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Mindfulness in Schools Research Project: Exploring Students' Perspectives of Mindfulness —What are students' perspectives of learning mindfulness practices at school?

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Over the last decade, the cultivation of mindfulness has become a common part of the curriculum in classrooms around the world. A recent survey indicates that nearly 50% of teachers are sharing mindfulness with children. To date, researchers have predominately used outcome-based trial designs to understand the practice's efficacy for improving wellness in children. Less research has been directed towards understanding how children perceive mindfulness experiences. This gap inspired the research question—What are students' perspectives of learning mindfulness practices at school? Thematic analysis was employed to understand and interpret 38 elementary school students' mindfulness journals. Findings suggest that mindfulness enhances student wellbeing and helps children develop a greater awareness of their body, mind and emotions. Implications of these findings are discussed. Future research is required to determine how mindfulness practices enhance and sustain student wellbeing and learning.
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Psychology, 2015, 6, 896-914
Published Online June 2015 in SciRes. http://www.scirp.org/journal/psych
http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/psych.2015.67088
How to cite this paper: Ager, K., Albrecht, N. J., & Cohen, M. (2015). Mindfulness in Schools Research Project: Exploring
Students’ Perspectives of Mindfulness. Psychology, 6, 896-914. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/psych.2015.67088
Mindfulness in Schools Research Project:
Exploring Students Perspectives of
Mindfulness
What are students’ perspectives of learning mindfulness practices
at school?
Karen Ager, Nicole J. Albrecht, Prof. Marc Cohen
RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
Email: kazzager@aol.com
Received 5 April 2015; accepted 15 June 2015; published 18 June 2015
Copyright © 2015 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY).
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Abstract
Over the last decade, the cultivation of mindfulness has become a common part of the curriculum
in classrooms around the world. A recent survey indicates that nearly 50% of teachers are sharing
mindfulness with children. To date, researchers have predominately used outcome-based trial
designs to understand the practices efficacy for improving wellness in children. Less research has
been directed towards understanding how children perceive mindfulness experiences. This gap
inspired the research questionWhat are students’ perspectives of learning mindfulness practices
at school? Thematic analysis was employed to understand and interpret 38 elementary school
studentsmindfulness journals. Findings suggest that mindfulness enhances student wellbeing
and helps children develop a greater awareness of their body, mind and emotions. Implications of
these findings are discussed. Future research is required to determine how mindfulness practices
enhance and sustain student wellbeing and learning.
Keywords
Well Being, Wellness, Mindfulness, Student Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Happiness, Peace
Introduction
There is a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests mindfulness is an essential life skill for all chil-
dren (Albrecht, 2014; Shapiro et al., 2014). Mindfulness techniques help focus attention and have the potential
K. Ager et al.
897
to enhance student wellbeing (Albrecht, 2015). Mindfulness practices center on awareness of the mind, body
and emotions and hence the development of the whole person. Recent statistics from the United Kingdom indi-
cate that nearly 50% of school-age children engage in some form of mindful activities (Stone, 2014).
Mindfulness is also a burgeoning area of academic interest. Research investigating the phenomenon com-
menced in the early 1980s and by the close of 2012 there were approximately 2500 journal articles on the topic
(Black, 2014). Due, in part, to positive findings in adult populations, mindfulness programs have been imple-
mented in schools around the world (Albrecht, 2014) and there are now a substantial number of studies reporting
on how mindfulness programs impact school communities (Albrecht, 2014; Burke, 2010; Harnett & Dawe, 2012;
Shapiro et al., 2014).
Studies to date have predominately been outcome-based, with less focus on in-depth explorations using
qualitative methodologies. In particular, there has been minimal research examining how young children (five to
12 years old) perceive the practice. It has been suggested that there is a critical need to explore this growing field
of educational practice by using qualitative research methods (Roeser, Skinner, Beers, & Jennings, 2012). This
gap in the field inspired the current research study, which focuses on understanding elementary school students’
perspectives of learning mindfulness for the first time in an independent school located in New Zealand. The
following research question was posed: What are students perspectives of learning mindfulness practices at
school?
In the current article findings from the research are presented. However, first the authors define mindfulness,
give examples of child-centric mindfulness practices, outline a wellness conceptual framework for understand-
ing the findings, and review qualitative research on the topic.
Mindfulness Definition
“Mindfulness is mostly used to refer to a way of being, which has prescribed characteristics, activities and
programs designed to cultivate this way of being, as well as ancient meditation techniques rooted in various
religions” (Albrecht, Albrecht, & Cohen, 2012, p. 1). It may be broadly described as a natural human capacity,
which involves observing, participating and accepting each of life’s moments from a state of equilibrium or
loving kindness (Albrecht et al., 2012). Mindfulness can be practiced through meditation and contemplation, but
may also be cultivated through paying attention to one’s every day activities (such as eating, gardening, walking
and listening) and school-based activities (such as class work) (Albrecht et al., 2012). Mindfulness is not just
about paying more attention; but it’s about the kind of attention we pay (Williams, Teesdale, Segal, & Kabat-
Zinn, 2007).
Classroom Practice
There is estimated to be at least 30 different mindfulness programs for children around the world (Albrecht,
2015). In a text analysis of programs that included hard-copy books, substantial differences were found in the
types of activities presented (Albrecht, 2015). This reflects the myriad of ways mindfulness can be experienced,
integrated and applied to daily life (Snel, 2013). An example of one activity that could readily be practised by a
teacher without an extensive mindfulness, or meditation practice is called “Time In”time to check in with
yourselfto refocus awareness and attention (Schoeberlein & Seth, 2009, p. 91). Schoeberlein and Seth (2009),
the authors of the mindfulness book, “Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness: A guide For Anyone Who
Teaches Anything”, present a range of simple exercises that can be easily incorporated within a lesson. For
example, one activity involves inviting students to listen to the ambient sounds in the room for 30 seconds,
without making any new sounds themselves (Schoeberlein & Seth, 2009, p. 92).
Another activity that children can practice at home or in the classroom, from Snel’s (2013) text, “Sitting Still
Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids”, involves asking children to notice their breathing, when watching
a scary film, when they are happy and relaxed, riding a bike and so on. Students are then invited to reflect on
what their breathing is telling them (Snel, 2013, p. 26-27).
Mindfulness practices presented in some school-based programs also include short meditations (Albrecht,
2015) and have the core properties associated with classifying a practice as a meditation technique (see Albrecht,
2011; Cardoso, de Souza, Camano & Leite, 2008). Such practices, which may require teachers to undertake
meditation classes, or practice the technique at home before sharing in the classroom, are self-induced; have a
“focus” or “anchor”; involve logic-relaxation and also involve muscle relaxation somewhere during the process.
K. Ager et al.
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A Wellness Conceptual Framework for School Based Mindfulness Programs
A number of researchers have suggested the need to find a conceptual framework to guide our understanding
of mindfulness (Albrecht et al., 2012; Harnett & Dawe, 2012; Ospina, 2007). Given the popularity and preva-
lence of wellness frameworks in schools around the world (Cruchon, 2009; The State of South Australia, 2007;
Hollingsworth, 2009; McQuaid, 2012; Yager, 2011), wellness theory and models have been suggested as a
framework to guide and enhance our appreciation of some aspects of mindfulness practice and research
(Albrecht, 2015). Mindfulness is also overwhelmingly considered in both academic (see Campion & Rocco,
2009; Greenberg & Harris, 2012; Huppert & Johnson, 2010; Kabat-Zinn, 1982; Schonert-Reichl & Lawlor,
2010; Shapiro et al., 2008) and popular literature (see Rechtschaffen, 2014; Sigel, 2008) to be “wellness-orien-
tated” and a “wellness intervention”, targeting a wide range of social, emotional, physical, spiritual and cogni-
tive outcomes (Schoeberlein & Seth, 2009; Willard, 2010).
What Is Wellness?
Wellness, a term often used interchangeably with wellbeing (Mackey, 2000), is not a new concept. It is a
state of being that humans innately strive for and have theorized about for centuries (Cohen, 2010; Compton
& Hoffman, 2013), with key tenets often forming an integral role in First Nation culture (Weaver, 2002).
Wellness is today commonly described as an active, life long and ever-lasting process of becoming aware of
choices, making decisions and taking responsibility towards achieving a balanced and fulfilling life. It is
multi-dimensional in nature, unique to the individual and centered on the premise that the mind, body, spirit and
community are all interrelated and interdependent (Synthesized from Corbin & Pangrazzi, 2001; Definition of
Wellness, 2009; Freston, 2008; Wellness Society, 2009). The term has been used in the English language since
the 1600s (Miller, 2005), however, it has only been in the last two decades that the concept has received signifi-
cant attention.
A number of theorists have employed simple metaphors and diagrammatic explanations to help convey core
principles. One method is to use “wheels”, pie graphs or hexagons to depict how different dimensions, such as spi-
ritual, cognitive, emotional, environmental and physical aspects combine to form wellness as seen in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Wellness Wheel example.
When a person, for example, over exercises and then neglects spending time with friends, the wheel is
represented in a lop-sided fashionflat in some quadrants and the individual’s overall level of wellness is said
to be impaired (Greenberg, Dintiman, & Oakes, 2004). An individual may experience “High-Level Wellness”
when he/she has awareness, knowledge and the ability and motivation to take active steps to keep the tire “inflated”
Spirtiual
Cognitive
Emotional
Physical
K. Ager et al.
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in regards to all dimensions of wellbeing (Greenberg et al., 2004; Travis & Ryan, 2004).
Building on a range of wellness models the second author, Albrecht, proposes seven dimensions of well-
nessphysical, emotional, social, cognitive, spiritual, environmental and creative wellness. The seventh dimen-
sion, “creative wellness” is associated with the pursuit and exploration of creative and imaginative interests with
a trusting, tolerant and accepting mindset. For further information on wellness dimension characteristics refer to
Albrecht (2014).
Together with the first author, Ager, the second author, Albrecht, developed a seven-dimension wellness edu-
cational model (see Figure 2). The seven dimensions of wellbeing are considered in the context of four domains
of education practice: learning environmentthe ethos/culture and aesthetics of the school, infrastructure and
physical environment; curriculum and pedagogythe twin process of teaching and learning; partnershipsthe
numerous relationships that exist to support learners; and policies and proceduressystem and local statements
and directions on significant issues that affect learner well-being. Global consciousness and sustainability is an
awareness that we are connected to a global family and that sustainability in our own lives depends on and tran-
scends borders. The wellness model shows that children flourish when all dimensions are favorable.
Figure 2: Student Wheel of Wellness.
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Qualitative Mindfulness Research
Mindfulness research in both child and adult populations has predominately been outcomes based. There has
been little qualitative research directed towards listening to “childrens voices”; that is, how children perceive
the practicetheir thoughts, feelings and reflections. Without negating the value of outcome-based research, it
could be argued that this type of research does not explore how children think and feel, what program improve-
ments could be made, or the difficulties and challenges faced during the process. In order to understand prior
qualitative studies conducted in the area, database searches were completed as a means of locating primary
research articles investigating mindfulness practices from an elementary school childs perspective. The search
was limited to the English language, with no time restrictions and was conducted during April 2013, October
2013 and May 2014. The following databases were searched: Google Scholar, Health Collection (Informit),
Humanities & Social Sciences, ProQuest RMIT database, PubMed and SAGE Journals Online. Search terms
used were: Mindfulness AND the Childs Perspective, Mindfulness AND the Childs Voice, Mindfulness AND
the Classroom, Mindfulness AND Children; Mindfulness AND Elementary Schools; and Mindfulness AND
Adolescents. All fields were searched. In addition, a number of articles were recommended by colleagues that
were not found in the search. Literature was sparse, with approximately nine articles located exploring mindful-
ness from the child’s perspective. Of the nine studies, one was a review article and eight were original research
articles. Only studies exploring mindfulness in elementary school children were chosen for review. These are
outlined in Table 1.
Table 1:
Summary of the qualitative research studies reviewed.
Research
Methodology
Method
Outcomes
of the childrens experiences
of mindfulness
Carelse (2013)
Interpretative
Phenomenological
Analysis
-IPA
Illustrations and interviews using IPA of
experiences and thematic analysis
Heightened awareness of body
and emotions
Assisted concentration
Coholic (2011)
Grounded Theory
Interviews using thematic
analysis
Lower emotional reactivity
(a measure of resilience)
Cruchon (2009)
Mixed Methods
Student journal writing, teacher-researcher
journal writing, questionnaire, and mood
inventory were tools for thematic analysis
The short version of the Multidimensional
Anxiety Scale for Children (MASC
-10)
Affirmative feelings of calmness and fun
emerged as major themes
Smith (2010, 2013)
Case Study
Student journal writing, and happiness
scale questionnaires were tools for
thematic analysis
Heightened awareness of body and
emotions;
affirmative feelings of
calmness, enhanced feelings of
mental focus and clarity
The authors found that the Coholic (2011) study provided a rich source of data that endeavored to explore the
processes, purpose and outcomes of a youth-based mindfulness program. Coholic’s deeply caring voice and
commitment to helping children in need shone through her writing. The “qualitative thrust” of the research, as
Coholic (2011, p. 308) describes, was guided by grounded theory. Approximately 50 children and adolescents
aged from eight to 15 years, involved with child protection and/or mental health systems in Canada, voluntarily
took part in a 12-week arts-based mindfulness program, which also incorporated indigenous elements. Children
participated in small groups of four, due to behavior problems, over a two-hour period. At the end of the
program, participants were interviewed about the course experience. Coholic (2011) describes the conundrums
associated with trustworthiness and rigor in qualitative research and addresses the majority of points expressed
by Elliott et al. (1999) in the evolving guidelines on publication of qualitative research studies in psychology
and related fields.
The take home theme from the interviews with the youth was that they felt mindfulness lessons were “fun.
Figure 3 depicts aspects of the program the participants thought were “fun.” “Fun” is a broad term that children
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use to describe something they like doing. In Coholic’s 2011 study, a child expressed that she was able to appre-
ciate the “beauty of her inner being”. Children articulated improvements in:
academic achievement;
expanded range of knowledge in regards to emotions;
the ability to regulate emotions;
paying attention and focus;
self-efficacy, which lead to the ability to stand up to bullies;
relaxation;
empathy and
compassion.
Figure 3: Youth perceptions of engaging in an arts-based mindfulness program.
One point of concern that Coholic (2011) expressed in her work was that children could not always clearly
remember their immediate thoughts and feelings about the lessons. This may be due to the delay between the
lesson and subsequent interview, however, the time lag involved was not reported. Timing is an important aspect
to take into account when planning research in regards to hearing a childs voice. When teaching adolescent and
adult populations the second author, Albrecht, suggests to students that they write their thoughts, feelings, sen-
sations in their body, insights and epiphanies in a journal directly after they finish a meditation session and then
at the end of the program. Albrecht then asks them to re-read their entries and reflect on their comments to arrive
at new insights. This encourages meta-cognition and enables the lived meditation experience to be documented
as close as possible to when it occurred.
Fun
Learning to
use
imagination
Eating
snacks
Learning
more about
myself
Sharing and
expressing
ideas
Engaging in
a variety of
activities
Participation
in
mindfulness
based arts
activities and
games
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Cruchon (2009), using a mixed-method design, investigated the effects of a mindfulness/relaxation and yoga
program with 20 students from her Grade One class in the Montreal area in Canada. The students included 14
boys and six girls ranging from six to seven years of age. Children practiced yoga and mindfulness/relaxation
for 12 thirty-minute sessions (two per week) over a six week period. Thematic analysis was utilized in order to
understand the vocabulary used by the children when expressing their response to the practice in a journal. The
most commonly used affirmative words were “fun”, “enjoy”, “great”, “good” and “happy.” Students’ feelings of
calmness were expressed through vocabulary such as “calm”, “sleepy”, “tired” and “relaxed.” Cruchon (2009, p.
50) concluded that “it would appear that yoga and mindfulness/relaxation has the potential of helping young
children feel more relaxed, less afraid, less tense, less sad and more happy.” A limitation of the study was that
the dual role of mindfulness instructor/classroom teacher may have introduced bias (Cruchon, 2009).
Carelse (2013) researched children’s experiences of learning mindfulness in the United Kingdom. Six children,
aged nine years old from a Year Five conventional elementary school participated in the study. Each child had
been identified as having mild attention issues. Skills to develop attention were taught through mindfulness ex-
periences and students recorded their feelings by completing pictorial and written narratives. Interpretative Phe-
nomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to analyze data. Children used words such as “calm”, “relaxed” and
“happy” to describe their emotions and embodied feelings during the mindfulness practice. The children also
expressed heightened awareness of the senses, especially physical sensations and sounds. Later, students were
able to apply mindfulness practices to help them with concentration. Carelse (2013) found it necessary to amend
her methods during the study and increased the frequency of mindfulness practice from one weekly session over
10 weeks to twice weekly sessions over five weeks.
The last qualitative study to be reviewed was a case study by Smith (2010, 2013). The study involved analysis
of a Buddhist education program conducted in 10 metropolitan government primary or elementary schools in
Melbourne, Australia. The program commenced in 2004 and focused on imparting Buddhist principles and prac-
tices through storytelling, plays, meditation, mindful movement, loving kindness visualisations, connecting with
the body, and observing and understanding the implications of interconnectedness. Using action research meth-
odology, Buddhist teachers from the schools together with Smith, developed and refined the program so it
would be suitable and engaging for all children, irrespective of belief systems. Data was gathered from 2006 un-
til 2007 with a focus of understanding and interpreting teachers, parentsand studentsperceptions in relation to
the spiritual educational initiative. In the current article the authors will concentrate on discussing findings in
relation to the studentsreflections.
From 2004, over a hundred children, each school year, from Year One and Six took part in half hour weekly
lessons. Data was gathered from children in Year Five and Six, across two of the schools that participated in the
program. Students completed a happiness scale, designed by Smith (2010, 2013, p. 96) prior to and after each
session. The happiness scale included three measures of happiness. Faces reflected sad, neutral and happy
feelings. Students then placed themselves on the scale and wrote about their thoughts, feelings and perceptions
in a workbook. Smith (2010, 2013) collected 522 workbook entries over a two year time period and used coding
and thematic analysis to listen to and interpret the children’s voices. According to the results from the scale, ap-
proximately 87% of the entries showed either no, or some positive change. However, scale readings need to be
interpreted together with students’ narrative workbook entries in order to understand the perceptual shifts that
occurred (Smith, 2010, 2013). Smith (2013, p. 102) writes:
When considered in combination even negative scale recordings have indicated active engagement in the
process of cultivating awareness, sustaining effort, and learning about some of the vagaries of ongoing
meditative practices. From a Buddhist practitioner point of view these are necessary learning outcomes.
Smith (2010, 2013) includes in her research results a plethora of the students’ comments, which from the current
authors’ perspective, reveals the inner wisdom of children as they cultivate mindfulness and meditation. For
example, at the end of the school year, Corey shares his thoughts about meditation:
“It felt a bit too long, but when I settled my mind I felt my kindness getting bigger and bigger, it was even
bigger than me.”
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903
Methodology
Thematic analysis is a popular approach used in qualitative psychology research. Thematic analysis is a
foundational qualitative analytic research method. Braun & Clarke (2006, p. 6) write that it is used for: identi-
fying, analysing and reporting patterns (themes) within data. It minimally organizes and describes your data set
in (rich) detail.
Thematic analysis is a relatively new methodology. However, it has historical origins in the older quantitative
tradition of content analysis which dates back to the early twentieth century. Thematic analysis uses many of the
same principles and procedures as content analysis by categorizing frequency of occurrences (Joffe, 2011).
However, thematic analysis adds an experiential and emotional dimension to the material which illuminates in-
tricacies of meaning.
In thematic analysis, the researcher plays an active role in identifying patterns and themes. In the current
research, themes were analysed in the context of the research question, “What are students perspectives of
learning mindfulness practices at school?” Researchers used an essentialist, or realist method “which reports
experiences, meanings and the reality of participants” (Braun & Clarke, 2006, p. 9) to explore student perspectives
of mindfulness. Within the data set, patterned responses constituted a theme and reflected “the most salient
constellations of meanings present in the data” (Joffe, 2011, p. 209).
A comprehensive guide to the six phases of conducting thematic analysis is outlined in Braun & Clarkes pa-
per entitled “Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology” (2006).
Method
Participants
Study participants consisted of 18 students ranging in age from six to seven years, and 20 pupils ranging in
age from nine to 10 years, from a co-educational KindergartenYear 12 independent school located in Auck-
land, New Zealand. Students participated during the second half of 2013. In order to protect the anonymity of
participants, individual data was de-identified by school staff. Therefore, the cultural background and academic
performance of the participants is not known. It is also not known whether students had any prior mindfulness
experiences.
Program
The mindfulness program students took part in was called, “Meditation Capsules: A Mindfulness Program for
Children” developed in Australia by Etty-Leal (2010). The program is presented in a text book together with an
accompanying CD in a familiar lesson-style format that teachers can readily grasp and put in to action (Albrecht
et al., 2012). The book is divided into 10 sessions and sequentially builds awareness of how to implement
mindfulness in the classroom (Albrecht et al., 2012). Etty-Leal (2010) has integrated a range of techniques with
core curriculum subjects to enhance academic performance, compassion and general wellbeing. The book shares
with children and teachers:
Relaxation, Meditation and Self-awareness.
Getting to Know the Body.
Awareness of the Breath.
Understanding the Stress Response.
Words and their Emotional Power.
The Sense of Sight, Smell, Sound, Taste and Touch.
The Sense of Humor.
Observation of Thoughts.
Creativity.
Stillness Meditation.
Meditation Capsules is designed to suit a range of ages from four to 18 years of age. The program and book
caters for teachers that have no experience with meditation, or practicing mindfulness techniques but also is de-
signed to suit individuals with an extensive mind-body wellness background (Albrecht et al., 2012).
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Data Collection and Procedure
The schools Counselor and the Well-Being Director delivered the mindfulness program, with the general
classroom teachers participating in some of the activities. Student journals were recorded throughout the 10-week
mindfulness program in a journal designed by the second author, Albrecht (see Ager, Bucu, Albrecht, & Cohen,
2014) and served as the main point of data collection. All activities were age appropriate and participants had
the option to use text and/or illustrations.
Prior to the commencement of the mindfulness program parental permission for participation in the program
and research was received to collect and analyze the data obtained. Ethics approval was then obtained in Febru-
ary 2014. Journals were de-identified and sent by the schools counselor to Ager. The first author, Ager,
searched for prominent themes voicing pupilsperceptions of mindfulness, and interpreted the data within the
context of her own experience of sharing mindfulness with children in an elementary classroom.
The focal areas of the Mindfulness Journal included:
Illustrating and/or writing feelings and thoughts about the mindfulness session.
Interpreting how others are feeling in pictures.
Drawing representations of body feelings such as stress, happiness, loving kindness, focused attention.
Illustrating and/or writing when mindfulness exercises would be helpful.
Illustrating and/or writing about favorite feelings, places, parts of the mindfulness program.
Thematic analysis is a flexible methodology. It is “not wed to any pre-existing theoretical framework, and so
it can be used within different theoretical frameworks (Braun & Clarke, 2006, p. 9). Therefore, the journals
provided a guiding framework for recording student perspectives and experiences. Figure 4 provides an exam-
ple of a page from the Mindfulness Journal.
Figure 4: Example of Mindfulness Journal page.
In order to elicit natural responses from the participants, students were instructed that there was no right or
wrong answer to the journal questions. Classroom teachers were responsible for giving students time to com-
plete their journals during, or after the lessons.
Data Analysis and Reporting
Thematic analysis involves searching a data set for themes and patterns of meaning. Thematic analysis varies
in its form and therefore needs to be driven by a series of questions (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Data analysis and
reporting in this project was steered by the research question,What are students perspectives of learning
mindfulness practices at school?”
K. Ager et al.
905
Student journal entries were coded and analyzed. The search for meaningful themes was directed by preva-
lence and significance. The number of different students who articulated the theme across the data set measured
prevalence. Themes (patterns) within the data were identified using “theoretical thematic analysis” at a semantic
level. This means that themes were organized by the explicit meaning of the data, and interpreted according to
their significance and their implications in relation to current research and literature (Patton, 1990). The coding of data
was completed manually by writing notes on “post-its” and color coding once repeated patterns formed themes.
The second author, Albrecht, writes that analysis and reporting also generally includes:
demonstrating, if applicable, both convergence and divergence, commonality and nuance, for single partici-
pant cases and then subsequently across cases;
paying attention to the detail; how words are used, how often certain terms are used and repeatedly reading
journal entries and other illustrative material, searching for new layers and deeper levels of meaning;
focusing on individual texts and then taking into account other participants’ views and how they are related
and;
connecting participants’ accounts to relevant literature that complements their perspectives and shared expe-
riences (Albrecht, 2015).
Qualitative Guidelines
Qualitative guidelines that informed the study were based on Braun and Clarke’s (2006) “Using thematic
analysis in psychology” article, and Attride-Stirling’s (2001) article “Thematic networks: an analytic tool for
qualitative research.”
Overview of Findings
Three main interrelated themes were established in the analysis of studentsjournal responses, being.
Theme 1: StudentsPerspective on Their Wellbeing.
Theme 2: StudentsMindful Engagement.
Theme 3: Conflict Resolution.
Within the theme of Students Perspective on Their Wellbeing five sub-themes emerged:
Awareness.
Happiness and Love.
Calmness and Inner Peace.
Stress and Anger Management.
Readiness to Learn and Creative Wellness and Flow.
Within the theme of Students Mindful Engagement three sub-themes emerged:
Heightened Awareness of Self.
Heightened Awareness of Others and Mindful Word Choices.
Heightened Awareness of Environment.
Within the theme of Conflict Resolution two sub-themes emerged. These included an explicit awareness by the
students of the strategies used to solve problems with:
Siblings.
Friendships.
A small number of children initially resisted mindfulness activities, writing things such as, “This is boring,”
however, journal reflections demonstrated that as the program continued, reluctant students gradually became
more engaged with the lessons.
In the current article, the authors discuss the above themes and how they relate to their studentsexperiences
of mindfulness activities in the classroom.
Theme 1: Students’ Perspectives on Their Wellbeing
1.1 Awareness
All participants in the study expressed the view that mindfulness experiences boosted their awareness of their
happiness and their feelings of happiness. Happiness is a component part of wellness. In the wellness conceptual
framework, this could be interpreted as moving towards higher levels of wellness, or wellbeing. Students felt
mindfulness experiences helped them to feel joyful. After the first mindfulness practice, Sophia writes,
“I felt sleepy, relaxed and nice.” Her favorite word was “happy which she repeatedly used to describe how
K. Ager et al.
906
she feels during the activities. While Sam writes: “It felt a bit weird, and calm and happy and very good.”
After session one, Eloise, a Grade Two student, uses illustrations to express her thoughts and feelings by
drawing three pictures of young girls with smiles on their faces and an arrow pointing from the word happy to
the illustrations. Her picture is displayed in Figure 5.
Figure 5: Example of Grade Two student, Eloises perspective
of her wellbeing and her awareness of happy feelings.
1.2 Happiness and Love
The recurring themes of happiness and love were also used to describe how most students felt about them-
selves when they were with their family and friends. To help create awareness of these inner feelings, and as
part of Mindfulness Capsule Five (Etty-Leal, 2010), students were asked to list favorite words and feelings. An
awareness of their own feelings of happiness and love was mostly indicated when writing about family and
friends. Students wrote about feelings when they received a hug, and their desire to express their love through
the words such as saying to family members “I love you.”
Inherent in the happiness theme was the association of happiness with playtime and friendship. When Cinzia
asks someone, “Can you play again with me? Can you be my friend?she writes, “I feel happy.” This awareness
of her inner thoughts and feelings indicates a connection with happiness and her own wellbeing. Cinzia was ex-
pressing mindfulness of happy feelings.
Happy feelings were also often described by students in words, and pictures immediately after a mindfulness
activity such as when walking mindfully, and during mindful eating.
1.3 Calmness and Inner Peace
Following session eight of Mindfulness Capsules, students were asked to write, or draw about their thoughts.
Abdul writes, “I like happy thoughts.”
Many participantsjournals reflected an increased ability to gauge their own need to use mindfulness strate-
gies to regain inner peace. When asked about favorite parts of the mindfulness journey, Matthew writes, “press-
ing on my pause button because it made me calm.” While Cinzia comments, “learning the pause button because
it helps me be calm.”
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907
Students in the study also expressed the view that mindfulness experiences increased their awareness of their
ability to self assess their inner calmness. When focusing his attention on a simple object such as a flower in
Mindfulness Capsule Six (Etty-Leal, 2010), Sebi writes, “When I smelt the flower I felt relaxed and calm.” After
practising walking meditation, Alex uses words such as “calm”, “relaxed”, “floating” and “steady” to describe
her inner calm.
1.4 Stress and Anger Management
The use of mindfulness strategies to manage stress was a common sub-theme of “Students Perspective on
Their Wellbeing”, “Student Engagement” and “Conflict Resolution”. After completing the awareness of the breath
activity in Mindfulness Capsule Three (Etty-Leal, 2010), students remarked that they would use this strategy
before going to bed, at playtime, after school, on the weekends and during a sports game. Eloise in Grade Two
remarks that she thinks breathing would be useful, “when friends are crying”; while Abdul writes that its useful
“when friends are hurt.” Alex’s journal says that he’ll find the awareness of breath exercise helpful “when he is
worried.” Joe writes that hell use the breathing when he is “tired and angry.”
Other studentsreflections show how the mindfulness lessons extended beyond the boundaries of the class-
room. Kiara writes, “I help dad to breathe when he is feeling stressed.” Within the broad theme of Conflict
Resolution another recurring comment from many students was that they would use mindfulness of breathing
when fighting with a sibling and/or when they were angry. The use of the breath to manage stress, and anger is
apparent in many of the major themes in this paper.
1.5 Readiness to Learn/Creative Wellness and Flow
Readiness to learn also emerged as a sub-theme in Students’ Perspectives on Their Wellbeing and within the
sub-theme of “Self” in Students’ Mindful Engagement. Before completing Mindfulness Capsule One (Etty-Leal,
2010), students were asked, “Do you feel like learning this afternoon?” In the journal Troy writes, “I feel tired,
stressed and anxious.” While Jacob comments, “I feel excited for the ski weekend.” After the relaxation session,
Troy remarks, I feel happy to learn” and Jacob says, “I feel I’m ready to learn.” Another student writes, “I feel
calm and curious.” Subsequent journal entries indicated that the students were fully engaged and open to pursuing
the novel activities, signifying high levels of creative wellness and flow. Eloise writes a caption above her picture,
I was happy.” Sophie’s illustration in Figure 6 depicts a smiling, joyful child who carefully chose colors, and
details such as red bows on her shoes, to depict her happy, energetic feelings woven into a well-designed back-
drop. Attention to such details suggests that Sophie was experiencing flow when she was drawing.
Figure 6: Example of Grade Two student, Sophies creative
flow while drawing her feelings about Mindfulness.
Theme 2: StudentsMindful Engagement
Most students appeared to readily engage with the activities. Their favorite experiences were:
mindful eating;
mindful breathing;
mindful walking.
K. Ager et al.
908
2.1 Heightened Awareness of Self
Key areas of student growth appear to be a greater awareness of ones self and others and of the surrounding
environment. Kiara comments, “I love mindfulness because I liked the chocolate. It helped me to do slow eating.
I eat slower now.” The majority of children expressed through text and illustrations that they liked the mindful
eating experience the most. The heightened awareness of self was expressed adeptly by Matthew when reflect-
ing on Mindfulness Capsule 10 in Figure 7.
Figure 7: Matthews Grade Two perspective about mindful-
ness and inner connection.
2.2 Heightened Awareness of Others and Mindful Words
A heightened awareness of other people’s feelings was apparent in Mindfulness Capsule Five (Etty-Leal,
2010), where students engaged in writing favorite words or expressions. These included “happy, good job, I love
you and you can do it.” Mindfulness of others and of word choice emerged as a sub-theme in journals. The stu-
dents wrote lists of phrases they could use to check in with each other. Matthews list includes, “Are you okay?”
“I am sorry”, and “Hello”. Kiara writes, “Do you want to play with me?” “Are you okay?” Cinzia says, “You
are nice” and Sam remarks, “You can play with me.” While Steve’s illustration in Figure 8 depicts mindfulness
of word choice and peer encouragement.
Figure 8: Example of mindfulness of words and peer encou-
ragement by Steve in Grade Two.
K. Ager et al.
909
2.3 Heightened Awareness of the Environment
One of the stronger sub-themes of Students’ Mindful Engagement was a greater awareness of the children
about their environment. For example, Ahmed a Grade Two student commented, “If I am not allowed to play on
my play station I feel angry so I press my pause button.”
The first author, Ager, a researcher and veteran teacher of 26 years, has been integrating mindfulness activi-
ties into her daily class routine for 18 months and she has observed that an awareness of the learning environ-
ment has emerged in her students. In Ager’s mindful classroom, Francis (Grade Four) comments, “There are no
scares in here.” Another writes, “Its a place where you are free to be wherever you want.” Shayla, another stu-
dent in Ager’s Grade Four class depicts this awareness in the illustration shown in Figure 9. The words “a place
where you belong” are inscribed in the heart of the tree trunk in between the word “peacewhich is on each side
of the trunk. In describing her engagement with Agers mindful classroom, she defines the learning environment
as a “safe place.”
Figure 9: Shaylas Grade Four perspective of mindfulness and a
mindful classroom.
Theme 3: Conflict Resolution
Within the theme of Conflict Resolution two sub-themes emerged. These included an explicit awareness by the
students of the strategies used to solve problems with:
Siblings;
Friends.
3.1 Conflict Resolution with Siblings and Friends
An explicit awareness of the mindfulness strategies such as breathing, using the pause button, saying “are you
okay?and “you can be my friend” were apparent in the majority of student journals. When reflecting on Mind-
fulness Capsule Three and the awareness of the breath exercise students answered the following question, “Are
there any times when you think it would be helpful for you, your friends or family to practice the awareness of
the breath exercise? Fernando, a Grade Five student wrote, “Yes, because I mostly get in a fight with my
brother and sister.” Eloise in Grade Two wrote that she would use her breathing “at playtime and when your
K. Ager et al.
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friends are crying.” Many student responses also included using self-regulating strategies to resolve conflicts
during sport, and when they felt tired or angry. This correlates with sub theme 1.4 Stress and Anger Manage-
ment.
Discussion
The discussion focuses on the outcomes of the research question, “What are students perspective of learning
mindfulness practices at school?”
Findings from the study suggest that students perceived that the 10 week program enhanced their awareness
and knowledge of wellness concepts and enabled them to develop strategies to independently and positively
influence their own wellbeing. For example, a number of children referred to using the “pause button” and
breathing to self-regulate. This heightened state of awareness seemed to naturally extend beyond the “self” and
expanded to caring and a deeper connection for the wellbeing of friends and family and their environment.
This was apparent in the studentsperspectives on self-regulation and the use of mindfulness strategies to help
them with conflict resolution and in the careful choice of words with friends such as Matthew’s remarks, “Are
you okay?” “I am sorry”, and “Hello” and Kiara’s and others empathetic questioning such as “Do you want to
play with me?” As seen in Figure 9, Shayla’s illustration of her mindfulness tree depicts her perspective of a
mindful classroom and reflects how this influences student happiness and confidence. Shayla’s descriptors
include joy, happy, hopeful (emotional wellness); sad, understanding, confident (social wellness); kindness,
thoughtful, breathing, harmony (spiritual wellness); a place where you belong, love, life, world (environmental
wellness). These are elements commonly associated with wellness characteristics that combine to form wellbe-
ing (Albrecht, 2014).
Student journals indicated that mindfulness activities may enable them to connect with each wellness dimen-
sion in a more meaningful way, encourage deep reflection and foster self-trust, responsibility and love. Mindful
experiences may also help to nurture trust with others. Connecting with “self” through mindful breathing, eating
and walking may also enable students to calm their “whole self.Students appeared to value this and expressed
a desire to share this awareness to help family and friends feel calmer and less stressed. This was apparent in
Kiara’s comment, “I help dad to breathe when he is feeling stressed.”
This consciousness seems to enable students to feel more deeply connected to self, others and their environ-
ment and may be due to a heightened state of awareness of body, mind and emotions. This correlates with the
outcomes of children’s experiences of mindfulness in research by Carelse (2013), Coholic (2011), Cruchon
(2009) and Smith (2010, 2013). Cruchon (2009, p. 50) notes that mindfulness “has the potential to help young
children feel more relaxed, less afraid, less tense, less sad and more happy.” This aligns with Carelse’s (2013, p.
101) research where “all the participants mentioned calmness, relaxation, happiness or peacefulness in their ex-
periences of mindfulness.” It also supports the notion of connection.
“Current literature reveals additional terms corresponding and interrelating to the concept of wellness, such as
wellbeing, life satisfaction, quality of life, human development, flourishing, and happiness ... High levels of
wellness involve progress toward a higher level of functioning, an optimistic view of the future and ones poten-
tial” (Larson, 1999, p. 129), and this involves the “integration of the total individualbody, mind and spiritin
the functioning process” (Neilson, 1988, p. 4).
Travis and Callander (2009, p. 8) suggest that to understand the underlying causes of disease we must recognize
the levels of disconnection around us. They state “full-spectrum wellness is a multidimensional approach to health
and wellbeing that extends from the individual to the collective and ultimately planet itself” (Travis & Callander,
2009, p.7-8). It is about the connections between our state of wellbeing.” Student reflections on mindfulness
practices indicate an increasing understanding of the connection between emotions, state of mind, the surrounding
environment and sense of wellbeing. Eloise’s drawing (see Figure 5) of three girls with smiles on their faces
and an arrow pointing from the word happy to the pictures illustrates this.
Mindfulness Practices Develop Awareness of Wellbeing and Connection
Shapiro & Carlson (2009) note that enhanced wellbeing moves along a continuum from concerns about self to
an expanded worldview of how individual decisions can benefit others. A greater awareness, understanding and
connection to one’s self may lead to enhanced student wellbeing and relationships.
Travis (personal communication, October 2013) writes that “it’s not just connection, but it’s the kind of con-
K. Ager et al.
911
nection” that is important. Findings of this study suggest that the practice may be more impactful and likely to
influence choices when mindful experiences connect to the emotions of the students and enhance feelings. Ac-
cording to Cruchon (2009) and Smith (2010, 2013) research participants expressed affirmative feelings as an
outcome of the children’s experiences of mindfulness.
Travis & Ryan (2004) suggest that self-trust, love and learning are essential principles of wellness. Francis, a
student in Ms. Ager’s mindful classroom comments, “There are no scares in here.” While a kindergartener writes,
“Its a place where you are free to be wherever you want.”
Mindfulness Experiences Enable Awareness of Attentional Processes
Another key area of student growth appears to be a greater awareness of attentional processes, of ones self
and others and of the surrounding environment. After the relaxation session, Troy remarks,I feel happy to learn”
and Jacob says, “I feel Im ready to learn.” Another student writes, “I feel calm and curious.” The first author,
Ager, also notes that following mindful breathing, most students in her class seemed better able to manage dis-
tractions, sustain their attention and demonstrated an awareness of the need to stay on task, particularly during
assessments. This correlated to increased reading success in Ager’s class, with some students advancing five
reading levels in one academic year. This may be attributed to learners being more meta cognitively aware. This
supports the findings of Gioia, Isquith, Guy & Kenworthy (2000) whose study determined that awareness of
self-regulation strategies were of particular importance in the process of learning reading and writing skills.
High Level Wellness, Mindfulness and the Whole Child
Dunn (1961, p. 789) wrote, “High level wellness cannot be achieved in fragments, ignoring the unity of the whole.”
Best practice teaching and learning cannot be achieved in fragments, ignoring the unity of the whole childthe
mind, body and emotionswhich are essential components of optimal learning. From the studentsperspective,
mindfulness experiences seem to unify and bridge the gap between these three dimensions and highlight the
need for a holistic outlook when teaching mindfulness.
Mindfulness, Self-Realization and Wellness
One of the strengths of the study was the ability to analyze the unique responses to mindfulness from the stu-
dentsperspective. Thematic analysis, a popular approach used in qualitative psychology research, enabled the
identification of student patterns, but also allowed for authentic personal perspectives.
The option to draw, or write responses cultivated genuine, intuitive student insights, and added to the depth of
their perspectives. The option to draw enabled students who did not feel confident about their writing skills to
have a forum to express themselves, and to make sense of how they were feeling.
The interconnectedness between the three main themes of Student Wellbeing, Engagement and Conflict
Resolution is apparent through the studentssimilar perspectives on mindfulness experiences. Examples of
similar perspectives in the findings were apparent in Theme 1: StudentsPerspectives on Their Wellbeing. The
use of descriptors such as happy, calm, relaxed, joyful, were views shared by the majority of children in the
study. Student self-realizations were apparent in sub-theme 1.4 Stress and Anger Management, where students
found the use of the breath helpful for anxiety and anger. In Theme 2: Students’ Mindful Engagement,
self-realizations were evident as learners described their heightened sense of self. Grade Two student Matthew
writes “mindfulness makes you calm and honest” (see Figure 7).
Further examples of self-realization in the research subjects was apparent in the children’s awareness of the
importance of using mindful words (sub-theme 2.2), and in Theme 3: Conflict Resolution. Fernando, a Grade
Five student, and Eloise, in Grade Two, each journaling about using mindfulness practices to self-regulate in
times of conflict, or when they are upset.
Limitations
There were multiple blank pages left in journals in one class, which may indicate that the support of the
homeroom teacher is desirable during journal reflections.
Another limitation of the study was the difficulty of measuring participantsemotions. For example, if their
written journal response said they were “happy” after a mindfulness experience, how happy were they and how
K. Ager et al.
912
long did this state last?
Recommendations
Findings indicate that there is value in the integration of mindfulness practice across student populations
within the elementary school, and early learning settings. It may be important to start the program with teachers
who already have an established mind body wellness, or mindfulness practice, or who are interested in partici-
pating in the program. Mindfulness practice also needs to include classroom teachers-not just counselors.
Effective implementation of mindfulness practice should have flexibility and enable teachers and students to
trust their intuition and to go with the flow. Further research is recommended to assess the affects on students of
an ongoing application of mindful awareness, intention and presence techniques, and how mindfulness practices
help to nourish and sustain student wellbeing.
It is suggested that elementary student wellbeing be gauged on a regular and timely basis. Simple smiley face
self-appraisal rubrics could help to capture the students voice, and measure student thoughts and feelings im-
mediately after mindfulness activities; and student wellness throughout the academic year. Such self-evaluations
may also serve as a personal wellbeing index for the children and are recommended for further research. Addi-
tional studies on how to measure the long-term benefits of mindfulness on student wellness are also recom-
mended.
Conclusion
Mindfulness benefits the whole childthe mind, body and emotions and research suggests that mindfulness
can affect academic performance, executive functioning, and feelings of connectedness with self, others and the
environment. Mindfulness programs such as “Meditation Capsules” can positively impact the wellbeing of stu-
dent populations in schools. The Meditation Capsules program has been shown to reduce stress, support the de-
velopment of core character traits such as empathy and awareness of self, others, and the environment, and im-
prove the happiness and wellbeing of students. It may also help to move individuals towards higher levels of
wellness, to focus the attention of both the mind and body, and to assist with conflict resolution.
Authors’ Information
Karen Ager: Cert. Bus, BEd, MWell.
Nicole Albrecht: BEc, BA, BEd (LOTE), MWell, Doctoral Researcher (Education).
Professor Marc Cohen: MBBS (Hons), PhD (TCM), PhD (Elec Eng), BMedSc (Hons), FAMAC, FICAE.
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... Limited research has considered children's perspectives of classroom-based mindfulness interventions (e.g., Ager et al., 2015, Campion & Rocco, 2009, Cruchon, 2009, Dariotis et al., 2017, Sapthiang et al., 2019, Thomas & Atkinson, 2017. For instance, Thomas and Atkinson (2017) investigated student and teacher perceptions of a classroom-based mindfulness program (Paws.b) that was implemented independently by the school and administered via a trained mindfulness teacher. ...
... The teacher-student relationships in the classroom were also reported to benefit from Paws.b. Importantly, the benefits of mindfulness training were reported to extend from the classroom to the students' home life (Thomas & Atkinson, 2017). Ager et al., 2015 qualitative study focused solely on student perspectives of a mindfulness program that was delivered by the school counselor and well-being director. Eighteen 6and-7-year-old and twenty 9-and-10-year-old students completed a 10-week mindfulness program called Meditation Capsules and kept a mindfulness journal to document their perceptions of the program. ...
... The students wrote of increased awareness of themselves, others and the environment, and expressed that mindfulness would be effective to deal with conflicts with siblings and friends. Altogether, students in this study perceived mindfulness to yield holistic benefits to their mind, body, and emotions (Ager et al., 2015). ...
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In recent years, mindfulness-based practices in grade schools have been associated with students’ improved cognitive skills and general classroom behavior. In the majority of studies, however, only teacher and parent feedback are elicited, omitting a considerably significant voice – that of the students. Our study aims to fill this gap by exploring student opinions and perceptions regarding the implementation of a classroom-based mindfulness program. Elementary school students (N = 51) took part in teacher-facilitated mindfulness activities which were incorporated into their daily classroom routines. Over the course of the 8-week intervention period, students participated in focus groups about their perceptions of the program. Through qualitative content analysis, two major findings emerged from the focus group data: student opinions about the mindfulness program varied substantially and the mindfulness activities were not always liked and enjoyed. Critically, if students do not enjoy classroom-based mindfulness programs, they may be less motivated to engage in mindful activities and in turn may not experience the benefits that mindfulness has to offer. To maximize student engagement with mindfulness while addressing their concerns, the following recommendations are made: A balance between the entertaining and educational aspects of the program, flexible program delivery, and encouraging students to pursue mindful living outside of the classroom. This research is important to educational and clinical practitioners as student insight will benefit the development and modification of classroom-based mindfulness programs to ensure that students are better able to engage with and benefit from these programs.
... Providing a variety of exercises allowed students to find strategies that they found meaningful and effective. Moreover, reflective practices differ in their perceived effects and benefits (Ager, Albrecht, & Cohen, 2015). For example, body scans, which influence sympathetic and parasympathetic neural activity, may be associated with heightened awareness of physical sensations (Dreeben, Mamberg, & Salmon, 2013) while journaling may evoke greater awareness of emotions (Ager et al., 2015). ...
... Moreover, reflective practices differ in their perceived effects and benefits (Ager, Albrecht, & Cohen, 2015). For example, body scans, which influence sympathetic and parasympathetic neural activity, may be associated with heightened awareness of physical sensations (Dreeben, Mamberg, & Salmon, 2013) while journaling may evoke greater awareness of emotions (Ager et al., 2015). Hence, providing a variety of experiences may promote diverse types of reflective practices. ...
Early childhood education is a demanding profession, and teachers’ stress is inversely associated with the quality of their interactions with young children. In order to provide stress management tools to preservice teachers prior to entry into the field, there has been growing interest in the use of reflective practices as part of higher education pedagogy. There is initial evidence that reflective practices have the potential to positively influence preservice teachers’ well-being and teaching practice. Instructors at two universities incorporated the use of reflective practices, including journaling, in-class discussions, and mindfulness, into their early childhood courses. Students from these courses were invited to participate in focus groups regarding their experiences with the use of reflective practices as part of their course’s pedagogical approach; 21 students participated (n for Course 1 = 13, n for Course 2 = 8). Using constant comparative analysis, two primary themes emerged: 1) participants described important aspects of the process and structure of using reflective practices as part of their course, and 2) participants reported how reflective practices supported their social-emotional understanding and well-being. Implications for using reflective practices, including rich descriptions, examples, and practice suggestions, as part of early childhood higher education pedagogy are discussed.
... Mindfulness programs draw on health and wellness and focus on an awareness of the mind, the body, and emotions to foster the development of the whole individual (Ager et al., 2015). Mindfulness is often considered a way of being that includes prescribed characteristics, activities, and programs. ...
... It is also considered a reflective practice guided by ancient meditation techniques rooted in various religious traditions that provide coping mechanisms for mental and emotional health problems (Albrecht et al., 2012). In school settings, it is used at an individual level in place of detention or isolation from others or at the classroom level with students engaging in breathing exercises, reflective walks, yoga, or thought activities (Ager et al., 2015;Burnett, 2011;Sapthiang et al., 2019). ...
Technical Report
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Prior research indicates that school safety approaches emphasizing the presence of school resource officers (SROs) on campus are not very effective in making schools safer and are often associated with negative outcomes, including lower academic performance and higher levels of school violence, dropout rates, antisocial behavior, and interactions with the criminal justice system. Such approaches disproportionately affect historically marginalized students (racially and ethnically minoritized students, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students, and students of low socioeconomic status). In this context, some school districts are exploring school safety alternatives to SROs. For this study, we undertook a comprehensive review of those alternatives and the recent research literature on their impacts, particularly on school safety and students' wellbeing, paying special attention to meta-analyses and studies that used randomized controlled trials. We identified 17 promising programs and organized them in four approaches (punitive, social psychological, community-based, and self-governance) and three levels of intervention (universal, intensive, and targeted). While not entirely comprehensive, this review provides school leaders, researchers, and community members with research findings on 17 promising school safety alternatives to promote a healthy and equitable school climate, reduce violence and trauma, and maintain a safe learning environment for all students.
... Studies involving teaching mindfulness to young people have shown improvements across mental health variables such as self-esteem, anxiety and depression, rumination, negative coping, intrusive thoughts, and co-occurring post-traumatic stress and substance use disorder (Fortuna et al., 2018;Shomaker et al., 2017;Siblinga et al., 2013;Tan & Martin, 2016;Zoogman et al., 2014). There is also growing evidence demonstrating the positive impact mindfulness can have for improving young people's levels of anxiety, depression, stress, self-awareness and emotional stability (Ager et al., 2015;Biegel et al., 2009;Huppert & Johnson, 2010;Lau & Hue, 2011;Wall, 2005). Furthermore, studies have shown that mindfulness can enhance young people's capacity for resilience (i.e. the ability to overcome negative life events; Prince-Embury, 2006) and serve as a protective factor against poor mental health (Bluth et al., 2015;Galla, 2016;Quach et al., 2016;Salmoirago-Blotcher et al., 2018;Schonert-Reichl & Lawlor, 2010;Shapiro et al., 2008). ...
... This is consistent with the wider evidence base demonstrating the positive impact of MBIs on school student's levels of emotional resiliency, emotional stability, wellbeing and stress (e.g. Ager et al., 2015;Biegel et al., 2009;Galla, 2016;Shapiro et al., 2008). ...
Article
Mindfulness has recently shown promise in mental illness treatment and preventative contexts with school-aged young people. However, there is a shortage of studies investigating the effects of school-based mindfulness interventions on young people of a pre-adolescent and early-adolescent age. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of a regional multi-site school-based mindfulness programme on wellbeing and resiliency in UK school children aged 9–12 years old. A total of 1,138 children who received mindfulness training completed the Resiliency Scale for Children and Adolescents and the Stirling Children’s Wellbeing Scale pre- and post-intervention. Results showed significant improvements following intervention delivery in positive emotional state, positive outlook, and resiliency, with resiliency effects maintained at a six-month follow-up assessment. Findings indicate that mindfulness delivered by school teachers can improve wellbeing and resiliency in children and young people.
... Children's spiritual development is increasingly being advanced as an important aspect of their well-being. Malviya (2011), for example, claims that "an awareness of the important role of spirituality is growing within the education system…students are seeking for personal 1 Abbot identity to give meaning to their lives in the fast-paced world of the 21st century" (p. 52). ...
... Research studies have indicated that mindfulness practice has: helped to reduce teachers' stress levels, depression and anxiety; assisted behaviour management strategies and improved self-esteem (Gold et al., 2010); improved optimism, social competence, self-concept, and emotional resilience (Schonert-Reichl, Kimberly, & Lawlor, 2010); and developed inhibitory control (Oberle, Schonert-Reichl, Kimberly, Lawlor, & Thomson, 2012). Similarly, other research studies have shown that mindfulness practice has: benefited the whole child (i.e., the mind, body, and emotions); improved academic performance, executive functioning, and feelings of connectedness with self and others; improved happiness (Ager et al., 2015); reduced reactivity; increased self-care, self-awareness, and a sense of connection with nature (Wall, 2005); improved behavioural regulation and metacognition (Flook et al., 2010); reduced levels of stress; and facilitated self-calming (Wisner, 2014). The practice of mindfulness has also been found to reduce depressive symptoms (Lau & Hue, 2011) and lower internalising and externalising behaviours (Lee, Semple, Rosa, & Miller, 2008). ...
... Most initiatives are executed at the classroom level and are led by schoolteachers who are inspired to incorporate mindfulness within education training. The Meditation Capsules model (Etty-Leal, 2010) integrates a range of meditation-based themes and techniques, designed to enhance wellbeing, compassion, and general academic performance (Ager, Albrecht, & Cohen, 2015). Topics include mindfulness and self-awareness, understanding stress, body and breath awareness, observation of thoughts, mindfulness and the senses, communication dynamics, humour, creativity, and stillness. ...
Chapter
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The collective empirical and published data demonstrate that mindfulness in education can be framed and implemented in a variety of ways, applied towards various aims, deliver a multitude of potential outcomes, and support the betterment of both students and teachers. Embedded in these many approaches are assumptions about the goals of education, the role of mindfulness-based pedagogies in it, how mindfulness should be taught, who should deliver it, and how to evaluate outcomes. Mindfulness in education is in congruence with many principles and visions of positive psychology. This chapter presents an overview of mindfulness in education around the world and summarizes the knowledge accumulated from various perspectives and practices worldwide. The chapter centres mostly on the learners’ domain (school-age children, 6–18 years old), with reference to the role of educators. It describes the evolution of mindfulness in education and its role within a holistic and integrative future education paradigm. Relevant and conceivable relationship with positive education is discussed.
... The wellbeing of an individual has been argued by the World Health Organisation (WHO, 2014) to encompass an individual's ability to cope with normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and contribute to the community. Whilst there is no consensus around a single definition of wellbeing, it can include key psychological dimensions, such as the presence of a positive emotional state and positive outlook (Liddle and Carter, 2015), and the ability to make decisions and take responsibility in achieving a fulfilled life (Ager et al., 2015;Roscoe, 2009). Research on wellbeing of international students has largely focused on negative psychological constructs, such as stress and depression. ...
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Growth in the international school sector continues, with significant expansion of the sector in Asia. Whilst substantial research has been conducted on the adjustment experience of tertiary-aged students, limited research attention has been given to school-aged students in international schools. The environment, conditions and challenges experienced by school-aged international students can differ considerably from those of tertiary-aged international students. This can be heightened during early-adolescence with adjustment from school mobility linked to many negative developmental outcomes. The present study investigates wellbeing, engagement and resilience of 178 early-adolescent international school students (aged 10-14) from an international school in Singapore that offers the International Baccalaureate Diploma and the national curriculum of England. Results reported a positive significant association between wellbeing, engagement and resilience constructs. The study also identified demographic and mobility characteristics that were associated with lower levels of wellbeing, behavioural engagement and resilience. Findings of the study highlight a potential cohort of early-adolescent international students who could benefit from additional support.
... Some research has been published regarding the effects of the use of mindfulness skills in the classroom on both teachers and students (Ager, Albrecht, & Cohen, 2015;Jennings, 2015;Jennings et al., 2017;Parker, Kupersmidt, Mathis, Scull, & Sims, 2014). ...
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As educator attrition continues to plague public education in the United States, attention turns to teacher burnout as a major component of the problem. Statistics suggest that up to half of new teachers will quit the profession or leave their district within the first five years of their careers. In either case, public schools and students continue to experience negative outcomes associated with ongoing teacher turnover. The burden of the problem in Eastern Kentucky is significant, though little is published regarding the burnout experiences of Eastern Kentucky teachers. Some published research findings suggest that teacher mindfulness practice may be associated with reduced risk of burnout, which could ultimately help retain teachers. This study evaluated the relationship between teacher mindfulness and burnout with a focus on identifying factors that reduce the risk of burnout. Findings from the study indicate that the construct Intrapersonal Mindfulness can predict the level of burnout experienced by teachers in the study population. Further, Odds Ratio and Relative Risk calculations suggest that those with elevated Intrapersonal Mindfulness have reduced risk of “average” or “high” burnout and increased risk of “low” burnout. Consistent with published literature, the results also suggest that Eastern Kentucky teachers experience significantly higher levels of burnout than those in other “helping” professions. Findings from this study can be used to inform intervention studies designed to reduce the burden of burnout on teachers, districts, and students.
... Internationally, mindfulness programmes have been recommended as one way to address increasing concerns about student mental-health and wellbeing as part of primary approaches to suicide prevention (Biegel et al. 2009;Joyce et al. 2010). In recent years, mindfulness programmes have been examined in New Zealand schools and found to be effective for supporting student wellbeing (Ager, Albrecht, and Cohen 2015;Rix and Bernay 2014;Saint Kentigern Independent Presbyterian Education 2014) and may have the potential to strengthen youth resilience and reduce suicide rates. ...
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School-based mindfulness programmes promote student wellbeing and positive behaviour as well as the development of key life skills including self-regulation and stress management. Teacher buy-in has been raised as a critical factor for the successful implementation of mindfulness programmes in schools. This paper reports on a mixed-methods study which gathered data about teachers’ knowledge, beliefs and perspectives about mindfulness in New Zealand primary schools. Findings showed that teachers viewed mindfulness classroom programmes favourably and recognised the connection between the skills developed from mindfulness practice and behaviours valued in the classroom. Furthermore, teachers indicated the classroom teacher should be responsible for implementing such a programme and that mindfulness could be incorporated into daily practice at school.
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Interest in applications of mindfulness-based approaches with adults has grown rapidly in recent times, and there is an expanding research base that suggests these are efficacious approaches to promoting psychological health and well-being. Interest has spread to applications of mindfulness-based approaches with children and adolescents, yet the research is still in its infancy. I aim to provide a preliminary review of the current research base of mindfulness-based approaches with children and adolescents, focusing on MBSR/MBCT models, which place the regular practice of mindfulness meditation at the core of the intervention. Overall, the current research base provides support for the feasibility of mindfulness-based interventions with children and adolescents, however there is no generalized empirical evidence of the efficacy of these interventions. For the field to advance, I suggest that research needs to shift away from feasibility studies towards large, well-designed studies with robust methodologies, and adopt standardized formats for interventions, allowing for replication and comparison studies, to develop a firm research evidence base. KeywordsMindfulness meditation-Children-Adolescents-Families-Schools
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Mindfulness programs are being used with increased frequency in schools, hospitals, clinics and community settings around the world. Research in school populations has predominately focused on assessing how the practice impacts students, using outcomes-based study designs. In the current study the author explored how experienced mindfulness instructors made sense of teaching children mindfulness, with a focus on exploring, understanding and interpreting the teacher's experiences. The methodology of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was employed to interview eight teachers teaching mindfulness with children from the United States and Australia. A number of themes emerged from the interviews; one being that spirituality plays an integral role in a teacher’s mindfulness practice. Implications for future research, practice and policy are discussed.
Chapter
The fields of medicine and health care continue to demonstrate the benefits of mindfulness-based practice for stress reduction and well-being. Research is beginning to elucidate the benefits of mindfulness training with human service professionals, as well as the impact with children and youth. This qualitative action research study uses a grounded theory approach to help uncover the value of mindfulness training as an elective course for teachers-in-training. Two years being engaged in the iterative process of teaching, interviewing teacher candidates, and program development brought forth five main themes: (1) Reflective Practice, (2) Teacher Identity, (3) Social and Emotional Competence and Well-being on Practicum, (4) Learning to Fail—Learning to Teach, and (5) Engagement in Teacher Education. Learning to be present can be viewed as a novel curriculum within Teacher Education for developing disposition, pedagogical skills, and wisdom for the classroom.
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Empowering students to act in an environmentally responsible manner is being increasingly touted as a central goal of formal environmental education. Acting in a responsible manner requires the development of environmental knowledge as well as positive attitudes and values towards the environment along with other attributes. While some guidance about how to plan and teach environmental education is available in curriculum and policy documents, teachers are often either unfamiliar with such documents and/or unaware of the theories and pedagogy of environmental education (Cutter-Mackenzie & Smith, 2003; Eames, Cowie, & Bolstad, 2008). This paper offers a definition of environmentally responsible behaviour and identifies the role that knowledge could play when environmentally responsible action is taken by students that could be useful for teachers. Three different lenses are used to examine the knowledge developed by 11-12 year old students and their subsequent actions during engagement in an environmental education programme (n=22). The lenses consist of a cluster of types of knowledge developed by Jensen (2002), a framework for analysing understandings of sustainability and the type of actions taken (Jensen & Schnack, 1997; Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002). The results suggest that these students developed different types of knowledge that informed the actions taken and that their actions can be categorised as action competence. It is also suggested that these types of knowledge need to be taught explicitly. A three part model is then proposed that could assist students to learn about the nature of action, enabling them to work towards potential solutions for complex environmental issues.