IS MINDFULNESS HYPE OR SUBSTANCE?

Mindfulness programs are programs that aim to improve people’s intentionality, self-regulation, academic performance, and personal happiness. Mindfulness has become a popular teaching intervention in classrooms, within the last 5 years. Teachers are often encouraged to use mindfulness programs as a way to improve both academic results and the holistic well-being of students. With the rise in its popularity, there has been a rise in people and companies trying to make money off this concept, by marketing mindfulness products and programs.

I wanted to explore whether or not mindfulness was an evidence-based strategy for teachers to implement in their classrooms. Normally, I look to meta-analysis to make these types of judgments. However, while there is plenty of evidence regarding the impact of mindfulness on students’ social well being there is very little on academic performance. Indeed Camilla et al decided to explore this question in 2019 and wrote at the start of their paper “there is no direct evidence that mindfulness per se is associated with academic achievement in U.S. students.” So to inform my process, I borrowed both from a meta-analysis by Gomez-Olmedo et al from 2020, on the effect sizes of Mindfulness on social outcomes for students, and the 2019 paper by Camilla et al, which was an individual study on the effect of Mindfulness on academic results. 


Because of this difference, the data for the social outcomes are much more reliable than the data for the academic outcomes. Moreover, the Camilla et, al paper did not directly study the results of implementing a mindfulness program on academics but rather compared students’ levels of mindfulness on a MASS questionnaire score with their academic achievement. Their study looked at 2311 students between the grades of 5-8 and found a small but statistically significant benefit for mindfulness on student academic achievement.

Mindful IMG001.png

Overall, we see a small but statistically significant benefit of mindfulness for students. While it is clearly not a high yield teaching strategy, it does show a benefit to students, with seemingly no risk of detriment. That being said, teachers have a limited amount of time on their hands each day. So the real question is not whether or not mindfulness works, but whether the benefit is worth the time opportunity cost of implementing it. For example, in the Camilla et-al study, the average academic improvement was 7%. However, there are other teaching strategies out there that have been shown to double academic outcomes. For example, please see mindfulness compared to these other higher-yield strategies below.Overall, we see a small but statistically significant benefit of mindfulness for students. While it is clearly not a high yield teaching strategy, it does show a benefit to students, with seemingly no risk of detriment. That being said, teachers have a limited amount of time on their hands each day. So the real question is not whether or not mindfulness works, but whether the benefit is worth the time opportunity cost of implementing it. For example, in the Camilla et-al study, the average academic improvement was 7%. However, there are other teaching strategies out there that have been shown to double academic outcomes. For example, please see mindfulness compared to these other higher-yield strategies below.

Mindful IMG002.png

Over the past year, I have been in charge of a school-wide initiative to get teachers to implement a mindfulness program. In my experience, a mindfulness program can be a quick and easy intervention for a teacher to adopt if they are provided with professional resources and training. That being said, without these resources/training I think implementing a mindfulness program would take a high level of confidence/understanding for the individual teacher. Ultimately, I think a mindfulness program could present a small benefit to students if teachers feel confident enough to implement it without having to spend a great deal of effort on self-training, and if the teacher does not allow their mindfulness program to take away from their core instructional time. 


Written by Nate Joseph

Last Edited 4/4/2021

References:

Gómez-Olmedo, A. M., Valor, C., & Carrero, I. (2020). Mindfulness in education for sustainable development to nurture socioemotional competencies: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Environmental Education Research, 26(11), 1527–1555. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lakeheadu.ca/10.1080/13504622.2020.1777264

Gómez-Olmedo, A. M., Valor, C., & Carrero, I. (2020). Mindfulness in education for sustainable development to nurture socioemotional competencies: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Environmental Education Research, 26(11), 1527–1555. https://doi.org/10.1080/13504622.2020.1777264

J, Hattie. (2015). Hattie Ranking: 252 Influences And Effect Sizes Related To Student Achievement. Visible Learning. 

Copyright © 2018 Pedagogy Non Grata  - All Rights Reserved.