By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Beyond helping his students, Gonzalez also thinks mindfulness helps him to cope with the strains of teaching. He believes he now draws clearer lines in his relationships with students—giving them the skills to help themselves, rather than feeling that he needs to be the one to heal them—and copes more healthily with the trauma the job exposes him to, whether directly (in a previous teaching job, he said a student once stumbled into his office bleeding from a stab wound) or indirectly through working with a grieving student.” – Lauren Cassani Davis
Today’s schools are replete with stress, anxiety, and worry. Standardized, high stakes testing now dominates education in the U.S. This creates an environment in which both teachers and students are under pressure to perform well on the tests. Teachers, for the most part are confronted with large classes and in some areas, very unruly classes, creating even more stress on teachers. Students often have to confront bullies, creating fear while at school and parental pressure for grades. In this kind of environment, it is difficult to enjoy learning and function at a high level.
Mindfulness training has been applied to this environment in an attempt to help mitigate the stresses and make students and teachers happier and more productive. It has been shown to reduce stress and improve high level thinking and performance in schools from grammar schools to college. The research, however, has focused on either the students in school or the teachers and there has been no research investigating the consequences of simultaneous mindfulness training for both. In today’s Research News article “Students and Teachers Benefit from Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in a School-Embedded Pilot Study.” See:
or below or view the full text of the study at:
Gouda and colleagues provided a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program separately to both the students and the teachers in the 11th grade during the first term of a single school in Germany. MBSR is an 8-week program with training in meditation, body scan, and yoga. Half the students and teachers were assigned to a wait-list control group that did not receive the MBSR training. Measurements were taken at the beginning and end of the school term and four months later of mindfulness, stress, anxiety, test anxiety, depression, self-efficacy, self-regulation, emotion regulation, interpersonal competences, openness, creativity, and work engagement.
They found that the students in the MBSR group had lower stress, anxiety, test anxiety, and interpersonal problems and higher levels of mindfulness, self-regulation, school-related self-efficacy, and emotional competencies. Many of these variables continued to improve and were even higher at follow up at the end of the second semester while the remaining variables held their gains. Hence the students who received MBSR training significantly benefited, improving psychological and emotional competencies and decreasing stress and anxiety.
At the same time, the teachers also benefited. Gouda and colleagues found that the teachers who received the MBSR training had significantly improved levels of mindfulness, teacher-specific self-efficacy and emotion regulation and reduced levels of interpersonal problems. These benefits were still present at follow-up. Hence the teachers who received MBSR training significantly benefited, improving mindfulness and emotions and reducing interpersonal problems.
The study results are important in that they demonstrate that mindfulness training benefits both teachers and students in the same school at the same time. They did not have the appropriate comparisons to assess whether training teachers and students at the same time amplifies the positive effects for each. That’s an interesting question for future research. But, at least it is clear that there’s no interference produced. In addition, although academic achievement was not measured, all of the benefits of the mindfulness training would be expected to assist both the students and their teachers in being more effective both inside and outside of the classroom, improving their social behavior and mental health.
These results further strengthen the case for increased implementation of mindfulness programs in schools as both students and teachers benefit from mindfulness training.
“Before we can share mindfulness with our students we need an experiential understanding of mindfulness from our own practice. Once we begin to develop our own practice, we will see how it impacts our classroom and our relationships with others. Mindfulness offers a way to tap into the resilience that is already inside us.” – Meena Srinivasan
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Gouda, S., Luong, M. T., Schmidt, S., & Bauer, J. (2016). Students and Teachers Benefit from Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in a School-Embedded Pilot Study. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 590. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00590
Objective: There is a research gap in studies that evaluate the effectiveness of a school-embedded mindfulness-based intervention for both students and teachers. To address this gap, the present pilot study reviews relevant literature and investigates whether students and teachers who participate in separate Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses show improvements across a variety of psychological variables including areas of mental health and creativity.
Methods: The study applied a controlled waitlist design with three measurement points. A total of 29 students (n = 15 in the intervention and n = 14 in the waitlist group) and 29 teachers (n = 14 in the intervention and n = 15 in the waitlist group) completed questionnaires before and after the MBSR course. The intervention group was also assessed after a 4-month follow-up period.
Results: Relative to the control group, significant improvements in self-reported stress, self-regulation, school-specific self-efficacy and interpersonal problems were found among the students who participated in the MBSR course (p < 0.05, Cohens’ d ranges from 0.62 to 0.68). Medium effect sizes on mindfulness, anxiety and creativity indicate a realistic potential in those areas. By contrast, teachers in the intervention group showed significantly higher self-reported mindfulness levels and reduced interpersonal problems compared to the control group (p < 0.05, Cohens’ d = 0.66 and 0.42, respectively), with medium effect sizes on anxiety and emotion regulation.
Conclusion: The present findings contribute to a growing body of studies investigating mindfulness in schools by discussing the similarities and differences in the effects of MBSR on students and teachers as well as stressing the importance of investigating interpersonal effects.