Making Time for Mindfulness

mindfulnessintheclassroom424A new study suggests that mindfulness education — lessons on techniques to calm the mind and body — can reduce the negative effects of stress and increase students’ ability to stay engaged, helping them stay on track academically and avoid behavior problems.

While small, the study of sixth-graders at a Boston charter school adds to a still-growing body of research about a role for mindfulness in the classroom. In recent years, the topic has excited researchers and educators alike as a possible tool to help students face both behavioral and academic challenges by reducing anxiety and giving them a new way to handle their feelings and emotions.

After finding that students who self-reported mindful habits performed better on tests and had higher grades, researchers with the Boston Charter Research Collaborative — a partnership between the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University (CEPR), MIT, and Transforming Education — wanted to know if school-based mindfulness training could help more students reap similar benefits.

They designed a study focusing on sixth-graders in another Boston-area school. The study, published in a white paper by a team including Martin West of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, showed that sixth-graders who participated in an eight-week mindfulness were less stressed out than their classmates who hadn’t.

Implementing Mindfulness in Your School

The paper includes recommendations from educators and leaders of mindfulness-based education programs for implementing mindfulness in your own school:

  • Build consistency and school-wide buy-in. Make time for staff and students to learn about the theory and science behind mindfulness, so students know how to talk about mindfulness and understand its purpose. Creating consistent space for mindfulness practice – like guided meditations — and theory in the school day can positively affect the entire school culture, emphasizing acceptance, self-care, and empathy.
  • Provide teachers with dedicated time to engage in mindfulness practice themselves. In order to help students reap benefits, teachers also need time and support in adopting it. Research has also shown mindfulness to be helpful to teachers, improving their own emotional wellbeing, helping them understand student perspective, and freeing them up to be more effective in the classroom.
  • Allow students to make their own time for mindfulness. Encourage students’ awareness of their own emotions by allowing and encouraging them to identify times when they can use and practice mindfulness. In order to adopt mindfulness as a tool for mental health and happiness, students have to have the space and time to practice it.

Would you like to learn more about this study? Download a PDF of the white paper: Mindfulness in the Classroom: Learning from a School-based Mindfulness Intervention through the Boston Charter Research Collaborative.

Excerpted from “Making Time for Mindfulness” in Usable Knowledge, a research newsletter for educators produced by the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  Read the full article.

Source: Usable Knowledge | Making Time for Mindfulness, https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/19/01/making-time-mindfulness | ©2019 President and Fellows of Harvard College