Sunday, January 20, 2019

Food for Thought: Mindfulness in the Classroom

On Friday both assemblies started with two excellent sessions of Mindfulness lead by Katie and Susie. Although different in format both sessions transformed the atmosphere in the Primary MPR and Secondary gym, engaging students and ensuring they were focused for the assemblies that followed. We know that Mindfulness works and so do thousands of people worldwide, but there are still skeptics who continue to doubt and ask for proof. This week I was sent this brief : Mindfulness in the Classroom:Learning from a School-basedMindfulness Intervention through theBoston Charter Research Collaborative that provides research that shows the positive impact of Mindfulness on students performance and behavior in the classroom. As you will note, quotes from research like this one below further supports our mission, as it completely aligns and contributes to our definition of empowerment.

“ Self-control refers to the skills involved in planning, controlling, directing, and sustaining one’s attention, emotions, and behavior. These abilities are positively related to reading, math, and linguistic abilities, […] as well as the ability to process social situations more accurately. Consequently, school-based programs which promote self-control may be particularly promising in boosting academic performance and social intelligence." - Bauer, et al., 2018

The brief is only 15 pages long. Eight pages are the brief itself and it is an easy read. However, I would encourage you to read the whole report because the last 6 pages are dedicated to providing suggestions and links to materials supporting the rationale regarding Mindfulness in schools, recommendations for Integrating Mindfulness in the Classroom and links to Mindfulness Resources that include a very comprehensive Mindfulness toolkit. 

The short conclusion of the brief is: 

"In this BCRC study, an eight-week mindfulness program reduced students’ perception of stress and increased students’ capacity for sustained attention (an element of self-control). The benefits of the short-term mindfulness intervention described in this paper should motivate further research to examine whether a longer intervention or the ongoing practice of mindfulness in the classroom would yield larger and sustained benefits for students. Still, these promising findings suggest that students may benefit from mindfulness practices as part of their school day."

Here is the longer Executive Summary:

"Mindfulness-based practices have been promoted as a promising way to reduce stress and anxiety in students and improve their academic and behavioral outcomes. Using surveys administered to middle school students attending schools participating in the Boston Charter Research Collaborative, we learned that greater self-reported mindfulness correlates significantly with better academic achievement and behavioral outcomes. These results encouraged us to further assess if a schoolbased mindfulness intervention could improve students’ sustained attention, and therefore, their self-control. We implemented a randomized controlled trial with 6th grade students at a partner school to study the impact of a school-based mindfulness intervention on students’ sustained attention and perceived levels of stress. Students either participated in the mindfulness intervention or a coding training as part of the study. Students assigned to participate in the mindfulness intervention received eight weeks of mindfulness instruction, while a control group of students received training in computer coding. About half of the study participants also participated in brain imaging before and after the eight-week program. We found that students assigned to the mindfulness intervention condition showed a reduction in perceived stress and modest but significant improvements in sustained attention. These students also showed a reduced response of the amygdala, a brain structure associated with emotion and stress, to negative stimuli. Together, these findings suggest the potential value of mindfulness interventions for alleviating stress and enhancing sustained attention. This paper reviews the findings from this study, in addition to other literature on the role, function, and helpfulness of mindfulness in education. Further research is needed to understand whether regular practice of mindfulness in the classroom could produce sustained improvements in academic and behavioral outcomes. We conclude the report with some recommendations and considerations for bringing mindfulness practices into the classroom."

Mindfulness is going extremely well at school and it is clear from the assemblies that more and more of the students are participating properly however we can always improve by knowing more about this important tool for developing well-being in our students.

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