“Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new.” – Og Mandino
In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge based economies. There is a lot of pressure on students to excel so that they can be admitted to the best universities and there is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. As a result, parents and students are constantly looking for ways to improve student performance in school.
The primary tactic has been to pressure the student and clear away routine tasks and chores so that the student can focus on their studies. But, this might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede performance. A better tactic may be the development of mindfulness skills with contemplative practices. These practices and high levels of mindfulness have been shown to be helpful in coping with the school environment and for the performance of both students and teachers (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/school/). So, perhaps, mindfulness training may provide the needed edge in school.
In today’s Research News article “Effects of a Mindfulness Meditation Course on Learning and Cognitive Performance among University Students in Taiwan”
Ching and colleagues took advantage of the natural experiment provided in a private university which required a semester long mindfulness course as a core course for all students. The course taught meditation, body scan, and everyday mindfulness skills. They compared students who completed the course in the fall semester to those who were scheduled to take the course in the spring semester. They measured the students with the College Learning Effectiveness Inventory (CLEI) which measures psychosocial factors including thoughts, feelings, or behaviors related to academic outcomes and also measured performance on the cognitive tasks of vigilance, choice reaction times, spatial working memory, and memory scanning.
The study demonstrated that the mindfulness training produced significantly higher scores on the CLEI suggesting improved attitudes and behaviors impacting learning and academic performance. In addition, the mindfulness training produced improved performance on the cognitive tasks, including increased accuracy in the vigilance, choice reaction time, and spatial working memory tasks. These results suggest that mindfulness training can improve cognitive performance in college students and improve their psychosocial attitudes toward and adjustment to college life. Although actual grade performance was not investigated, the improved skills would predict better academic performance.
There are a number of known effects of mindfulness practice that could be responsible for the improved cognitive and psychosocial skills in the college students. Mindfulness training has been shown to directly affect cognitive skills (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/cognition/), social skills (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/social-behavior/), and psychological well-being (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/well-being/). In addition, mindfulness training is known to reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/stress/) which may reduce the anxiety produced by the pressures of college. Finally, mindfulness training is known to improve sleep (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/sleep/) which is known to be a problem for college students. So, it appears clear that mindfulness training has many desired effects that promote school performance and thus mindfulness training should be considered for incorporation in school curricula.
So, improve high level thinking with mindfulness.
“Education is that whole system of human training within and without the school house walls, which molds and develops men.” – W. E. B. Du Bois
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies