Tag Archives: positive education

Adding Flow to a Positive Education

In recent years, researchers have identified predictors of success as well as keys to living a satisfying, happy life. At Ridley we are infusing the best of this research – centred on grit and flow – into a Ridley education to help instill in our students the lifelong habits they need for success in our global community. At Ridley being a student is about more than passing tests and meeting standards, it is about flourishing.

Flow is an optimal psychological state that people experience when engaged in an activity that is appropriately challenging to their skill level, often resulting in immersion and concentrated focus on a task. This can result in deep learning and high levels of personal and work satisfaction.

If you’ve ever heard someone describe a time when their performance excelled and they used the term being “in the zone”, what they are describing is an experience of flow. It occurs when your skill level and the challenge at hand are equal.

Flow can be experienced in any task, in any field of activity, including academics, athletics, and the arts. Teachers at Ridley try to understand flow in order to help their students optimize their learning. The experience of flow is universal and it has been reported to occur across different classes, genders, ages, cultures and it can be experienced in many types of activities, making it a perfect tool to incorporate into the multinational learning culture at Ridley.

Flow was first recognized by Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a renowned psychologist and distinguished professor of Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University. Inspired by Carl Jung, he has spent more than 25 years researching flow, a state of “intense emotional involvement” and timelessness that comes from immersive and challenging activities. Through his research he found that people were most creative, productive, and often, happiest when they are in this state of flow.

Flow is one of eight mental states that can happen during the learning process, which Csikszentmihalyi outlines in his flow theory. In addition to flow, these mental states include anxiety, apathy, arousal, boredom, control, relaxation, and worry.

Flow is the optimal state for learning, as it is where skill level and challenge level of a task are at their highest. This creates an opportunity for learning and intense focus, where learners can even feel that they lose track of time because they are so immersed in the task. Flow is a constant balancing act between anxiety, where the difficulty is too high for the person’s skill, and boredom, where the difficulty is too low.

“Inducing flow is about the balance between the level of skill and the size of the challenge at hand.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow is a dynamic rather than static state, since a properly constructed flow activity leads to increased skill, challenge, and complexity over time. Since skill doesn’t remain static, repeating the same activity would fall into boredom; the flow reward inspires one to face harder and harder challenges, as skill increases.

The experience of flow in everyday life is an important component of creativity and well-being. it is also intrinsically rewarding, the more you practice it, the more you seek to replicate these experiences, which help lead to a fully engaged and happy life.

“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something we make happen.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow is more likely to happen when students find the right balance between the skills they have and the challenge they face. Pursuing this path can enable them to flow, focus, finish, and as a by-product, flourish.

Adding Grit To A Positive Education

One of the advantages of a Ridley education is that the experience of being a student is about more than passing tests and meeting standards. In recent years, researchers have identified predictors of success as well as keys to living a satisfying, happy life and this is something our school consciously enacts.

At Ridley, we are infusing the best of this research – centred on grit and flow – into a Ridley education to help instill in our students the lifelong habits they need to flourish in our global community.

The concept of grit is one aspect of Positive Education that Ridley has incorporated into school culture. Grit is defined as the tendency of a person to sustain interest and effort in pursuing long-term goals. Grit allows people to pursue challenges over the course of years.

In her groundbreaking research, Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth, University of Pennsylvania Professor of Psychology and MacArthur Foundation Genius Fellow, determined that passion, perseverance, and stamina outweigh IQ as a predictor of success. In other words, grit is the key to lifelong success.

“Educational policy has not yet taken adequate note of the whole child. Kids are not just their IQ or standardized test scores. It matters whether or not they show up, how hard they work,” says Duckworth, in an interview with the Washington Post. Duckworth has advised the White House, the World Bank, NBA and NFL teams, and Fortune 500 CEOs.

Ridley encourages students to discover and pursue their passions and equips them with the capacity and determination to persevere through challenges, risk failure, and develop grit and resilience, while creating a supportive culture that allows students to face adversity in a positive and engaging environment. Accomplishment and engagement are essential elements of a flourishing life, and both can be fostered through conscious effort, grit is a fundamental element for achievement.

“The importance of the environment is two-fold. It’s not just that you need opportunity in order to benefit from grit. It’s also that the environments our children grow up in profoundly influence their grit and every other aspect of their character.”     – Angela Duckworth

Duckworth’s research began by searching for an answer as to why some people succeed while others do not. Being ‘gritty’ means consciously deciding to push forward in the face of adversity, failure, and physical or emotional pain, without knowing when the adversity will be over.

“One way to think about grit is to consider what grit isn’t,” explains Duckworth. “Grit isn’t talent. Grit isn’t luck. Grit isn’t how intensely, for the moment, you want something.”

Self-control and grit are often confused, says Duckworth in her research, while they are related there are key differences. Grit allows people to pursue challenges over the course of years, while self-control, helps to maintain focus, in the face of distraction, in the pursuit of those goals.

The concept of grit has been around for some time. In 1889, the year Ridley was founded, Dr. Francis Galton reviewed the biographies of eminent individuals, throughout history and concluded that success resulted from intellect combined with “zeal” and the “capacity for hard labour”. The modern study of grit continues in examining single-minded perseverance over the very long-term.

“I believe grit will for many adolescents be more evident in activities pursued outside of the classroom–in the school play, on the football field, in the school orchestra, in community service, and so on.” – Angela Duckworth

At Ridley we are empowering our students to do more themselves, by increasing opportunities for Ridleians to play an active role in their school communities so that they can gain the necessary habits, skills, and practice to lay the foundation for flourishing lives.

Ridley strives to be at the forefront of educational development to ensure our students become successful members of the global community. Ridley will continue to review the latest research in education for new ideas to ensure we are a leader and innovator in molding the minds and lives of our students.

Ridley Exploring Mindfulness as Part of a Positive Education

Ridley strives to be at the forefront of educational development, to ensure our students become successful members of the global community. For this reason, our school was an early adopter amongst independent schools, embracing positive education as a fundamental approach to learning.

Being on the leading edge of positive education means continuing to explore new ideas and research as it becomes available. This semester, the students of Lower School have been part of a pilot programme to evaluate the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation on students. The programme developed by Jacqueline Oscvirk, creator of The Mindful Family, involves students from Kindergarten to Grade 8 practicing mindfulness twice weekly.

Mindfulness meditation focuses the human brain on what is being sensed at each moment, instead of the past or future. It is a way to calm the mind and develop clarity, calmness, empathy, and positivity.

Within educational systems, mindfulness has shown an improvement in students’ attention and focus, emotional regulation, creativity, as well as problem solving skills. Studies have shown youth benefit from learning mindfulness, in terms of improved cognitive outcomes, social-emotional skills, and well-being. These benefits may lead to long-term improvements in life.

“Our intention is to equip all of our Lower School students with the tools to overcome everyday challenges.” – Hanna Kidd, Lower School Counsellor

There is substantial evidence that skills which increase resilience, positive emotion, engagement, and meaning can be taught to school children. In this way, without compromising either, Ridley teaches both the skills of well-being and the skills of achievement.

“It’s another tool for teachers to use,” says Hanna Kidd. The Grade 7 and 8 students will begin their mindfulness training in early April, with the goal of using mindfulness to help reduce stress and anxiety as they prepare for exams.

Ridley is incorporating the latest research in positive education from around the world. Discoveries such as gritthe ability to persevere through challengesby Dr. Angela Duckworth, and flowthe ability to become immersed in a challenging taskby Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, have already been added. Based on this science, Ridley equips students to deal with the daily demands of life and learning by creating an environment that:

• Generates positive emotions
• Practices mindfulness
• Builds on strengths not deficits
• Models grit and resilience
• Nurtures positive relationships
• Encourages goal setting and accomplishments
• Fuels our vitality

Ridley students are empowered to embrace their individuality, develop who they are, strive for who they will be, and define the lives they will lead. They develop the intellectual, physical, emotional, and social skills needed to succeed. They are inspired to acquire the knowledge, explore the truths, and nurture the values that will allow them to lead flourishing lives.