The Experience of the Psychological State of Flow: The Relationship between Flow and Undergraduate Reading in English as a Foreign Language


Department of English University of Kashan


As a fundamental concept in Flow Theory, flow experience is characterized by a balance between challenge and skills. Together with intense focus, control, and interest, these experiences lead to enhanced performance on a given task. Only in the last few years have teachers and researchers begun to test the relevance of flow experiences to second language acquisition. Whether, to what extent, and with what effects  undergraduate students learning English as a foreign language (EFL) also experience flow is yet unknown. The purpose of the present study was to examine possible flow experiences perceived by undergraduate EFL students while reading different texts in English. A secondary aim of the study was to examine possible associations between flow experiences and reading comprehension ability. A sample of two EFL reading classes including 54 sophomore learners (40 women and 14 men) with the age range of 19 to 22 years participated and provided the necessary data on flow experiences on a flow perception instrument. Their on-task flow experience was measured through a standard flow perceptions questionnaire (The FPQ) administered immediately after the completion of each reading task. To complement this data, selected participants also provided follow-up interview data on reasons for not experiencing in reading.  The analyses of reported flow experiences indicated that the learners did experience some levels of flow during the performance of all reading tasks. Mean reading comprehension scores were significantly associated with scores on perceived on-task flow experiences. The findings imply that, in optimally balanced design and teaching of reading tasks, helping students to read with flow will arouse their interest in what they read and ultimately lead to more successful reading comprehension in English as a foreign language.