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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Csikszentmihaliyi’s Concept of Flow and Theories of Motivation Connection to the Arts in an Urban Public High School


The concept of flow, or being so immersed in an activity that awareness of self becomes inextricable from the action, and motivational theory can work collectively to help us better understand how fine arts curricula can impact student motivation and learning. In this article, we use Csikszentmihaliyi’s concept of flow as a way to explore high school students’ experiences when completing challenging learning activities within a fine arts education program. In this study, focus groups were conducted to explore 19 high school age performing arts students' experiences of flow and how those experiences affected their engagement, motivation, and academic outcomes.  From the researchers' perspectives, participants, who did not know the concept of flow, described rich, descriptions of flow experiences revealing aspects of growth mindset, emotional intelligence, and self-actualization.  There were also connections to academic subjects that included the desire to stay in the program and the requirements of maintaining good grades, using art as a platform for assignments in other classes and applying the skills developed through arts education to do well.

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