Mindfulness within Educational & School-Based Settings.
Over the past couple of decades there has been a growing debate about the role schools need to play in the lives of children and young people, their families, the wider community and society. No longer are schools expected to deliver a purely formalised academic education. Schools are increasingly being asked to provide both an academic and a more holistic education which considers each student's overall wellbeing. In the main, this focus on a student's wellbeing has primarily been concerned with identifying and managing mental health problems, bullying issues, and a plethora of antisocial behaviours within the school environment.
However, as Professor Martin Seligman (2010, 2012, 2013) states it is more than just the alleviation of symptoms that promotes positive mental health and wellbeing, it is the presence and teaching of concepts such as flourishing, wellbeing, resilience, learned optimism and posttraumatic growth. In fact, Seligman (2012, 2013) is calling for a revolution in world education in the teaching of wellbeing in our school systems through the application of Positive Education and Positive Psychology. Seligman and his colleagues believe that through the practical application of Positive Education the alarmingly high levels of; youth depression, anxiety, suicide and allied mental health problems will be directly addressed. This is then additional enhanced by fostering school communities that actively promote happiness, confidence, contentment, compassion, kindness and balance, in short Wellbeing. Seligman (2014) says "I believe that schools can teach both traditional skills for learning and help teach students the skills to lead a flourishing life".
In support of Seligman's claims are reports from UNICEF (2007) and the OECD (2009) which highlight the alarmingly low rates of well-being, both objective (e.g. health, educational attainment) and subjective (e.g. life satisfaction) among children and adolescents in the majority of Western economically advantaged countries. There appears to be a direct correlation between the rise of national and personal economic wealth and an overall decrease in personal wellbeing and life satisfaction in many advantaged Western countries (Seligman, 2012).
One clear practice that appears to address many of the above concerns within school and classroom environments is Mindfulness. Mindfulness Practices & Techniques have now been used formally within schools, both in Australia and internationally, since the late 1990s and the research is clearly indicating the many benefits, for both teachers and students, that Mindfulness Practice in the classroom can have (please refer to the following table).
Empirically Researched Benefits of Mindfulness Practice for Teachers & Students
(Fernando, 2012; Flook, Goldberg, Pinger, Bonus & Davidson, 2013; Gold et al., 2010; Meiklejohn et al., 2012; Roeser et al., 2013; Schueberlein & Sheth, 2009; Waters, Barsky, Ridd & Allen, 2014)
|Reduced Occupational Stress Levels||Reduced Stress & Anxiety Levels|
|Reduced Occupational Burnout Rates||Improved Academic Performance|
|Improved Focus, Attention, Concentration & Awareness||Increased Openness & Willingness to Learn|
|Improved Emotional Balance||Promotes Positive Mental Health|
|Increased Responsiveness to Student Needs||Improved Self-Reflection Abilities|
|Improved Professional Interpersonal Relationships||Improved Self-Regulation & Impulse Control Abilities|
|Improved Personal Interpersonal Relationships||Enhanced Social & Emotional Intelligence|
|Fostering a Positive & Respectful Classroom Climate||Improved Prosocial Behaviours & Interpersonal Relationships|
|Improved Classroom Organisation & Performance||Improved Classroom & School-Based Interpersonal Relationships|
Improved Rates of Teacher Retention & Reduced Rates of Teacher Turnover
|Improved Focus, Attention, Concentration & Awareness|
|Increased Occupational Self-Compassion||Promotes ethical-moral reasoning|
|Increased General Sense of Wellbeing||
Promotes a greater acceptance of Self and Others and Difference
(e.g. gender, race, culture & sexual orientation).
Fernando, R. (2012). Measuring the efficacy and sustainability of a mindfulness-based in-class intervention. Mindful Schools. Retrieved from http://www.mindfulschools.org/about-mindfulness/research/
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(3), 182-195. flook_13.pdf
Gold, E., Smith, A., Hooper, I., Herne, D., Tansey, G., & Hulland, C. (2010). Mindful-based stress reduction (MBSR) for primary school teachers. Journal of Child and Family Studies Studies, 19, 184-189.
Meiklejohn, J.,Phillips, C., Freedman, M. L., Griffin, M. L., Biegel, G., Roach, A.. ... Saltzman. A. (2012). Integrating mindfulness training into K-12 education: Fostering the resilience of teachers and students. Mindfulness, 3(4), 291-307. meiklejohn_12.pdf
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). (2009). Comparative child wellbeing across the OECD. In OECD, Doing better for children (21-63). DOI:10.1787/9789264059344-en
Roeser, R. W., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Jha, A., Cullen, M.,Wallace, L., Wilensky, R. ... Harrison, J. (2013) Mindfulness training and reduction in teacher stress and burnout: Results from two randomised wait-list field trails. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(3), 787-804. roeser_13.pdf
Schueberlein, D., & Sheth, S. (2009). Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness: A Guide for Anyone Who Teaches Anything. Boston, MA: Wisdom Publications.
Seligman, M. (2010). Flourish: Positive psychology and positive intentions. The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, University of Michigan. Retrieved from http://tannerlectures.utah.edu/_documents/a-to-z/s/Seligman_10.pdf
Seligman, M. (2012). Flourish. North Sydney, NSW: Random House.
Seligman, M. (2013). Building the state of wellbeing: A strategy for South Australia, a summary of progress. Adelaide Thinker in Residence 2012-2013. Retrieved from http://www.thinkers.sa.gov.au/seligmanaddendum/files/inc/8c48cde37c.pdf
Seligman, M. (2014). A message from our patron. Positive Education Schools Association. Retrieved from http://www.pesa.edu.au/
United Nations Children Fund (UICEF). (2007). Child poverty in perspective: An overview of child well-being in rich countries. A comprehensive assessment of the lives and well-being of children and adolescents in the economically advanced nations. Innocenti Report Card 7. UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence. Retrieved from http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/rc7_eng.pdf
Waters, L., Barsky, A., Ridd, A., & Allen, K. (2014). Contemplative education: A systematic evidenced-based review of the effects of meditation interventions in schools. Educational Psychology Review, online first article. DOI 10.1007/s10648-014-9258-2