What do Csikszentmihalyi, learning and football all have in common?
Posted By Aga and Dale
On 11th July 2018
What do Csikszentmihalyi,
learning and football all have in common?
remember when you were stressed last? Was it positive or negative stress? Was
it stress that came on suddenly, like thunder? Or perhaps, it resulted from a
number of stressful everyday worries that started creeping upon you, lingering
in every corner of the day?
including me, would not even consider that stress could be ‘positive’ nor take
much notice of the nature of their stress or anxiety.
noticed that there has been an increasing interest in stress and anxiety that
are slowly decaying the quality of our lives.
As a result,
I did some research into stress and anxiety in learning, trying to find out a
bit more about their impact on the learner and the process. What surprised me
the most is that it’s these small ‘creepers’ that we should be most aware of
and avoid at all cost.
Why? Because they
encourage the production of cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’ that appears in our
system, as soon as our body recognises ‘something ‘as a threat (even the
smallest ones). It’s alright if our body has a reason to do this, i.e. in an
event of a real danger. But, what happens to our body, if the real danger doesn’t come, and our body
keeps expecting it day after day? Well, the overproduced cortisol cannot deal properly
with the situation that does not manifest now or in the future; because our
worries constantly create the illusion of danger. As a result,
the overproduced cortisol will take its toll on our own bodies, fighting ‘US’
instead of the ‘DANGER’.
A weakened immune
system can wreak havoc, but if you think about teaching or learning, it contributes
to a lack of concentration, or the ability to think. In addition, when we are
stressed, the top part of our brain, the ‘Neocortex’,
responsible for rational thinking, becomes dominated and deactivated by the
lowest and oldest part of our brain, the ‘Reptilian ‘part, responsible for our ‘instinctive
actions’, including reactions to danger, primarily concerned with our survival
rather than logical thinking.
So what is
the solution? The easiest to propose but the most difficult to do; just don’t
get stressed and upset! Otherwise, keep relaxing! How? You need to find the
best way for yourself. Holiday season is upon us, the weather is already
gorgeous, so use it to your benefit!
classroom, we can create something that Cain and Cain (1991) call ‘relaxed
alertness’. In order to do it, we create an atmosphere that makes our learners confident
and positive, almost relaxed. Then, we generate challenges for our learners.
These need to correspond with learners’ skills and abilities. During the whole
process, it’s essential to support our learners without answering the questions
or solving problems for them. We need to develop and cherish positive
communication, not only between learners and teachers but amongst learners.
They must solve problems together and come up with mutually agreed solutions.
We shall listen to their needs and appreciate the smallest contributions from
each learner. We strive to make them feel valued and let them value each other.
might think, its lots of empty talk, the
reality around me is different. I do not deny that some solutions won’t work in
some situations, but it is worth a try. Recently, we have been following the
successes of the English football team, even though ‘football’ is not everyone’s
cup of tea. The way that the English team is managed reminded us of Cain and
Cain (1991) ‘relaxed alertness’ as well as Csikszentmihalyi and his ‘flow-experience’.
Team collaboration and team relaxation techniques certainly have contributed to
the TEAM (not individual) successes, and we are holding our thumbs and hope that
the TEAM carry on with their ‘good practice’!
So, what do
Csikszentmihalyi, learning and football all have in common? They all manage