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Patricia Jennings, MEd, PhD - "Mindfulness-Based Approaches to Promoting Student Learning"
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Patricia Jennings, MEd, PhD - "Mindfulness-Based Approaches to Promoting Student Learning"


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The Youth-Nex Conference on Physical Health and Well-Being for Youth, Oct 10 & 11, 2013, University of Virginia …

The Youth-Nex Conference on Physical Health and Well-Being for Youth, Oct 10 & 11, 2013, University of Virginia

Patricia Jennings, MEd., Ph.D. - "Mindfulness-Based Approaches to Promoting Student Learning, Attention and Self-Regulation"

Jennings is a Research Assistant Professor in Human Development and Family Studies (HD FS) and affiliated with the Prevention Research Center at Penn State University.

Panel 4 — Mindfulness, Health and Well-Being: The Mind Body Connection.
Research with adults has found that contemplative practices such as mindfulness and yoga promote a variety of benefits for physical and emotional well-being. This panel will provide an overview of the growing body of research on such activities for youth that have been integrated into school settings and which are designed to affect students' attention, behavior, and academic achievement.


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  • 2 classes per week for 8 weeks16 sessions30 minutes per sessionDelivered by trained facilitator (Susan Kaiser-Greenland)Divided into 3 Units:Attention & Five Senses:Because attention serves as the foundation for all the later practices in the program, the first unit is designed to get kids more familiar with the process of their attention (i.e. how it always wanders, and that we can control it) to help them learn how to stabilize and wield it will a little more easeThe image to the right shows one of the more common exercises used to train focused attention: Susan will ring a very resonant chime and ask the children to raise their hands when they can no longer hear the sound. Trains, in short doses, sustained attentional contact to one sensory stimuliIn SEL terms, this may be the self-awareness and self-managementThrough Breath Awareness Train AttentionNotice what one experiences through five sensesBalance & Movement:Once children have received instruction and have had some formal practice focusing and sustaining their attention, the second unit leads students through a group of exercises aimed at helping them become more familiar with how the mind and body react to what one experiences. Designed to build a greater sense of self-awareness and self-management that was begun in unit 1 The image on the right shows one example of the ways Susan helps children can become more familiar with their internal experience. Children use the “Mind Meter” to gauge how they are feeling in response to something (i.e. argument with parent, having fun with a friend on the playground, etc), and then to see how what they are feeling usually leads to some urge to act.Once the child is aware of their situations and how there are feeling, they are then able to act more appropriately (i.e. how to get help from someone, Through Attention Train BalanceNotice how the mind reacts to what one experiences through five sensesClarity & Compassion:The 3rd unit is designed to help children become more aware of themselves as interdependent members of a community. The “clear seeing” that was developed in the earlier units is now used to help children act in a way that is kind and compassionate to those around them (i.e. younger children might send friendly wishes to their grandma, or to the rain because it helps their favorite fruits grow; older children it may involve starting a recycling program).Through Balance Train Clarity & CompassionNotice ourselves and others within the communityThe program is modeled after classical mindfulness training for adults and uses secular and age appropriate exercises and games to promote (1) awareness of self through sensory awareness (auditory, kinesthetic, tactile, gustatory, visual), attentional regulation, and awareness of thoughts and feelings; (2) awareness of others (e.g., awareness of one’s own body placement in relation to other people, and awareness of other people’s thoughts and feelings); and (3) awareness of the environment (e.g., awareness of relationships and connections between people, places, and things).A majority of exercises are movement-based or involve interactions among students and between students and the instructor. Each class session contains three standard sequences and is designed so that the period of time students engage in reflective practices increases over the course of the program. The first sequence of each class session includes brief periods of sitting meditation (approximately 3 minutes in length) and the third sequence includes a modified body scan or meditation while lying down (approximately 5 minutes in length). The middle sequence contains activities and games that promote each week’s learning objective, for example sensory awareness, attentional regulation, awareness of other people, or awareness of the environment. The duration of the first and third sequences gradually increase over the 8-week period as the second sequence, containing more goal directed and less reflective activities, becomes shorter in duration (see appendix for an overview of the program and examples of activities). The MAPs program was delivered twice a week over 8 weeks, for a total of 16 sessions.
  • I should say at the outset that these studies were spearheaded by Susan Smalley of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center and Lisa Flook who is now at UW-Madison’s Center for Investigating Healthy Minds.We conducted 3 randomized controlled trials, where studies 1 and 3 looked at preschool children and study 2 examined the effects of MAPs on 2nd-3rd graders. I will speak only to study 2 today.Both before and after training we assessed EF using the BRIEF (assessed by TEACHERS and PARENTS)MANCOVA: Reduces Type I error…cover cases where there is more than one dependent variable and where the dependent variables cannot simply be combined; used in cases where there are two or more dependent variables. As well as identifying whether changes in the independentvariable(s) have significant effects on the dependent variables, MANOVA is also used to identify interactions among the dependent variables and among the independent variables.2 classes per week for 8 weeks16 sessions30 minutes per sessionDelivered by trained facilitator (Susan Kaiser-Greenland)Divided into 3 UnitsThe mindfulness program we evaluated in our series of 3 studies is called “InnerKids,” which is a curriculum that was designed and facilitated by Susan Kaiser-GreenlandConsists of about 8 hours of training over the course of 8 weeks, and is divided into 3 unitsOur courses generally meet once a week for eight to twelve weeks and we can do the hello game throughout the entire course. There is always something we can notice at the beginning of class that will reinforce the teaching objective that day. Our classes are set up with a beginning, middle and end. It starts with the hello game, and then an introspective period, sitting up. The end is always an introspective period lying down, ending with friendly wishes (a version of mettā practice). In the middle is some sort of teaching objective, for example, how to use mindfulness to calm down, to help you go to sleep, to see yourself more clearly, or in conflict resolution.At first the beginning and the ending introspective periods are quite short; the first period could be as little as a minute, the last period, meditating lying down, could be as short as three minutes. But over the course of the term, those beginning and ending periods get longer because the kids have built a capacity for introspection they did not have at the beginning. The middle section, which includes a game or an activity that focuses on a teaching objective, becomes shorter over the course of a term as the beginning and ending periods grow longer. STUDY 1: Parents and teachers of participating students completed questionnaires at baseline and follow-up. Participants were stratified by site and gender then randomized into either the MAPs program or control group, consisting of a typical play period, using a computer generated random assignment scheme at a 1:1 ratio. Randomization was performed within each stratum to achieve equal allocation across site and gender and to reduce classroom effects.STUDY 2: Participants were randomized into either the MAPs program or control group, consisting of a silent reading period, using a computer generated random assignment scheme. Children were assigned to groups using block randomization with stratification by classroom, gender, and age (MAPs n=32, control n=32).STUDY 3:
  • TheMindUP™ curriculumis informed by research in cognitive neuroscience, mindfulness training, social and emotional learning, and positive psychology. Its fifteen lessons are positioned within four units: Unit 1: Getting Focused; Unit 2: Sharpening Your Senses; Unit 3: It’s All About Attitude; and, Unit 4: Taking Action Mindfully. Generally speaking, the first eight Lessons focus on the brain and its neurophysiology, the next three on developing greater self-awareness, and the final three lessons on outward manifestations of self-awareness. Because these concepts build on one another, advise participants to teach the lessons in sequential order—although this is not a hard and fast rule. Students will begin by learning about self-awareness, move on to activities that sharpen their ability to focus their attention and build self-regulation skills, then explore how their attitudes and actions affect themselves and others, and finally, culminate with positive acts in the classroom and beyond. Only after they learn the brain-friendly focusing strategies and self-awareness practices of Units 1 and 2 will students be prepared for the applications in Units 3 and 4. The framework is set up to strengthen students’ social and emotional competencies while creating a cohesive, caring classroom environment. As participants will discover, MindUP™ is easy to implement. It fits smoothly into any daily routine, the lessons require little preparation on your part, and the suggested follow-up activities are connected to content-area learning. Teachers should be encouraged to be creative in their use of MindUP™ concepts and principles and to weave the program’s vocabulary and concepts into daily class discussions.Teachers will find it valuable to adopt the techniques and strategies across all subject areas. Bringing mindfulness into instructional practice is also fundamental for promoting social emotional learning and ensuring that teaching is engaging, participatory, and active.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Mindfulness-Based Approaches to Promoting Student Learning, Attention and Self-Regulation Patricia (Tish) Jennings, M.Ed., Ph.D. Penn State University
    • 2. What is Mindfulness? • Mindfulness is: paying attention, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. Kabat-Zinn,1990 • An awareness of one’s conduct and the quality of one’s relationships, inwardly and outwardly, in terms of their potential to cause harm, are intrinsic elements of the cultivation of mindfulness. Kabat-Zinn 2011 • Mindfulness in everyday life is the ultimate challenge and practice.
    • 3. Results of Studies Involving Adults • A growing body of research is demonstrating results: – Enhanced memory – Increased ability to concentrate – Increased ability to use attention to regulate emotion – Increased ability for empathy and compassion – Reduced distress and increased positive affect – Brain changes that support emotion regulation Davidson et al., 2003; Frederickson et al., 2008; Hölzel et al. 2008; Jha, Krompinger, & Baime, 2007; Luders et al., 2009; Lutz et al., 2008; Shapiro, Schwartz, & Bonner, 1998, Slagter, et al., 2007)
    • 4. Increased density in the hippocampus after 8 weeks of MBSR compared to controls. Hölzel et al. 2008
    • 5. Contemplative Applications for Children & Youth: Developmental Issues • The brain and nervous system development • Phases of proliferation and pruning to improve function • Brain is not fully myelinated until early twenties • Sitting practices designed for adults may not be developmentally appropriate for kids • Wisdom traditions do not offer clear approaches • Focus on movement, senses, art, nature? • We need research to learn more!
    • 6. Evidence-Based Programs for Kids • • • • • • • Holistic Life Foundation Yoga Programs for Youth Inner-Kids Inner Resilience Program Learning to Breathe MindUp Transformative Life Skills (Niroga Institute) Resource: Garrison Institute searchable database –
    • 7. InnerKids Foundation 3 Units: 1. Attention & Five Senses 2. Balance & Movement 3. Clarity & Compassion Slides by Brian Galla, Ph.D. UCLA Presented at the International Symposia for Contemplative Studies, April 26-29, 2012
    • 8. Research Design 3 Randomized Controlled Trials • Study 2: – N = 64 (Mage = 8.25 years) • 32 randomized to intervention – 8 week intervention (2, 30-min sessions/wk) Pre- and post-assessment points • Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functions (BRIEF; Gioia et al., 2000)
    • 9. Results (2nd & 3rd grade) Change in Executive Function (Average Self-Regulation) Change in Executive Function (Low Self-Regulation) 16 14 12 10 Control 8 MAPs 6 4 Difference Score (Pre - Post) 18 16 Difference Score (Pre - Post) 18 14 12 10 Control 8 MAPs 6 4 2 2 0 0 Teacher Parent Teacher Parent Flook, L., Smalley, S. L., Kitil, J., Galla, B. M., et al. (2010). Effects of mindful awareness practices on executive functions in elementary school children. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 26(1), 70-95.
    • 10. MindUP and Scholastic Slides by Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, Ph.D. University of British Columbia Presented at the International Symposia for Contemplative Studies, April 26-29, 2012
    • 11. The MindUP Program How Our Brains Work Understanding Mindfulness Focused Attention Mindful Listening Mindful Seeing Mindful Smelling Mindful Tasting Mindful Moving Mindful Moving Perspective Taking Choosing Optimism Savoring Happy Experiences Acting with Gratitude Acts of Kindness Mindful Action in Our Community (Part 2) (Part 1)
    • 12. Research • Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) • Participants • 99 4th & 5th grade children drawn from 4 classrooms (98% participation rate) • 2 MindUp Classrooms (12 week program implementation) • 2 Comparison Classrooms (focus on Social Responsibility) • University-School District Partnership
    • 13. Child Reports Change Scores
    • 14. Child Reports Change Scores ns
    • 15. Depressive Symptoms Change Scores
    • 16. Peer Ratings of “Prosocialness” Change Scores
    • 17. Peer Acceptance/Sociometric Status Change Scores
    • 18. Peer Ratings of Antisocial Behaviors Change Scores
    • 19. MindUP Research Results: Improvement Index Cohen’s U3 “improvement” index to reflect the average difference between the percentile rank of the intervention and control groups. • 24% gain in positive social behaviors from participation in the MindUp program, • 15% in math achievement, • 20% in self-reported social-emotional competencies and skills, • 24% in aggressive behaviors.
    • 20. Improvement Index • Cohen’s U3 “improvement” index to reflect the average difference between the percentile rank of the intervention and control groups. – 24% gain in positive social behaviors from participation in the MindUp program, – 15% in math achievement, – 20% in self-reported social-emotional competencies and skills, – 24% in aggressive behaviors.
    • 21. Mindfulness for Adolescents Trish Broderick, Ph.D. Penn State Prevention Research Center Presented at the International Symposia for Contemplative Studies, April 26-29, 2012
    • 22. Enhance emotion regulation Strengthen attention and performance Improve health and wellbeing Mindfulness Build stress management skills Support prosocial behavior Learning to BREATHE 22
    • 23. Session Themes 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. B – Body R – Reflections (Thoughts) E – Emotions A – Attention T – Tenderness/ Take it as it is (Nonjudgment) 6. H – Habits for a Healthy Mind E – Empowerment / Gain the Inner Edge
    • 24. Standards • Program objectives linked to educational standards – National Health Education Standards (NHES) – PA State Standards for Health, Safety and Physical Education – ASCA model – PA 14221.1 – School Wellness Policy Mandate – Ontario School Board Standards 24
    • 25. Research Implementations – – – – – – – – – – – PA, Villa Maria HS PA, Central Bucks HS PA, Drexel Medical School & Philadelphia SD MA, Middlesex School NY, Bronx After School Program NY, Brooklyn, Xaverian HS WI, Osceola HS WI, CIHM, Madison, Madison Public Schools MN, U of MN, Institute for Child Development OR, Portland State and UBC, Vancouver Toronto, Ontario Broderick, P. C. & Metz, S. (2009). Learning to BREATHE: A pilot trial of a mindfulness curriculum for adolescents. Advances in School Mental Health Promotion, 2, pp. 35-46. Broderick, P. C. & Jennings, P. A. (2012). Mindfulness for adolescents: A promising approach to supporting emotion regulation and preventing risky behavior. New Directions for Youth Development, Winter, Issue 136, 111-126.
    • 26. Pilot Study Results Calmness PANAS; Watson, Clark & Tellegen, 1988) DERS (DERS; Gratz, & Roemer, 2004) Ruminative RS (Nolen-Hoeksema, & Morrow, 1991) Somatization Index (Achenbach, 1991) Qualitative process assessment (Broderick,2007) Self-Acceptance Emotion Regulation • Understanding emotions • Clarity and awareness Negative Mood (Distress) Somatic Symptoms Tiredness Aches and Pains
    • 27. 86.5% of program participants were satisfied or very satisfied with the program; 64.6% of participants reported practicing mindfulness techniques outside of class time during the program. Most important skill reported by approximately half of all participants; How to let go of distressing thoughts and feelings in order to control stress level. 27
    • 28. What More Do We Need to Know? • A lot! • Specific activities – specific outcomes? • What’s developmental appropriate? Culturally appropriate for educational settings? • Generalizability? • Brain development? • Long term academic and behavioral outcomes?