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Group flow in small groups of middle school mathematics students Armstrong, Alayne Cheryl

Abstract

This paper investigates situations in middle school mathematics classroom settlings where group flow seemed to be occurring, identifies observable characteristics that distinguished them as being group flow experiences, and suggests conditions which may encourage the occurrence of group flow. The focus was on the observation of small groups engaged in mathematics tasks in a regular classroom setting by the teacher-researcher through video and audio taping. Theoretical frameworks used to analyse the recordings were Sawyer's (2003c) model of group flow (following from M. Csikszentimihalyi's theory of flow), and the conditions required for the emergence of collective learning systems proposed by Davis and Simmt (2003). This paper suggests if the conditions for the emergence of a collective learning system are present, a group is more likely to develop and maintain a collective zone of proximal development where ideas can be negotiated. As a collective understanding emerges for the group and group flow becomes a possibility, certain behaviours that are both physical (posture, positioning, gestures, facial expression) and verbal (tone of voice, echoing and repeating words/phrases, rate of speech, fragmentation of speech) are observed. Group flow appears to manifest itself in a quicker form of these physical and verbal behaviours, a synchronization of action - for instance a physical closeness, an echoing of gestures and phrases, a quick fragmented way of speaking where members seemed to be finishing off each other's sentences - that suggests a parallel synchronization of thought. The more that group members appear to be "of one mind," the more likely it is that group flow may be observed.

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