Gute, Deanne, and Gary Gute. “Flow Writing in the Liberal Arts Core and Across the Disciplines: A Vehicle for Confronting and Transforming Academic Disengagement.” JGE 57.4 (2008): 190-222.
The Gutes take the notion of flow theory from psychology and apply it to student writing in hopes that it might prove a useful tool for engaging students. Flow theory concerns how some activities can engage one's consciousness while others will not. Researchers into flow have suggested that activities which challenge a person too little cause boredom while those that challenge a person too much cause anxiety. The Gutes hoped to “better understand students’ subjective experience of academic disengagement and explore ways to confront and transform it” (192). To that end, they had students in two college writing classes write about classes they considered challenging, and studied whether having students directly confront educational difficulties through writing would be useful in improving their academic performances. Their findings included “the pervasiveness of anxiety and feelings of inadequate preparation among the students”; that students will be more engaged by practicing “disciplinary thought processes and concepts” and more opportunities “to get and give feedback”; and that using writing to learn strategies (where the emphasis is on using writing as a tool to spur student learning and not on instructing students in the formal writing practices of the discipline—in other words, more informal writing assignments such as journals or blogs) can provide students with a valuable way to get that practice and feedback (216). This article is most useful in suggesting how informal writing can be a valuable tool in building competency in a discipline, and how getting students to explicitly think and comment about their own approaches to learning may help them learn overall. Just plunk “JGE” in the library’s “Journal Finder” and you can read the article yourself.