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Mindfulness, Education, and the Sustainable Development Goals



In this chapter, we critically assess the connection between mindfulness, education, and ESD. The aim is to explore the potential of mindfulness as an educational innovation in the context of the SDGs, in particular SDG 4. After providing some background to the philosophy and practice of mindfulness (section “Mindfulness”), we systematically analyze and present its linkages with education in general (section “Mindfulness and Education”) and, subsequently, with education for sustainability in particular (section “Mindfulness in Education for Sustainable Development”). In this context, two highly relevant fields of application in ESD are discussed in greater depth: climate change and resilience (section “Field of Application: Education for Sustainable Climate Change Mitigation, Adaptation, and Resilience”) and consumption (section “Field of Application: Education for Sustainable Consumption”). We conclude with some critical perspectives and possible ways forward (section “Critical Reflections and Ways Forward”).
Authors‘ post print version
Published as:
Frank, P., Fischer, D., & Wamsler, C. (2019). Mindfulness, Education, and the Sustainable Development
Goals. In W. Leal Filho, A. M. Azul, L. Brandli, P. G. Özuyar, & T. Wall (Eds.), Encyclopedia of the UN
Sustainable Development Goals. Quality Education (Vol. 10, pp. 1–11). Cham: Springer.
DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-69902-8_105-1
Mindfulness, Education, and the Sustainable Development Goals
Mindfulness, Education, and the Sustainable Development Goals
Pascal Frank1 *, Daniel Fischer1 2, Christine Wamsler4
1 Faculty of Sustainability, Working Group Sustainable Consumption & Sustainability Communication, Institute for
Environmental and Sustainability Communication, Leuphana University of Lueneburg, Lueneburg, Germany
2 School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA
3 Lund University, Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS), Lund, Sweden
* corresponding author (
Education plays a dual role in sustainable development: it is both a means and an end. Since the
sustainable development discourse began, calls have been made for it to be used (as a means) to
achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs). Indeed, its potential to both raise awareness of
problems and to promote the skills, capacities, and motivation needed to address these problems
makes it an obvious choice and approach to address any SDG (Rieckmann et al. 2017; Wamsler
et al. 2012). As an end, education is classically seen as a process that reveals the potential and
talents of human beings in the pursuit of a good life and for the betterment of the common good
(Klafki 2000). Ensuring that human beings have the opportunity to embark on this journey can
be considered as a SDG in its own right (Foster 2001).
Both ambitions are reflected in the United Nation’s SDG 4. A key target is here the provision of
learning environments that are safe, non-violent, and effective (Target 4.A). Others are the need
to substantially increase the number of young people and adults in education and training (Target
4.4) and the bold goal to ensure that all learners are capable of contributing to sustainable
development (Target 4.7). Delivering these SDGs (education as a means), and ensuring that all
human beings can adequately educate themselves (education as an end), requires teaching and
learning environments that are based on ethical principles (e.g., non-violence, equity, respect).
Furthermore, they should enhance the quality of learning processes for diverse groups of learners
and provide safe spaces to critique development trajectories and their sustainability impacts.
In the search for new pedagogies and innovative approaches to educational practice, mindfulness
has gained significant attention in recent decades (Schonert-Reichl and Roeser 2016). It is
gaining popularity as an innovative approach to support learning processes in a number of
different ways. Most recently, it has also caught the interest of practitioners, researchers, and
policymakers in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).
In this chapter, we critically assess the connection between mindfulness, education, and ESD.
The aim is to explore the potential of mindfulness as an educational innovation in the context of
the SDGs, in particular SDG 4. After providing some background to the philosophy and practice
of mindfulness (section “Mindfulness”), we systematically analyze and present its linkages with
education in general (section “Mindfulness and Education”) and, subsequently, with education
for sustainability in particular (section “Mindfulness in Education for Sustainable
Development”). In this context, two highly relevant fields of application in ESD are discussed in
greater depth: climate change and resilience (section “Field of Application: Education for
Sustainable Climate Change Mitigation, Adaptation, and Resilience”) and consumption (section
Mindfulness, Education, and the Sustainable Development Goals
“Field of Application: Education for Sustainable Consumption”). We conclude with some critical
perspectives and possible ways forward (section “Critical Reflections and Ways Forward”).
The concept of mindfulness is rooted in Buddhist psychology and was introduced into Western
science around 40 years ago. It originates from the Pali term sati and its Sanskrit counterpart
smrti, literally meaning memory, recognition, and consciousness (Pali Text Society 2012). Its
role within Buddhism relates to Buddha’s teachings, which are based on the Four Noble Truths,
namely, (1) the observation of suffering, (2) the identification of its sources, (3) the realization
that suffering can be overcome, and (4) the understanding that there is a path to achieve the latter
(Digha Nikaya 1998). The path to overcoming suffering is called the Eightfold Path, whose
seventh element is samma sati or right mindfulness (Bodhi 2013). The exact meaning of right
mindfulness is controversial, especially since academic interest in the topic has increased at the
beginning of the twenty-first century (Williams and Kabat-Zinn 2013).
Although current mindfulness research is characterized by conceptual ambiguity (van Dam et al.
2018), in Western culture and science, mindfulness is most commonly defined as intentional,
nonjudgmental attentiveness to the present moment (Kabat-Zinn 1990). It is seen as an inherent
quality of human consciousness that is accessible to – and empirically assessable in –
individuals, independent of their religious or spiritual beliefs (Baer 2003). This conceptualization
forms the operational foundation for the vast majority of mindfulness research, including in
relation to education (Bergomi et al. 2013; Grossman 2015, 2019). Since its introduction into
Western science, an extensive body of research has linked it to established theories of attention,
awareness, emotional intelligence, and other cognitive-emotional functions (Brown et al. 2007;
Carroll 2016; Goleman 2011). In addition, various theories and methods have been developed to
assess it as a temporary state (e.g., Lau et al. 2006); an enduring trait, in terms of one’s
predisposition to be mindful in daily life (e.g., Baer et al. 2006); and a practice (mindfulness
training, e.g., Black 2011). Without training, trait mindfulness appears to be stable over time
(e.g., Brown and Ryan 2003) However, empirical studies suggest that repeated mindfulness
training can cultivate greater state mindfulness over time, which presumably contributes to
increases in trait mindfulness (Kiken et al. 2015). The literature makes a conceptual distinction
between two categories of mindfulness practices: mindfulness meditations (MMs) and
mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) (cf. Hanley et al. 2016). Even though this distinction is
not clear-cut, MMs usually describe different practices that are rooted in spiritual traditions (e.g.,
Zen, Vipassana). In contrast, MBIs usually refer to secular mindfulness practices. They can
incorporate MMs but generally do so within a larger collection of activities and therapeutic
techniques. In this context, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and mindfulness-based stress
reduction are the most prominent and well-researched (Chiesa and Malinowski 2011).
Over the past two decades, mindfulness in general and MBIs in particular have received
increasing attention in academia and various fields of practice, including psychology, medicine,
businesses, sports, and even the military (see van Dam et al. 2018). The number of scientific
publications on the topic has multiplied tenfold over the past 10 years (AMRA 2018). Several
studies suggest that MBIs can have positive effects, e.g., on health and well-being (Grossman et
al. 2004), emotional regulation (Hill and Updegraff 2012), as well as memory, attention, and
Mindfulness, Education, and the Sustainable Development Goals
cognitive performance (Eberth and Sedlmeier 2012; Zenner et al. 2014). In addition, MBIs are
attributed to interpersonal qualities, such as compassion and prosocial behaviors (Luberto et al.
2018) and the potential to stimulate ethical virtues (e.g., patience or equanimity; see Grossman
2015). For these reasons, the mindfulness has recently also received growing attention in the
field of education.
Mindfulness and Education
The introduction of mindfulness in education has been characterized by the following
It has been piloted in different educational arenas, from kindergarten to adult learning,
targeting both students and teachers.
It was primarily intended to change deviant behavior, promote personal resilience, and
improve student performance.
Cultivating ethical virtues has only recently been explored as a potential application, with
implications for sustainability.
Today, mindfulness is receiving mainstream acceptance in education.
Various forms of mindfulness practices have been used in educational contexts for many years
(Bush 2011; Morgan 2015). However, it was not until around the post-2000 years that such
practices received renewed attention among educators, following a broader interest in
mindfulness in other fields (cf. section “Mindfulness”). Since then, mindfulness has penetrated
all areas of education, from preschool to K-12 (kindergarten to grade 12), and higher and adult
education (Schonert-Reichl and Roeser 2016). This interest has been denoted by some
commentators as a “contemplative turn” (Ergas 2018), a “postsecular turn” (Wu and Wenning
2016) or a “therapeutic turn” (Hyland 2009) in education. At the same time, critics have noted
that this renewed interest in mindfulness was spurred by surprisingly divergent interests (Ergas
2015). At least three different motivations have been identified.
The first, and maybe most prominent motivation, concerns its clinical use in the Western world.
Clinical studies have shown that mindfulness can counteract symptoms of depression, stress,
anxiety, attention dysfunction, and other related symptoms (Grossman et al. 2004). This
inherently pathological notion sees mindfulness as a remedy can treat or prevent medical
disorders or other health issues. In education, this line of reasoning is reflected in attempts to use
mindfulness as an intervention to remedy aggressive and maladaptive classroom behaviors
(Singh et al. 2007; Franco et al. 2016). It can, it is argued, help to mitigate deviant behaviors and
thus improve students’ functioning in education systems.
The second rationale is based on a more salutogenetic narrative. Rather than counteracting the
causes of unwanted behavior, the emphasis here is on using mindfulness as a practice and
resource to strengthen factors that contribute to good health. In education, this is manifested in
programs and studies that explore the positive contribution that mindfulness can make to
maintaining and improving individual resilience to stress, both among teachers and students
(Meiklejohn et al. 2012). Mindfulness, it is argued, can prepare learners and teachers to cope
with the demands and hardships of educational settings.
Mindfulness, Education, and the Sustainable Development Goals
The third rationale positions mindfulness as a contributor to broader efforts to enhance students’
academic performance. Typically, research in this vein refers to the demonstrated effects of
mindfulness on awareness and concentration and links these to academic attainment
(Beauchemin et al. 2008). Mindfulness, it is argued, can help to boost the quality of academic
work in educational settings (cf. section “Mindfulness”).
It goes without saying that these motivations are idealized forms and understandings that, in
reality, often overlap. However, given the fact that education is a concept that is defined by
purposiveness, it is important to bear in mind that these different emphases and framings of
mindfulness have paved the way for its infusion into the education system over time. Today,
mindfulness is receiving mainstream acceptance in education (e.g., Rhodes 2015). The number
of academic publications on mindfulness and education is steadily increasing and multiplied
tenfold between 2006 and 2014 (Schonert-Reichl and Roeser 2016). Such studies have mainly
investigated the potential of mindfulness to equip learners with social-emotional skills and
consequently improve learning outcomes, and the well-being of teachers and learners, and
improve learning environments (preschool, primary, and secondary education, as well as higher
education). This trend is strengthened by the appearance of numerous textbooks on mindfulness
and education, ranging from scientific handbooks (e.g., Schonert-Reichl and Roeser 2016) to
practical guides “for cultivating mindfulness in education” (e.g., Nhất-Hạnh and Weare 2017).
The emergence of international organizations and networks, such as the Association for
Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE 2015), the Mind and Life Education
Research Network (MLERN 2019), the Association for Mindfulness in Education (2019), or the
British-based Mindfulness Initiative (2019), provides further proof of mindfulness’ influence in
today’s youth and adult education systems.
More recently, a fourth potential has attracted the interest of educators. This relates to a long-
standing controversy in the field of mindfulness research: its role in cultivating broader ethical
virtues (Grossman 2015; Monteiro et al. 2015). According to critics, mainstream education has
been almost exclusively been preoccupied with the three aforementioned motivations (i.e.,
coping with maladaptive behaviors, improving grades, and individual resilience). This
preoccupation, and the widespread neglect of the ethical dimension in mindfulness practice, has
prompted scholars to call for a revolution in the use of mindfulness in education. Proponents
argue however that this revolution should be more critical of, and explicitly address the
(unintended) side effects of, mindfulness (cf. section “Field of Application: Education for
Sustainable Consumption”). Most importantly, the reinvention of mindfulness in education
should place the cultivation of “moral and civic virtues” at the forefront (Simpson 2017).
Mindfulness, it is argued, can support transformation by clarifying and challenging values, as
well as enabling a radical critique of society. Such deliberations have been a major driver in the
introduction of mindfulness training into ESD.
Mindfulness, Education, and the Sustainable Development Goals
Mindfulness in Education for Sustainable Development
Our analysis revealed the following aspects:
Compared to education in general, mindfulness has received little attention in
sustainability teaching and learning.
It has only recently been explicitly promoted as a new way of teaching and learning that
is needed to create a more sustainable society.
The notion of “ecological mindfulness” has emerged, which promotes a different way to
learn and foster scientific understanding and action.
Recently, scholars have argued that mindfulness can improve sustainability institutions
and curricula. Innovative examples have emerged.
In contrast to the prominent role of mindfulness in education in general (section “Mindfulness
and Education”), it has, so far, received limited attention in the ESD context, especially in
academia (Wamsler et al. 2018). It is only recently that contemplative teaching methods,
including mindfulness, have explicitly been promoted by scholars, practitioners, and mindfulness
networks as a new way to address socio-ecological challenges and create a more just,
compassionate, reflective, and sustainable society (Gugerli-Dolder et al. 2013; Wamsler et al.
2018). This development is primarily based on the rationale that mindfulness has the potential to
support pro-social and pro-environmental behavior, human-nature connections, critical thinking,
ethics, and virtues (cf. sections “Mindfulness” and “Mindfulness and Education” and “Field of
Application: Education for Sustainable Climate Change Mitigation, Adaptation and Resilience”
and “Field of Application: Education for Sustainable Consumption”).
In line with this, the concept of “ecological mindfulness” has been emerging in sustainability
teaching (Mueller and Greenwood 2015; Sol and Wals 2015). Underlying this notion is the idea
that the proliferation of segmented knowledge fields is inconsistent with the interdisciplinary and
hybrid learning needed to foster scientific and cultural understanding and actions leading to
socio-ecological change. Hence, ecological mindfulness suggests that the integration of thought,
rather than its separation, should be the purpose of sustainability teaching and learning.
Accordingly, scholars argue that the ecological mindfulness of teachers is crucial in shaping
students’ understanding of nature-society relations and that it requires integrating indigenous,
cultural knowledge and practices (such as mindfulness) within existing scientific frameworks
(Chinn 2015).
In addition, an increasing number of pioneering scholars are calling for mindfulness-based
approaches to improve educational institutions and curricula oriented toward sustainability and
well-being. It is argued that, in the context of sustainability, teaching and learning require spaces
where diverse ecological, holistic, and place-responsive perspectives can take root, be nurtured,
and flourish into ways of knowing, being, and becoming that serve people, places, and the planet
(Greenwood 2013; Sameshima and Greenwood 2015; Wamsler 2019). In line with the first four
potentials of mindfulness that have been identified in education in general (cf. section
“Mindfulness and Education”), it is argued that teaching should become a way to work toward a
“learning system” in which people collectively become more capable of withstanding setbacks
and addressing complex sustainability challenges (Sol and Wals 2015).
Mindfulness, Education, and the Sustainable Development Goals
Two innovative examples for creating such learning systems and systematically integrating
mindfulness into ESD can be found at Lund University (in Sweden) and Leuphana University
Lüneburg (in Germany). The Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS) set
up the Contemplative Sustainable Futures Program at the end of 2015. The program aims to
explore the role of inner dimensions and transformation for sustainability and to create space and
opportunities for learning, knowledge development, and networking on the topic. Building
blocks include teaching, research, and networking activities, which also explore the interlinkages
between mindfulness and the SDGs (LUCSUS 2015). Outcomes have, so far, included the
establishment of the following: (i) an Experimental Learning Lab on mindfulness in
sustainability science, practice, and teaching; (ii) the integration of mindfulness-based
approaches into existing courses in environmental studies and sustainability science; (iii) a new
master’s-level course on “Sustainability and Inner Transformation” with a linked Practice Lab;
(iv) a professional knowledge database and network; and (iv) various research studies and
frameworks for more integral research and education (Wamsler 2019). The integration of
mindfulness into existing courses includes, for instance, a written reflection on students’ learning
in relation to the five key aspects of mindfulness (observing, describing, acting with awareness,
nonjudgment, and reactivity) (Baer et al. 2006); encouraging mindful interactions during
listening, debating, reflecting, and working together; and voluntary mindfulness sessions. The
latter do not only address individual, but also social and ecological dimensions.
At Leuphana University, courses in sustainability science are offered that experiment with two,
new pedagogical approaches which incorporate mindfulness practice: reflexive knowledge
generation (Frank 2018; Frank and Fischer 2018) and self-inquiry-based/self-experience-based
learning (Frank and Stanszus 2019). In the reflexive knowledge generation format, students
systematically observe the way they deal with new information about controversial sustainability
issues, for example, meat consumption. The aim is to make them aware of the nonintellectual
factors that often unconsciously influence the ways in which we deal with new information and
arguments, laying the ground for more open, modest, and benevolent reasoning processes. Self-
inquiry and experienced-based learning make students themselves the object of inquiry. Here,
students engage in a personal sustainable transformation project designed to encourage them to
observe and reflect upon their subjective experience.
Field of Application: Education for Sustainable Climate Change Mitigation, Adaptation,
and Resilience
Mindfulness has been applied to various ESD topics. Most progress is observed in the fields of
(i) consumption and (ii) climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resilience. Regarding the
latter, we identified the following aspects:
Mindfulness-based teaching and learning methods are increasingly explored to address
new demands caused by climate change (e.g., individual capacities and qualities).
In contrast to climate change mitigation, there is little academic discourse on
mindfulness-based education regarding climate change adaptation and risk reduction.
Innovative approaches are, however, emerging, within both private and academic
Mindfulness, Education, and the Sustainable Development Goals
In the context of growing climate and disaster risks, and associated uncertainties, sustainability is
increasingly being referred to as a learning challenge (Doppelt 2017; Whitehead et al. 2017;
Wamsler 2018). It is argued that, in addition to creating appropriate forms of governance,
legislation, and regulation, alternative forms of education and learning are needed for people to
develop the capacities and qualities that will enable them to contribute to alternative, climate-
adapted behaviors, lifestyles, and systems, both individually and collectively (Sol and Wals
2015). Increasing research on behavioral sciences and economics supports this understanding (cf.
Camerer et al. 2005).
Consequently, mindfulness-based teaching and learning methods are being explored, particularly
in the context of educational activities that focus on climate change mitigation (i.e., measures
and strategies to reduce the causes of climate change). Examples are the revision and
development of new syllabuses on global environmental politics, sustainability leadership
development, and “mindful climate action” (e.g., Barrett et al. 2016; Litfin and Abigail 2014).
At the same time, there is little academic discourse on mindfulness regarding climate change
adaptation and risk reduction education (i.e., regarding measures and strategies to reduce the
impacts of climate change). This is surprising, given the fact that these topics can be very
sensitive, and trigger memories of sorrow and vulnerability (Wamsler et al. 2018; Wamsler and
Raggers 2018), making mindfulness-based approaches a potentially valuable approach. It also
neglects emerging research on the interlinkages between mindfulness, climate change mitigation,
and adaptation. Individual mindfulness disposition might, for instance, influence people’s
perceptions of climate change and risk, their motivation to support climate policies, and the kinds
of actions that are (not) taken (Wamsler 2018; Wamsler and Brink 2018).
Based on the increasing knowledge in the field, innovative initiatives are being developed.
Neuroscience-based mindfulness training is, for instance, increasingly offered by private
organizations to assist people (including students, teachers, and professionals) to cope with, and
address, climate-enhanced adversity (Doppelt 2017). An innovative example from academia is
the “Sustainability and Inner Transformation” course at LUCSUS (originally named
“Mindfulness, Compassion and Sustainability”) (Wamsler 2019; LUCSUS 2015). The overall
aim of the course is to critically assess the potential role of inner transformation for
sustainability. The objectives are threefold. Firstly, it allows students to develop a critical
understanding of the potential interlinkages between inner transformation and sustainability
(theories and practices). Secondly, inner transformation theories and practices are assessed in
relation to specific sustainability fields, including sustainable climate change mitigation,
adaptation, and risk reduction. Thirdly, the course allows students to engage in, and critically
reflect on, the nature of inner transformation and its salience in sustainability science and
learning. In this context, mindfulness is explored as an inherent human capacity that has the
potential to support such transformation. The course is very popular with both students and
scholars and has been acknowledged as being the first of its kind (Egan 2019). It is closely linked
to the research and network of the Contemplative Sustainable Futures Program (cf. section
“Mindfulness in Education for Sustainable Development”). Another network that addresses the
link between mindfulness and climate change-related issues is, for instance, The Mindfulness
and Social Change Network, which focuses on strengthening mindful pathways toward social
justice and environmental sustainability (Mindfulness and Social Change Network 2019).
Mindfulness, Education, and the Sustainable Development Goals
Field of Application: Education for Sustainable Consumption
With respect to the application of mindfulness to consumption and lifestyles, we identified the
following aspects:
Over the past decade, mindfulness has increasingly been linked to sustainable
consumption, both in research and education.
Related claims are based on five mechanisms that could, in theory, support the
development of sustainable consumption and lifestyles.
Innovative educational approaches have recently been implemented to test-related claims.
Like the application of mindfulness to ESD in general, there is increasing interest in relation to
consumption and lifestyles. Such developments are based on research that has identified five
mindfulness mechanisms that could theoretically support the development of sustainable
consumption behavior (Fischer et al. 2017). The first concerns enhancing introspective
capacities, thereby laying the ground for changing previously unconscious routines. This is
thought to help elucidate and diminish unconscious, non-sustainable consumption choices.
Secondly, mindfulness practice may be help to clarify and support the role of nonmaterial values
in people’s lives. The third mechanism refers to recent findings that claim that mindfulness
explicitly increases pro-social behavior. Pro-social behavior is, in turn, positively linked to pro-
environmental intentions and behavior. Fourth, mindfulness is associated with a greater capacity
to make congruent choices that may narrow the attitude-behavior gap and support more
sustainable consumption patterns. The fifth mechanism has recently been suggested by Geiger et
al. (2019). They found that mindfulness may foster sustainable lifestyles due to its potential to
improve physical health and well-being.
Drawing upon these theoretical developments, innovative educational approaches have recently
been proposed. The German research project BiNKA (Education for Sustainable Consumption
through Mindfulness Training) was the first study designed to empirically investigate the
potential through an 8-week consumer-focused mindfulness course to foster sustainable
consumption (Stanszus et al. 2017). Reported effects mostly related to changes in attitudes and
intentions, a reduced focus on material values, and the ability to observe inner states and
processes related to consumer behavior (Geiger et al. 2018). The BiNKA study has inspired a
variety of other teaching activities at Leuphana University. One example is the seminar
“Transformation toward sustainable consumption: Individual and personal perspectives,” where
mindfulness training was used to sensitize students to their inner states and processes as part of
the process of deliberately changing their consumer behavior (Frank and Stanszus 2019).
Critical Reflections and Ways Forward
Despite an exponentially growing body of literature and extensive interest in education and
mindfulness, research on mindfulness in ESD is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, past
developments, increasing knowledge, and emerging innovations clearly indicate its potential to
contribute to education and the SDGs, both as a means and as an end.
Mindfulness, Education, and the Sustainable Development Goals
However, related explorations require actively considering and engaging in critical debates and
associated challenges. Concerns have, for instance, been voiced with regard to the significance
and validity of mindfulness research. A number of conceptual and methodical flaws have been
identified, mainly concerning the quantitative (and by far most frequent) approach to its study
(e.g., van Dam et al. 2018; Grossman 2015, 2019). There are calls for a more humble and
cautious interpretation of the (allegedly) positive effects of mindfulness training, together with a
more nuanced and differentiated inquiry, based on a clear definition of mindfulness and a
transparent description of the related intervention or practice. The integration of a variety of
disciplinary and methodological approaches is also warranted. The tendency to simplify the
concept and focus on its positive effects has in parts also driven its social rejection.
Mindfulness should not be seen as a universal panacea. Instead, any potential negative
applications or side effects need to be actively considered, such as its potential
instrumentalization for undesirable purposes, or to reproduce neoliberal ideologies of self-
optimization (Reveley 2016; Walsh 2016). In addition, it is important to adapt its use to the
context of sustainability and associated fields of application (Whitehead et al. 2017; Wamsler
By actively considering these critiques and challenges, mindfulness can become a vehicle for
critical, improved education and social change (rather than individual self-optimization), a field
which is clearly underexplored and highly relevant with regard to the SDGs, particularly SDG 4
and 4.7. This could mark the beginning of a radical engagement with inner and outer
transformation, facilitated by a more comprehensive engagement with the critical potential of
mindfulness in ESD. While this next phase is only just appearing on the horizon, there are strong
indications that mindfulness will continue to permeate mainstream educational practice and ESD.
Influential players, such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO), have started to openly advocate for better recognition of cognitive, socio-emotional,
and behavioral dimensions of learning in SDG-related education (Rieckmann et al. 2017), with
mindfulness being the leading facilitator for such learning (Bresciani Ludvik and Eberhart 2018).
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Contemporary Trends in Education
Human Behaviour Change for Sustainable Development: Perspectives Informed by
Psychology and Neuroscience
Transformative Education to Address all SDGs
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f Springer Nature
... It can sensitize humans for the problems of the planet and promote the necessary skills to deal with them. However, it is also considered as an aiding process that reveals the abilities and talents of people and helps them in the pursuit of a good life and the improvement of the common good [6]. ...
... For the realization of SDGs and the assurance that all humans can be properly educated we need teaching and learning environments that support moral values, like respect, justice, and the absence of violence [6]. For this reason, mindfulness has gained serious attention within the previous couple of years in the search for new pedagogies and innovative processes in educational practice. ...
... Mindfulness is slowly spreading as an innovative technique that supports the learning procedures in various ways. Recently, it caught the attention of the researchers, the professionals, and the policymakers regarding Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) [6]. ...
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The current paper gives a brief description of the position of ICTs, Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence at the interNational educational policies. Therefore, many researchers note that ICTs, Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence play a key role in education for sustainable development and benefit both the teachers and the students. Thus, the research team of this paper presents the contribution of the above practices to the personal and academic growth of the students and also highlights the efforts of the governments to include them in their policies. Lastly, it is worth noting that the inclusion of these practices to the national policies will eventually lead to a sustainable society and should be a priority for the governments.
... Including these skills would not only better align inner values to external actions, but they have also been proposed to strengthen all other sustainability IJSHE 24,9 competencies (Brundiers et al., 2021;. Furthermore, intra-personal skills would not only better prepare students for sustainability work, but they would also improve the learning environment and help students maintain mental well-being (Frank et al., 2019;Wamsler, 2020). ...
... These are all abilities that can be practiced and cultivated. For example, Eastern philosophy has a long tradition of mindfulness and compassion training from which ESD could borrow (Frank et al., 2019;Thiermann and Sheate, 2021). Training for facilitating inner transitions and fostering intra-personal skills could include, but perhaps not be limited to, mindfulness, meditation practices, breathing and attention exercises, mindful listening and talking, body scans and self-enquiry techniques [1] (Ericson et al., 2014). ...
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Purpose Humanity is facing an unprecedented challenge of climate crises. Rapid changes to the physical environment and living conditions will be accompanied by challenges to mental health and well-being. Consequently, education for sustainable development should also include coping strategies for stress and anxiety. Adding intra-personal skills to the curriculum, such as self-reflection and mindfulness training, could aid in this education. This case study aims to explore the barriers to and drivers for fostering inner transitions through intra-personal skills training and mindfulness. Design/methodology/approach This case study from Lund University, Sweden, constitutes a critical case for investigating inner transitions in education. Data collection was designed around semi-structured qualitative interviews, to investigate the barriers to and drivers for intra-personal skills and mindfulness in education for sustainable development at all institutional levels of the university. Findings The results indicate that education for sustainable development already includes elements of introspection, albeit informally. However, there is a lack in a fundamental understanding of intra-personal skills and how they relate to other key competences for sustainable development. To make intra-personal skills training a formal component of the education, it must receive the full support from all levels of the university. Originality/value The study outlines general recommendations for universities to challenge existing policies while also finding ways to work around them. In the meantime, universities should make intra-personal skills training an informal learning activity. Recognizing that the students’ prior knowledge in this area is a potential asset, universities should collaborate with their students to support student-led intra-personal skills training.
... A review of the literature also shows that very little empirical research has been done on SE in the context of developing countries such as Nigeria (see Spence et al., 2011;Vuorio et al., 2018). Again, beyond the traditional drivers of entrepreneurial intent as presented in the environmental event model (Shapero & Sokol, 1982), theory of reasoned action (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975), and theory of planned behaviour (TPB) (Ajzen, 1985), education has been mentioned as a propeller of sustainable actions (see Frank et al., 2019;Vuorio et al., 2018;Wagner et al., 2019;Walmsler, 2020). Literature also indicates that education influences entrepreneurial intention, and has been well explored by previous researchers (Eze et al., 2019;Ozaralli & Rivenburgh, 2016). ...
... Following greater emphasis on the role of education in achieving sustainable development (Frank et al., 2019;Vuorio et al., 2018;Wagner et al., 2019;Walmsler, 2020), and the present study participants' involvement in a sustainability-oriented entrepreneurship education programme, education for sustainable entrepreneurship is introduced into the TPB model. This is to provide empirical insight into the mediating role of sustainability-oriented entrepreneurship education in the TPB model, which is currently missing in the literature. ...
Despite growing literature on sustainable entrepreneurship, little is known currently about students’ intentions to engage in sustainable entrepreneurship in Nigeria. Based on the theory of planned behaviour (TPB), this study investigates Business and Science students’ intentions to engage in sustainability-oriented micro entrepreneurship. It also explores the mediating role of education for sustainable entrepreneurship (ESE) in the relationship between the TPB constructs and sustainable entrepreneurial intention. Data were gathered from 435 university students who graduated from entrepreneurship training of a university. Results of SmartPLS structural equation modelling indicate that attitude and subjective norms are significant and positive drivers of sustainable entrepreneurial intention, while perceived behavioural control is negative and non-significant. ESE has significant influence on intention, and also mediates the relationship between attitude, subjective norms, and sustainable entrepreneurial intention. The results will aid policymakers in the formulation and implementation of policies on sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial programmes in higher education institutions.
... These authors provide a conceptual framework or model to develop emotional skills that can be fostered through everyday learning and experiences. EI is an essential dimension in learning to feel, think, and act in sustainable harmony with ecosystems and improve their health [22,23]. Salovey and Mayer's [24] theory defines EI as the capacity to regulate one's own feelings and emotions, and to understand and discriminate among them and use this information to guide one's thoughts and actions. ...
... EI allows us to solve problems as effectively as possible and to work co-operatively with others, which is crucial to achieving personal and professional sustainability [24]. EI is an important aspect to bear in mind in a person's skills and capabilities, since it favours and facilitates their life's achievements and is a good predictor of how they will adapt to the environment [22][23][24][25] by encouraging them to adopt innovative solutions for a more sustainable construction of life paths [26]. This reasoning has motivated numerous studies exploring whether EI is more influential than general intelligence (e.g., general mental skills) in terms of academic and professional success [27]. ...
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Education must guide students’ emotional development, not only to improve their skills and help them achieve their maximum performance, but to establish the foundations of a more cooperative and compassionate society. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, therefore, implies focusing on emotional aspects as well as financial, social, environmental, and scientific objectives. In this line, the goal of this study is to show how emotional intelligence, which is an essential dimension in the development and management of emotional competences required to build sustainable societies, plays a key role in optimising student’s academic performance in the classroom through compassion and academic commitment. The research model was tested with a questionnaire addressed to 550 students from four higher education institutions and one secondary school. The results of a structural equation analysis confirmed the study hypotheses. Emotional intelligence was shown to be positively related to compassion and higher levels of commitment, which, consequently, led to better academic performance. This finding will encourage interest in developing emotional intelligence, not only for its long-term value in training healthy citizens, but also for its short-term results in the classroom.
... Education is a process, which increases the potential and talents of people seeking a good life and general well-being. Ensuring that people have the opportunity to embark on this journey can be seen as an SDG goal (Frank, Fischer, & Wamsler, 2019). ...
ABSTRACT This paper examined the level of Environmental Civic Actions (ECA) using a modified version of the Environmental Action Scale (EAS) and Place Attachment Theory (PAT). The Environmental Action Scale measured the level of participation that would have a collective impact on environmental issues. The data was obtained via online questionnaire from 230 young and middle-aged citizens living in Nigeria. 152(66%) males and 75(33%) females indicated their gender, and most participants identified as undergraduate students (n = 179). SPSS statistical software package was used for factor analysis to ascertain if measure items were suitable for the study context using principal component analysis (extraction method) and Kaiser Normalization rotation method. Some findings revealed that the majority of participants have a high level of pro-environmental intention and low levels of actual environmental civic behaviors. In addition, most participants never participated, organized a protest, or boycotted a company engaging in negative environmental behaviors. Furthermore, place attachment, and fear of punishment in form of fines, and levies influenced the intention to engage in positive environmental behavior. The study contributes to the dearth of knowledge on environmental civic actions in a developing country and provides specific insights that are beneficial to policymakers, researchers, and stakeholders.
... The literature has described how a well-developed EI -defined as an interrelated set of skills to identify, use, understand and manage our own and other people's emotions (Mayer and Salovey, 1997;Mayer et al., 2016)-is crucial to successfully adapt to such adverse situations. According to Frank et al. (2019) and Estrada et al. (2020Estrada et al. ( , 2021, it is essential to develop EI in order to feel, think and act sustainably and in harmony with the ecosystem and to improve its health, particularly at a time when humanity as a whole is facing health, economic and social risks. ...
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As the Covid-19 pandemic brought most in-person activities to a halt, radical and visible changes were imposed in all social interactions, including teaching and academic activity in general. This challenging setting tested the education system's capacity to successfully address the Sustainable Development Goals. The success of education for sustainable development (ESD) requires training in the specific skills needed to face the highly emotionally demanding post-pandemic context. In this line, this study focuses on university students' capability to understand and manage emotions, an issue considered to be a key factor in ESD. The aim of this study is to show how students' emotional intelligence influenced their resilience, with repercussions on their engagement and subsequent academic performance. The research model was tested through a questionnaire addressed to 340 students from three different universities during the full lockdown of March–May 2020 as a result of the pandemic. Results show that emotional intelligence was positively related to resilience, which in turn was related to engagement, and consequently, resulted in better academic performance. This finding should spark interest in developing emotional intelligence in education, not only because it produces healthy citizens in the long term, but also because of its short-term positive impacts in the classroom, particularly in such adverse situations as those described here. This study provides a model that links classic variables on educational and positive psychology research with ESD in times of COVID-19.
Jamaica in pursuit of a sustainable future is bombarded with various phenomena that pose critical sustainability challenges. Notwithstanding, the country is being guided by its National Development Plan (Vision 2030 Jamaica) which supports by the principle of sustainability as a key feature and has been taking into consideration economic, social and environmental development. In order to address the varied sustainability challenges, teacher education, as a first step, seeks to promote the inclusion and practice of values among pre-service teachers. This focus on values reinforces competencies through education for sustainable development (ESD). In addition, the pre-service teacher’s use of what is described as “critical consciousness” enables the application of values, for the purpose of transformation of the environment in pursuit of a sustainable Jamaica.
There is a limited number of studies on the impact of mindfulness-based interventions on university students and their positive effect on collective experiences of shared flow. The aim of the present study was to explore the effectiveness of mindfulness training in terms of reducing stress and enhancing well-being, experiences of shared flow and classroom climate (engagement and affiliation). The intervention and control groups were matched by age and sex (n = 125; M = 20.71, SD = 4.60, 68% women). The intervention group comprised mindfulness exercises performed in the classroom over the course of 7 weeks. The principal variables were measured at pretest and posttest, and shared flow was also measured in the intervention group. In comparison with the control group, statistically significant differences were observed in the intervention group in relation to mindfulness, perceived stress, and classroom climate (affiliation). Furthermore, the perception of shared flow among students increased from the beginning to the end of the program. Mindfulness skills were found to mediate improvements in perceived well-being and stress. It is concluded that mindfulness practice can turn learning into a challenging and shared task. The study highlights the importance of fostering programs that enhance the development of competencies related to mindfulness among university students.
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Education and gender equity are of high priority in the list of objectives when looking to achieve sustainable development; however, various studies have analysed that these objectives are far from being reached. The goal of this paper was to investigate the influence that cooperative learning has on academic performance and on the gender gap in the subject of Maths. A total of 14,122 students between the ages of 10 and 19 took part in the study. The hypothesis posed was that gender differences observed in Maths would significantly be reduced in those classrooms in which cooperative learning had a higher degree of implementation. In the results, the analysis of the regression of means and gradients showed that gender predicts Maths results in a positive manner (estimated beta = 0.12, p < 0.01) and interacts with cooperative learning by taking a negative value (−0.26) and with an associated critical value less than 0.05. In other words, the relation between cooperative learning and Math grades is significantly higher in males than in females. However, females achieve better marks, which generates a certain relation of equity. These results prove that cooperative learning can reduce gender differences in the learning of Maths.
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Despite growing educational efforts in various areas of society and albeit expanding knowledge on the background and consequences of consumption, little has changed about individual consumer behavior and its detrimental impact. Against this backdrop, some scholars called for a stronger focus on personal competencies, especially affective-motivational ones to foster more sustainable consumption. Such competencies, however, are rarely addressed within the context of education for sustainable consumption. Responding to this gap, we suggest two new learning formats that allow students to systematically acquire affective-motivational competencies: self-inquiry-based learning (SIBL) and self-experience-based learning (SEBL). We developed these approaches at Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany, since 2016, and applied them within the framework of two seminars called Personal Approaches to Sustainable Consumption. Conducting scholarship of teaching and learning, we investigated the potential of SIBL and SEBL for cultivating personal competencies for sustainable development in general and sustainable consumption in particular. Our results indicate that SIBL and SEBL are promising approaches for this purpose.
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Mindfulness-based approaches have been suggested as a potential remedy for an increasingly unsustainable consumption level in early industrialized countries. This article reviews twelve current empiric papers (2005–2013) on five different potential pathways in which mindfulness is thought to unfold its effects on sustainable behaviors. Unfortunately, robust empiric evidence on the instrumentality of mindfulness-based interventions to promote sustainable lifestyles is still rare. Most of the available data originates from cross-sectional studies evidencing a small, positive relationship between some facets of dispositional mindfulness and diverse consumption behaviors. Null-effects of one prospective study blunt claims on the effectiveness of mindfulness practice to directly change consumption patterns though. Nevertheless, indirect effects including promotion of subjective well-being and decline of materialistic values are encouraging enough to justify future research on the topic. Specific recommendations for such future research are given.
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This paper examines whether or not specific forms of adaptation governance that involve city administrations and citizens can help (or hinder) creating a foundation for more sustainable climate adaptation and transformation. Based on the analysis of recurring patterns of social adaptation dilemmas (caused by the interdependencies between adaptation providers and beneficiaries), associated actor constellations, policy approaches, and gaps, this paper presents principles for supporting city–citizen commoning for climate adaptation (i.e. joint actions needed to create systems to manage ‘shared’ adaptation resources). The presented principles can assist in facilitating the management of public goods for adaptation, including privately-provided adaptation goods, and relate to four strategic aims: i) the effective management of collective and individual resources; ii) comprehensive risk reduction; iii) sustained local–institutional linkages (mainstreaming); and iv) matching different actors’ views, efforts and capacities. The principles synthesise and extend the literature by considering, and providing space for, a comprehensive understanding of risk and its root causes, and for alternative rationalities or (‘nonrational’) behaviours intended to address them. The latter takes account of the subjectivities (e.g. emotional attachments to resources and seascapes), which are as important as power structures with respect to how climate adaptation is managed. In fact, subjectivities are central to the operation of city administrations as they are an integral part of how people understand their relationship to others. In an adaptation context, this means focusing on practices and interactions that are required for taking adaptation actions, and how they can both promote and frustrate attempts to collaborate. We conclude that the developed principles can support more sustainable climate adaptation and transformation by holistically addressing existing adaptation dilemmas, actor constellations, and the associated policy gaps that make current approaches ineffective.
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Growing globalisation and climate change are challenging the sustainability of our societies. It is now clear that climate change and its devastating impacts cannot be resolved by new technology or governance alone. They require a broader, cultural shift. As a result, the role of human beings' 'inner dimensions' and related transformations is attracting increased attention from researchers. Recent advances in neuroscience suggest for instance that mindfulness can open new pathways towards sustainability. However, the role of mindfulness in climate adaptation has been largely ignored. This paper is the first exploratory empirical investigation into linking individuals' intrinsic mindfulness (as opposed to outside mindfulness interventions) to pro-and reactive climate adaptation. Based on a survey of citizens at risk from severe climate events, we explore if, and how individual mindfulness is correlated with climate adaptation at different scales. The results show that individual mindfulness coincides with higher motivation to take climate adaptation actions or to support them, especially actions that are 'other-focused' or support pro-environmental behaviour. Mindfulness may also corroborate the acknowledgement of climate change and associated risk perception, and it may steer people away from fatalistic attitudes. We conclude with a call for more research into the relationship between human beings' inner dimensions and climate adaptation in the wider public domain.
Using the author's extensive experience of advising public, private and non-profit sectors on personal, organization, and community behavioral and systems change knowledge and tools, this book applies a new lens to the question of how to respond to climate change. It offers a scientifically rigorous understanding of the negative mental health and psychosocial impacts of climate change and argues that overlooking these issues will have very damaging consequences. The practical assessment of various methods to build human resilience offered by Transformational Resilience then makes a powerful case for the need to quickly expand beyond emission reductions and hardening physical infrastructure to enhance the capacity of individuals and groups to cope with the inevitable changes affecting all levels of society.Applying a trauma-informed mental health and psychosocial perspective, Transformational Resilience offers a groundbreaking approach to responding to climate disruption. The book describes how climate disruption traumatizes societies and how effective responses can catalyze positive learning, growth, and change.
This entry sketches the relation between knowledge generation (KG) and sustainable development (SD) as it appears within the realm of Higher Education for Sustainable Development (HESD). The suggestion is to distinguish three forms of appearances: The first relation can be called a passive relation. In this appearance, KG for SD is mainly undertaken by (academic) experts whose results and methods are conveyed to students in forms of canonical knowledge within HESD. The students’ role in KG processes is hence the role of passive recipients of this canonical knowledge. Opposed to this appearance is the active relation. Here, students (and other social actors) are directly included in the process of KG in order to craft applicable solutions to concrete challenges for SD. Moreover, KG is not restricted to the acquisition of explicit knowledge. It also includes the development of tacit forms of knowledge that are deemed important for the prospective professional activities of students. Nevertheless, both the passive and active relation share an external orientation of KG processes, meaning that their matter of interest is neither the participants themselves nor the way they produce new knowledge. The third appearance, in contrast, primarily construes KG as a subjective process in which new information concerning SD is translated into new knowledge representations. It can be called reflexive appearance, because it aims to obtain awareness of the subjective process of KG, thereby laying the grounds for constructive KG processes for SD in the passive and active sense.
Mindfulness, derived from Buddhist psychology and philosophy, has gained broad popularity in the last decades, due importantly to scientific interest and findings. Yet Buddhist mindfulness developed in Asian pre-scientific culture and religion, and is predicated upon long-term cultivation of introspective awareness of lived experience, not highly accessible to empirical study. Further complicating the ‘science’ of mindfulness, mindfulness's very definition is multifaceted, resistant to dismantling and requires substantial amounts of personal practice to gain expertise. Most scientists investigating mindfulness have not achieved a high level of this expertise. Here I address how mindfulness is currently being invented as a scientific fact or object of inquiry. The intrinsic porosity of subjective and objective factors influencing the investigation of mindfulness is highlighted: the evolving body of ‘scientific’ experts, instruments used to measure mindfulness, the alliances of funders and other supporters of mindfulness research, and the public representation of the related findings.
Humanity is facing increasingly complex sustainability challenges. It is now clear that they cannot be resolved by new technology, policy or governance approaches alone. They require a broader, cultural shift. Consequently, the role of human beings’ “inner dimensions” (e.g., their mindsets, worldviews, beliefs, social values, and motivations) and their potential “inner transformation” (embodied in notions such as mindfulness and compassion) are increasingly attracting attention from practitioners and researchers alike. As a result, in 2015, the “Contemplative Sustainable Futures Program” was set up at the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies to explore the role of inner dimensions and transformation for sustainability. It aims to create space and opportunities for learning, networking, and knowledge development on this topic, which entails the creation of closer linkages between sustainability and the humanities (e.g., philosophy, theology, spirituality). The Program consists of different building blocks, including research and teaching activities. This chapter presents the outcomes, as well as the institutional and academic challenges encountered in setting up the Program. The outcomes so far include the establishment of (i) a new Masters-level course on “Sustainability and Inner Transformation”, (ii) an Experimental Learning Lab on mindfulness in sustainability science, practice, and teaching, (iii) a professional knowledge database and network, and (iv) different research studies and resultant frameworks for future, more integrated research. Finally, the lessons learned, ongoing gaps, and the future work needed to overcome these gaps are presented.
This paper explores a countermovement that is emerging within an educational climate that highlights accountability, standardisation and performativity. This countermovement has become manifest in a rapid rise in the implementation and research of contemplative practices (e.g. mindfulness, yoga) across educational settings. The paper explores the unfolding of this curricular-pedagogical phenomenon, characterises its core elements and explains why and how it can be viewed as a ‘contemplative turn in education’. Based on a conceptual review of academic publications in the field, the paper demonstrates a progression from a pre-contemplative era to the current contemplative turn. As part of the review three curricular domains within this turn are described: mindfulness-based interventions, contemplative pedagogies and contemplative inquiry. Each domain offers a different perspective on the contemplative turn and contributes to epistemological changes in curricular-pedagogical practice. The paper also presents a critical discourse that challenges the contemplative turn’s ethics, implementations and curricular orientations.