Flow in PE Programs

Why do we need more flow?

Our goal in introducing the Function2Flow model is to provide teachers and students with conceptual and practical strategies to help them become increasingly more fluid with respect to the content constitutive of physical education programs and the ways in which fundamental movements are introduced and assessed.

Why should there be more flow in Physical Education?

For the most part, physical education lessons are based on children practicing isolated sport techniques. These isolated techniques leave them with little room for creative thinking and expression.  Asking children to practice ‘sending’ actions of a ball in an isolated and repetitive manner gives little consideration of how these movements might take different shapes and forms within a game context.

With the upsurge of concern for childhood obesity and increasing levels of inactivity, health-related fitness activities are also making their way into physical education programs; however, these too are taught and assessed in very isolated and rigid ways. Attention is paid to quantitative features of exercise frequency, intensity, time, and type, yet little concern is given to the qualitative features of fitness-promoting movement and the long-term effects certain repetitive actions have on posture and daily function. 

While several approaches to teaching physical education have been introduced over the last twenty years that aim to disrupt rigid, mindless drill and kill, teacher-dominant approaches to teaching physical education, such approaches are met with much resistance. So rather than try to introduce yet another way to teach isolated fundamental movements constitutive of games and sports, we take a step to the side of what we customarily know and do in physical education classes to consider certain ‘alternative activities’ and what they afford children and youth in terms of fluid, motional competency.

Out-of-the-box, alternative activities are certainly being introduced in physical education programs. But, when it comes to assessment beyond baseline measures of participation, there is a tendency for teachers to jump back into the box. There is comfort in assessing what we know, e.g., isolated sport techniques, in ways that are skewed towards standardized versions of the shapes and observable actions that the performing body is expected to make. But what might it be like to see and assess sport techniques, and any movement experience for that matter, differently and in terms of not just form and function, but also feeling and flow?

Our Function2Flow model is geared towards creating experiences of fluidity. By inviting teachers and students alike to consider the constitutive dimensions of movement function, form, feeling and flow, we will demonstrate how this conceptual framework may be used to introduce and assess a wide variety of mainstream and alternative activities.

We purposefully introduce the Function2Flow model through alternative activities because we feel that a wide variety of alternative activities are essential to experiencing the fluidity of movement function, form, feeling and flow. We also contend that in trying out alternative activities that offer various ways to acquire fundamental movement skills of kicking, throwing, catching, and so on, students will return to games and sports with enhanced competence and confidence. They will be able to kick, throw, and catch many kinds of objects in various ways, and thus be better able to kick, throw, and catch in the specific ways that the games and sports allow.

Alternative activities to be considered include:

  • Indoor climbing activities for muscular strength and endurance
  • Skipping for cardiovascular fitness
  • Slack lining and unicycling for balance
  • Acro yoga for flexibility and agility
  • Juggling for throwing and catching
  • Devil Sticks for hitting
  • Poi, Bo sticks, Buugeng, Ropes and Diablo for spinning, turning, twirling
  • Hooping for bodily agility
  • Cyr wheel for rolling

Our Function2Flow model creates a frame for both teaching and assessing the progression of learning in these alternative movement forms. Once the Function2Flow model is understood in these unfamiliar activities, the Function-Form-Feeling-and-Flow levels of awareness can be applied to the familiar games, sports, and fitness activities we usually teach.