Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Educational Administration

Major Professor

Norma T. Mertz


Flow experiences are described as a state of consciousness where a person becomes totally absorbed in the experience. If college students experience flow, these experiences might impact their engagement, retention, academic progress, and graduation. The purpose of this study was to describe the flow experiences of undergraduate college students across the total college experience. The research questions guiding the study were: 1) To what extent do undergraduate college students report having "flow" experiences? 2) How do undergraduate college students describe their "flow" experiences? 3) How have "flow" experiences affected undergraduate college student's college experience? A total of 24 undergraduate college students from seven different subcultures participated in one of six focus groups. During the focus groups, the participants were given four written examples of flow experience and asked to write down examples of any similar experiences in their own lives.Then participants were asked a series of semistructured, open-ended questions using an interview guide related to the research questions. A three level qualitative analysis was used to interpret each participant's responses. The major findings of this study were: 1) All 24 participants experienced flow and associated that experience with 39 different flow activities. 2) Participants described their flow experiences as absorbing, an escape from their daily lives, having a positive affect on them, and feeling like they lost track of time. They also described flow was occurring more often during performance than during practice. 3) Flow experiences impacted the out of class experience of the participants, but not their in class experience. Two themes ("flow as an escape" and "flow more common during performance than during practice") emerged that had not appeared in the existing literature and may be idiosyncratic to the population studied or may have wider relevance.Based on the findings it is reasonable to conclude that college students do experience flow in a wide variety of activities outside the classroom and they see their flow experiences as positive, absorbing, and a much needed escape from the stress of college life.

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