Mindfulness & Education
Michael Nolden, Ed.D
I am interested in the investigation of mindfulness protocols in education settings. Specifically, mindfulness as an approach directed towards the well-being of teachers. A growing literature is taking shape, albeit in its infancy surrounding contemplative practices and pedagogical settings.
Mindfulness-based interventions demonstrate positive trends in alleviating teachers’ stress. (Flook et al., 2013; Jennings et al., 2017; Roeser et al, 2012). A recent study conducted by Patricia Jennings and colleagues (2017) employed a random control method integrating a mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) strategy in the professional development of 224 elementary teachers in New York City. Implementing the Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE) program, an MBI based on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, (Kabat-Zinn, 2013). Jennings et al. report significant results on emotion regulation, mindfulness, psychological distress and time urgency in 4 out of 5 domains studied, teaching efficacy being the lone exception. These researchers speculate baseline levels of teaching efficacy between control groups were initially robust. Specifically, “compared with teachers in the control group, at the end of the school year intervention teachers showed higher levels of adaptive emotion regulation and mindfulness and lower levels of psychological distress and time urgency” (Jennings et al., 2017, p. 12).
At the heart of many mindfulness-based interventions for teachers is the relationship between social-emotional learning and the application of prosocial dispositions. Current research into the efficacy of prosocial behavior acknowledges these behaviors can be learned and cultivated (Dweck, 2016; Hanson, 2013, 2018). A protocol of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) demonstrates the effectiveness of cultivating mind training to assuage stress and other health concerns represented in the general population (Kabat-Zinn, 2013). A similar theory has been proposed by Flook et. al., (2013) as they attempted to replicate a protocol based MBSR for teachers. The pilot study’s tentative results showed promise of mindfulness-based interventions for educators in reducing stress, while promoting greater efficacy in their craft (Flook et al., 2013).
A recent qualitative case study exploring the implementation of compassion-informed mindfulness for teachers (CIMT), highlights the growth of MBI’s in education and other secular settings (Nolden, 2019). Analysis of pre and post-test measures, demonstrated that a 6-week curriculum of compassion-informed mindfulness, may provide job stress relief and improved mindfulness skills in teachers. Case participants showed increases in overall mindfulness and greater self-compassion, following the 6-week CIMT protocol (Nolden, 2019).
Understanding the basic science supporting mindfulness research is imperative for emerging mindfulness teachers. At the very least, one must be familiar with current trends. A tension exists between not wanting to “hype” mindfulness research and the importance of validating meditation experience with solid empirical design. An emerging teacher of mindfulness ought to consider the audience to which her/his instruction is directed. However, it is difficult for this writer not to get excited about mindfulness research. Besides, mindfulness is where the action is …. One breath at a time.
Dweck, C. S. (2016). Mindset. The new psychology of success. New York: Penguin Random House.
Flook, L., Goldberg, S. B., Pinger, L., Bonus, K. & Davidson, R. J. (2013). Mindfulness for teachers. A pilot study to assess effects on stress, burnout and teaching efficacy. Mind, Brain and Education, 7(1), 182-195 http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/mbe.12026
Hanson, R. (2013). Hardwiring happiness. The new brain science of contentment, calm and confidence. New York: Harmony Books.
Jennings, P. A., Brown, J. L., Frank, J. L., Doyle, S., Oh, Y., Davis, R., ... & Greenberg, M. T. (2017). Impacts of the CARE for Teachers Program on teachers’ social emotional competence and classroom interactions. Journal of Educational Psychology, 109(7), 1010-1028. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/edu0000187
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990, 2013). Full catastrophe living. Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York: Bantam.
Nolden, M.P. (2019). Compassion Informed Mindfulness for Teachers: A Case Study. All Theses and Dissertations. 212. https://dune.une.edu/theses/212
Roeser, R.W., Schonert-Reichl, K.A., Jha, A., Cullen, M., Wallace, L., Wilensky, R., Oberle, E., Thomson, T., Taylor, C., & Harrison, J. (2012). Mindfulness training and reductions in teacher stress and burnout. Results from two randomized, waitlist-control field trials. Journal of Education Psychology, 105(3), 787-804.