Thursday, July 28, 2005

Education and Quality of Life

I found a goldmine today in the reports from the Quality of Life Research Center, headed up by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. I've been exploring ideas related to quality of life for my thesis, and occasionally I've been astounded how little K-12 education does to address this concept, both in the curriculum (why are kids not learning about choices and ways of living that are likely to lead to better quality of life, or at least exploring differences in quality of life in other cultures?) and in a lack of attention to ensuring a high quality of life for students (through autonomy, challenge, nurturing, etc.) throughout their school years. This research center tackles some of these questions:

Student Engagement in High School Classrooms from the Perspective of Flow Theory
"However, students do not experience alienation and disconnection during all encounters with learning. Certain conditions may promote excitement, stimulation, and engagement in the learning process. In this article, we focus on student engagement within the framework of flow theory (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). This study focuses on how students spend their time in high school classrooms, and the conditions under which they become more engaged in learning."
Happiness in Everyday Life: The Uses of Experience Sampling
"Happiness will increase to the extent that individuals are provided with the means to learn skills that can be deployed to meet reasonable challenges; that they are given freedom to express themselves within bounds of responsibility; that they are allowed to experience the joy of interaction with peers of one’s choice and with adults that care for their well-being. These requirements for happiness presumably operate at every level of societal complexity, from the macro-level of the economy and political structure to the meso- and micro-levels of community, school, and family. There are clear trends in contemporary life that militate against such conditions. It is difficult for a young person to be happy when living in a sterile suburb that lacks opportunities for action, forced to attend schools where there is little chance to express oneself except in abstract intellectual terms, surrounded by a small nuclear family that is seldom together and relaxed enough to interact freely."

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