Improve Learning and Well-Being in College Students with Mindfulness and Coaching
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“academic benefits of mindfulness include improved memory and focus, as well as relief from stress and anxiety. (Better test scores, anyone?) Mindfulness can also be a remedy for procrastination, which, as it turns out, is an “emotion management problem.” – Priya Thomas
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 get the best jobs after graduation. This stress might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede the student’s physical and mental health, well-being, and school performance. It is, for the most part, beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress, so it is important that methods be found to reduce the college students’ responses to stress; to make them more resilient when high levels of stress occur.
Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving physical and psychological health and particularly with the physical and psychological reactions to stress and resilience in the face of stress. It has also been found to promote the well-being of college students. Academically, it has been shown to improve memory, focused attention, and school performance. Academic coaching has long been known to also assist college students in their studies. The combination of mindfulness and academic coaching, however, has not been well explored.
In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and Coaching to Improve Learning Abilities in University Students: A Pilot Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7142624/) Corti and Gelati compared meditation naïve college students who signed up for and completed a short 10-module intervention called Mindful Effective Learning to students who did not sign up. Each module lasted for 3.5 hours. Modules trained students for mindfulness meditation, effective self-awareness and attention regulation, self-regulated study, study planning and time management, study techniques and mnemonics. The participants were measured before and after training for study organization, elaboration, self-evaluation, use of strategies, and metacognition, self-regulation, emotion regulation, anxiety, resilience, and mindfulness. They also completed a survey 6 months later about their experiences and one year later reported their grades.
They found that in comparison to baseline and to the no-treatment control group, the group that received Mindful Effective Learning training had significantly greater improvements in all measured variables. In other words, they had better study skills, mindfulness, self-regulation, motivation, and well-being. In addition, a year later, the trained students had improved grades.
This study is interesting but must be interpreted cautiously as the control group was not active and did not receive and training of any kind. This opens the study up to alternative interpretations including attention effects, participant expectancy effects, experimenter bias etc. In addition, the students self-selected whether to participate in Mindful Effective Learning training or not. This suggests that there may have been systematic differences between the students in the two groups.
It would have been better if the control group was active, receiving some form of training such as coping with college training. It would have been more interesting if a control group was included that received all of the study skills training without mindfulness meditation. This would help to determine if mindfulness or study skills training was the important component. Regardless, the pilot study was successful and provides rationale for performing a more extensive better controlled study.
So, improve learning and well-being in college students with mindfulness and coaching.
“Mindfulness and meditation are both great ways for students to improve their health. And the benefits of these practices can also trickle into their academic lives.” – Kenya McCullum
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Corti, L., & Gelati, C. (2020). Mindfulness and Coaching to Improve Learning Abilities in University Students: A Pilot Study. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(6), 1935. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17061935
This pilot study investigated the effects of a short 10-module intervention called MEL (Mindful Effective Learning), which integrates mindfulness, coaching, and training on study strategies, to improve learning abilities among university students. Inspired by ample research on the learning topics that points out how effective learning and good academic results depend simultaneously on self-regulation while studying combined with emotional and motivational factors, the intervention aimed to train students simultaneously in these three aspects. The intervention group participants (N = 21) and the control group participants (N = 24) were surveyed pre- and post-intervention with the Italian questionnaire AMOS (Abilities and Motivation to Study) and the Italian version of the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS). The results showed that, regarding self-regulation in study, trained students improved their self-awareness, self-evaluation ability, metacognition skills, and organizational and elaborative ability to manage study materials; regarding emotional aspects, they improved their anxiety control; regarding motivation they developed an incremental theory of Self and improved their confidence in their own intelligence. Moreover, two follow-up self-report surveys were conducted, and trained students reported positive assessments of the MEL intervention. Findings suggest that a short intervention based on mindfulness and coaching and training on study strategies may improve students’ effective learning.