There is growing evidence that the cultivation of compassion focused motives and emotions has profound effects on mental health and well-being. This chapter outlines the importance of embedding compassion in school and educational settings for pupils/students, those who teach them, and for the contextual organisation of education. Compassion-based initiatives (CBIs) guide staff and pupils to understand the nature of their own minds, and that of others. This is in particular respect to managing emotions and the adverse effects of the competitive nature of education, which can lead to mental health issues in pupils and teachers. This chapter explores theory and research as to the nature of compassion as both a personal and social process and reviews the utility of specifically developed compassionate initiatives for teachers, Higher Education students and school-aged pupils. The chapter culminates in offering practical advice and guidance for cultivating a compassionate school ethos and includes the recommendation of specific exercises and practices taken from CBI curricula.
There are many measures available that survey positive and negative emotional indicators of wellbeing in children and adolescents . In fact, our work identifies 98 measures, designed to measure negative self-emotions in youth populations . However, only eight of these measures incorporated a negative self-referential emotion item or subscale; that is, an item, or items, where the subject and the reference are directed toward the self in the final measure. This is important because negative self-referential emotions, especially self-criticism, are key antecedents of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders . In this commentary, we discuss why measures relating to self-critical emotions are fundamental for children and adolescents, and much needed to comprehensively evaluate mental health and emotional wellbeing in youth. We believe our considerations here will enable scholars to: (i) develop robust self-criticism measures for children and adolescent populations, and (ii) reliably evaluate social and emotional interventions employed in schools and beyond, that are aimed at improving wellbeing through, in part, addressing self-critical thinking styles (e.g., compassion-based interventions).
Objectives Mounting research has supported the beneficial effects of compassion-based interventions for improving psychosocial and physiological well-being and mental health. Teachers present a high risk of professional stress, which negatively impacts their mental health and professional performance. It is crucial to make compassion cultivation a focus in educational settings, supporting teachers in coping with the school context’s challenges, and promoting their mental well-being. This study aims to test the feasibility of the Compassionate Mind Training programme for Teachers (CMT-T), as well as to preliminary explore possible mechanisms of change. Methods Participants were 31 teachers from one public school in the centre region of Portugal, who underwent the CMT-T, a six-module Compassionate Mind Training group intervention for teachers. Feasibility was assessed in six domains (acceptability, implementation, practicality, adaptation, integration, and preliminary effectiveness), using self-reports, overall programme assessment, attrition, attendance, and home practice. Using a pre-post within-subject design, changes were assessed in self-reported psychological distress, burnout, well-being, compassion, and self-criticism. Mediation analysis for repeated measures designs was used to explore mechanisms of change. Results The CMT-T was feasible in all the six domains. Participants revealed significant decreases in depression, stress, and fears of compassion to others, as well as significant increases in compassion to others, self-compassion, and compassion to others’ motivations and actions after the CMT-T intervention. When self-criticism was controlled, decreases in burnout and increases in satisfaction with professional life, and self-compassion, were also found. Fears of compassion for others mediated the impact of CMT-T on teachers’ burnout, and self-compassion mediated the intervention effect on psychological well-being. Conclusions This pilot study provides evidence that CMT-T is feasible and may be effective in promoting teachers’ compassionate motivations, attributes, and actions towards others and themselves and improving their mental health and well-being. These promising findings warrant further investigation within a randomized controlled trial.
The crisis in child and adolescent mental health and wellbeing has prompted the development of school and community-based interventions to tackle negative emotions towards the self. Providing an evidence-base for such interventions is therefore a priority for policy makers and practitioners. This paper presents the first systematic review of self-referential and self-report measures of negative emotions for use with non-clinical child/adolescent populations, and evaluation of their psychometric properties. A systematic search of electronic databases and grey literature was conducted. Peer reviewed articles that introduced a new measure or included psychometric evaluation of a negative self-referential emotion for children and/or adolescents were identified. Study characteristics were extracted, and psychometric properties rated using internationally recognised quality criteria. Initially, 98 measures designed for evaluating children and adolescents’ negative self-referential emotions were found. Measures were primarily excluded if they were intended for clinical diagnosis or did not focus on self-referential emotions. The remaining eight measures (Brief Shame and Guilt Questionnaire; Self-Consciousness Scale-Children; Shame and Guilt Scale for Adolescents; Test of Self-Conscious Affect- Adolescents; The Child-Adolescent Perfectionism Scale [CAPS]; Child and Adolescent Dysfunctional Attitudes Scale Revised; Children Automatic Thoughts Scale [CATS]; Negative Affect Self-Statement Questionnaire) were organised into domains consisting of self-conscious emotions, self-oriented perfectionism and negative self-cognitions. Psychometric quality ratings identified the CAPS (Flett et al. in J Psychoeduc Assess 34:634–652, 2016) and the CATS (Schniering and Rapee in Behav Res Ther 40:1091–1109, 2002) as having the strongest psychometric qualities. However, all reviewed measures lacked full evaluation of essential psychometric properties. Our review revealed a paucity of self-referential emotional measures suitable for assessing adverse negative self-referential emotions in general child and adolescent populations. Measures suitable for use in non-clinical samples were identified, but these require further evaluation and/or new scale developments are needed. The psychometric findings and methodological issues identified will guide researchers and practitioners to make evidence-based decisions in order to select optimal measures.
Given current retention and well-being crises within the teaching profession worldwide, this research sought to explore implementation efficacy of a Compassion Mind Training (CMT) programme in cross-cultural school-settings. A 6-module CMT curriculum was implemented in teaching staff of two primary schools in the UK (N=76) and one primary school in Portugal (N=41). Results revealed that high-quality implementation was achieved across the UK and Portuguese cohorts, with the majority of staff providing extremely positive ratings regarding all aspects of module content, delivery, and interest/relevance. Moreover, recommendation of the CMT to others was the modal response across cohorts. These findings indicate that CMT in school settings has international appeal and utility in helping educators manage educational-based stresses.
Objectives Teacher retention is a key issue facing schools, with stress, student behavior, current competitive policies, and practices resulting in many leaving within the first 5 years of qualification. Consequently, recent in-school research initiatives have focused on resilience training, although the quality of such conducted studies is debated. Drawn from compassion-focused therapy (CFT), this study set out to explore a six-module compassionate mind training (CMT) program with school staff to improve well-being. Methods As part of their continued professional development, over 70 teachers and support staff took part in the CMT, with a mixed-measures AAB quantitative and qualitative design employed. This enabled us to explore both implementation effectiveness and outcome effectiveness in terms of parameters of well-being. Results The initiative was well received with the majority of staff reporting positively on their experiences of the curriculum and practices. Additionally, exercise practice was associated with significant increases in self-compassion (p < 0.01) and significant decreases in self-criticism (p < 0.05). Thematic analyses further revealed benefits of CMT for dealing with emotional difficulties. Conclusions As a feasibility study, our results demonstrate many benefits of CMT in educational settings. CMT may hold promise as a way of helping those in education counteract the current competition-based nature of education, especially that which contributes to negative changes in well-being. Given this, future research should employ a control group design, a larger sample size, and a range of well-being measures at follow-up, to fully evaluate the utility of CMT in educational settings.