a student is too far behind in the material as they will not have that prior knowledge. In other words, a student cannot be engaged unless they have the proper prior knowledge to learn what a teacher is teaching.

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Nov. 9, 2011, 8:57 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Jessica Powell   Nov. 8, 2011, 12:50 a.m.


    It is interesting, your discussion of scaffolding and how it is useless if the student is too far behind. How does this apply when you are running an inquiry based or project based learning experience (thinking about your other posts)? Is sink or swim the same as providing scaffolding?

  • Mireille   Oct. 24, 2011, 10:23 p.m.

    This is a free  webinar (replay ) about How to Engage Students Online:  Increase Participation & Improve Discussion from Simple K12.   The focus is on how to engage students using a free tool called Collaborize Classroom.

    The webinar is a replay and it's 1 hour long. 

    it's about using this particular tool as an extention to their class.

    Toronto, Canada

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Oct. 25, 2011, 11:21 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Mireille   Oct. 24, 2011, 10:23 p.m.

    Great Resource, thanks, Mireile!  Grant, hope you have a chance to look at this, too,

  • Grant   Oct. 24, 2011, 10:40 a.m.

    Zone of Proximal Development

    I think that having students work with students who are slightly above their ability level is great as long as the student that has a lower ability level is engaged and not just copying answers or just going through the motions.  I think when students learn from other students it is a great opportunity for them to learn and sometimes learn better than if the teacher teaches.  Sometimes I think students feel more comfortable working with students their same level however, as the video shows the one kid seems to be all over the place and seems a little anxious for the kid he helping to get going.

    In general I think instruction towards ZPD is a very good approach to have students engaged.  It provides students the opportunity to learn together and seems more student centered.  I think it needs to be a well planned lesson for this to work like most other lessons. 


    In all cases that the researcher on happiness viewed involved people who truly enjoyed their activity.  I think that in order students to get in the nature of "flow" they also need to enjoy what they are doing.  I think that if we are able to incorporate things students enjoy to our lesson they will reach this "flow" that the researcher is talking about.  I think that is what we are talking about with engagement.  I think our students could be engaged without reaching this "flow".  In order for our students to reach this "flow" our students need to be passionate about the subject or concept at hand.  Then our goal should be how to bridge the things they are interested and the concepts they are learning.

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Oct. 25, 2011, 11:01 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Grant   Oct. 24, 2011, 10:40 a.m.

    That is a very interesting point, Grant.  That we must try to bridge student interests with the subject or concept if we hope to help them reach flow state.  What sorts of things do you try to do in your online course to accomplish this?

  • Grant   Oct. 27, 2011, 11:04 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Oct. 25, 2011, 11:01 p.m.

    I think keeping your real world examples as broad as possible and trying to find things that most kids enjoy.  It is rather difficult to tailor a lesson to every single student's favorite thing.  I am still trying to be more creative and differentiate my lessons online but my issues have been previous knowledge.  Our online classes our open to any student and depending on where they are in the curriculum the content could be too easy or in my case usually too hard.  So I have been trying to cater to the students who are struggling.  In my short time here, I have been more successfully with direct instruction than any other to help these students.