Date of Award

Winter 11-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


College of Education, Doctoral Program

First Advisor

Hilary Conklin

Second Advisor

Jason Goulah

Third Advisor

Karen Monkman


This dissertation focused on intrinsic motivation in elementary schooling, with Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory and the conditions and dimensions leading to optimal learning, serving as the theoretical framework. This qualitative case study investigated: 1.) How do teachers create flow-producing learning experiences for upper elementary students and 2.) How do upper elementary students experience flow in their daily school lives. Fieldwork included observation, collection of work product, and interviews of thirteen students and two exemplary teachers. Students were also asked to take digital photos of artifacts or spaces that related to their learning, and that they were proud of or found exciting. This case study makes a significant contribution to the literature by providing evidence that enjoyable, flow-like learning can be experienced in upper elementary classrooms. Analysis of data indicated that teachers created flow-like conditions by modeling habits of the mind, providing challenges at student readiness levels, offering feedback, and modeling enjoyable learning experiences. Student participants reported enjoyment in the learning process under conditions that allowed them to move freely in the classroom, concentrate, yet have the opportunity to obtain immediate feedback, and become immersed in, with control over, learning tasks. Fueled by intrinsic motivation, flow-producing learning experiences in upper elementary classrooms also have the potential to put students on the path to lifelong learning before middle school. More research on intrinsic motivation in elementary schooling needs to be conducted to maximize learning experiences.