Mindfulness & learning by Guest Blogger Janis Coffey - Happy + Well : Happy + Well

Mindfulness & learning by Guest Blogger Janis Coffey

Written by on April 30, 2015 in Learning, Wellness, Young People with 0 Comments

meditation picLike other skills children learn at school such as maths formulas, how to read and write, and making and keeping friends, mindfulness is a skill which requires intentional and frequent practise. Waters and colleagues (2014) propose a model of how meditation influences student learning. In this model, meditation improves cognitive functioning and emotional regulation, which in turn influences academic achievement, social competence and wellbeing.

A review article by Weare (2013) looks into the current state of mindfulness in schools in terms of research, practice and policy. Consistent with the model proposed, Weare’s (2013) review indicates that mindfulness programs in schools have had promising results in terms of enhancing mental and physical health as well as improvements in ‘executive function’ (problem solving, planning, controlling and monitoring one’s own actions), and paying attention.

In addition, those students with lower self-regulation prior to learning skills in mindfulness were observed to experience the greatest improvements in behavioural regulation, meta-cognition (defined earlier as being aware of the inner processes involved, such as doing, feeling and thinking) and executive function. Mindfulness practices fit neatly into the core business of education (Hassed & Chambers, 2014). As a health promotion and education strategy, mindfulness appears to be low cost and high impact for those who are most in need of its benefits.

It is well known the teaching profession has high rates of stress and burnout, particularly within the first five years of teaching. It is important to consider how we help teachers to cope effectively with the demands of the profession through making changes to work environments and teaching specific skills to manage stress.

Caring for the wellbeing of teachers is important in its own right. Yet there are also other compelling reasons we need to work towards reducing teacher stress. When teachers are highly stressed, they become less effective in the classroom and have higher rates of absenteeism. Teachers’ stress has a significant impact on students’ stress levels, their behaviour in class and engagement with learning.

As described by researchers, Roeser and colleagues (2013), when teachers are trained in mindfulness there are clear classroom benefits including effective classroom management, an emotionally supportive climate and positive teacher-student relationships. Changes to classroom environments have direct impacts on students’ sense of belonging, engagement, pro-social behaviours and motivation to learn.

A recent randomised controlled study found that an eight week mindfulness training programme significantly enhanced their skills in mindfulness, focused attention and working memory, while reducing stress and burnout (Roeser, et al, 2013).


Janis Coffey is Associate Director for the Institute of Positive Education, and runs a one day training course for teachers: Exploring Mindfulness, an introduction to teaching awareness and stillness in the classroom. For registration in your city, click here.

Visit The Wellness Show Expo 10-11 June 2015, Luna Park, Sydney – a free showcase of the innovation and technology that are transforming the way we stay fit and healthy. For more information and to register for your free visitor pass click here.

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