The Ohio State University (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2016 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Pages: 3969-3974
ISBN: 978-84-617-5895-1
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2016.1930
Conference name: 9th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2016
Location: Seville, Spain
An important link between effective educational leadership and research lies in examining administrator experiences in their work engagement. This is an exploratory study of effective administrator experiences through the lens of positive psychology’s flow theory. Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) defined positive psychology as “a science of positive subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions” (p. 5) which improve life quality and prevent pathologies that arise when life is barren and meaningless. Essentially positive psychologists explore phenomena when things go well. In educational administration, these explorations are useful as we search for best practices influencing student engagement, achievement, and well being. Csikszentmihalyi determined “the best manifestation of engagement is essentially flow” (Beard, 2015, p. 357).

This exploratory qualitative cast study research project explored 12 effective principal’s experiences, engagement and enjoyment while leading schools in order to gain insight into the flow construct as it relates to school administrator experiences in a variety of contexts.

Methods and Data source:
Congruent with qualitative studies, interviewing was the major data collection instrument. 12 Participants included administrators in three different governmental contexts (The U.S., China, and Zimbabwe), all of whom had been identified as effective administrators (as defined by governing bodies). The participants’ leadership experiences were examined through flow theory. The school leaders were interviewed based on the flow theoretical framework elements and open-ended questions pertaining to how they made meaning of their leadership. All interviews were transcribed, and coded. The interviews were analyzed using A-priori coding based on the 9 Elements of FLOW including: Challenge Skill Balance, Action-Awareness Merging, Clear Goals, Unambiguous Feedback, Concentration on Task at Hand, Sense of Control, Loss of Self-Consciousness, Transformation of Time, Autotelic Experience, the results of which are presented here. Additionally, there an analysis of open ended responses, Effectiveness criteria, Government recognition, website information along with other publicly made data allowed for triangulation.

The findings bear out the elements of flow are present in administrator experiences that yielded highly effective and successful outcomes: Challenge Skill Balance, Goal Clarity, Feedback Clarity and Autotelic Experiences were the clearest indicators with 12/12 (100%) affirmative responses followed by Concentration - 10/12 (83%), Control and Time transformation – both with 9/12 (75%), Loss of Self Consciousness - 8/12 (68%), leaving Action-Awareness with the lowest affirmative response - 6/12 (50%).

Understanding how leaders make meaning of their leadership and effectiveness across contexts is useful. Csikszentmihalyi was able to identify the universal experience of flow in sport and art. Although exploratory, this study set out to examine whether or not flow is also universal in the knowledge work of leading schools. The findings showed the elements of flow were present as administrators described the ways they accomplished ‘good work’ in a variety of complex contexts, the kind that challenge every professional (Gardner et al., 2001).
International Qualitative Research, Educational Leadership, Educational Administration Effective Leadership Experiences, Flow Theory Research.