Integrating Mindfulness Training into K-12 Education: Fostering the Resilience of Teachers and Students

Abstract

Over the past decade, training in mindfulness—the intentional cultivation of moment-by-moment non-judgmental focused attention and awareness—has spread from its initial western applications in medicine to other fields, including education. This paper reviews research and curricula pertaining to the integration of mindfulness training into K-12 education, both indirectly by training teachers and through direct teaching of students. Research on the neurobiology of mindfulness in adults suggests that sustained mindfulness practice can enhance attentional and emotional self-regulation and promote flexibility, pointing toward significant potential benefits for both teachers and students. Early research results on three illustrative mindfulness-based teacher training initiatives suggest that personal training in mindfulness skills can increase teachers’ sense of well-being and teaching self-efficacy, as well as their ability to manage classroom behavior and establish and maintain supportive relationships with students. Since 2005, 14 studies of programs that directly train students in mindfulness have collectively demonstrated a range of cognitive, social, and psychological benefits to both elementary (six studies) and high school (eight studies) students. These include improvements in working memory, attention, academic skills, social skills, emotional regulation, and self-esteem, as well as self-reported improvements in mood and decreases in anxiety, stress, and fatigue. The educational goals, target population, and core features of ten established mindfulness-based curricula are described. Finally, the need for more rigorous scientific evidence of the benefits of mindfulness-based interventions in K-12 education is discussed, along with suggestions of specific process, outcome, and research-design questions remaining to be answered.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Baer, R. A. (2003). Mindfulness training as clinical intervention: A conceptual and empirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 125–143. doi:10.1093/clipsy.bpg015.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Beauchemin, J., Hutchins, T. L., & Patterson, F. (2008). Mindfulness meditation may lessen anxiety, promote social skills, and improve academic performance among adolescents with learning disabilities. Complementary Health Practice Review, 13, 34–45. doi:10.1177/1533210107311624.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Biegel, G. M., Brown, K. W., Shapiro, S. L., & Schubert, C. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for the treatment of adolescent psychiatric outpatients: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology, 77, 855–866. doi:10.1037/a0016241.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bishop, S. R., Lau, M., Shapiro, S., Carlson, L., Anderson, N. D., Carmody, J., et al. (2004). Mindfulness: A proposed operational definition. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11, 230–241. doi:10.1093/clipsy.bph077.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Bogels, S., Hoogstad, B., van Dun, L., De Shutter, S., & Restifo, K. (2008). Mindfulness training for adolescents with externalising disorders and their parents. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 36, 193–209. doi:10.1017/S1352465808004190.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Bootzin, R. R., & Stevens, S. J. (2005). Adolescents, substance abuse, and the treatment of insomnia and daytime sleepiness. Clinical Psychology Review, 25, 629–644.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 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, 35–46.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Brown, K., Ryan, R., & Creswell, J. (2007). Mindfulness: Theoretical foundations and evidence for its salutary effects. Psychological Inquiry, 18, 211–237.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Brown, K., West, A., Loverich, T., & Biegel, G. (2011). Assessing adolescent mindfulness: Validation of an adapted mindful attention awareness scale in adolescent normative and psychiatric populations. Psychological Assessment, 23, 1023–1033. doi:10.1037/a0021338.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Burke, C. (2010). Mindfulness-based approaches with children and adolescents: A preliminary review of current research in an emergent field. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19, 133–144. doi:10.1007/s10826-009-9282-x.

  11. Chan, R. C. K., Shum, D., Toulopoulou, T., & Chen, E. Y. H. (2008). “Assessment of executive functions: Review of instruments and identification of critical issues”. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 23(2), 201–216. doi:10.1016/j.acn.2007.08.010 DOI:dx.doi.org.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., et al. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 564–570. doi:10.1097/01.PSY.0000077505.67574.E3.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Epel, E., Blackburn, E. H., Lin, J., Dhabhar, F. S., Adler, N. E., Morrow, J. D., et al. (2004). Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 101(49), 17312–17315. doi:10.1073/pnas.0407162101.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Epel, E., Daubenmier, J., Moskowitz, J. T., Folkman, S., & Blackburn, E. (2009). Can meditation slow rate of cellular aging? Cognitive stress, mindfulness, and telomeres. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1172, 34–53. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04414.x.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Evans, G., & Schamberg, M. (2009). Childhood poverty, chronic stress, and adult working memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 106, 6545–6549. doi:10.1073/pnas.0811910106.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Flook, L., Smalley, S. L., Kitil, J., Galla, B. M., Kaiser-Greenland, S., Locke, J., et al. (2010). Effects of mindful awareness practices on executive functions in elementary school children. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 26(1), 70–95. doi:10.1080/15377900903379125.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Gatz, K. L., & Roemer, L. (2004). Multidimensional assessment of emotion regulation and dysregulation: Development, factor structure, and initial validation of the difficulties in emotion regulation scale. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 26, 41–54. doi:10.1023/B:JOBA.0000007455.08539.94.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Greco, L. A., Baer, R. A., & Smith, G. T. (2011). Assessing mindfulness in children and adolescents: Development and validation of the Child and Adolescent Mindfulness Measure (CAMM). Psychological Assessment, 23, 606–614. doi:10.1037/a0022819.

  19. Greeson, J. M. (2009). Mindfulness research update: 2008. Complementary Health Practice Review, 14(1), 10–18. doi:10.1177/1533210108329862.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57, 35–43. doi:10.1016/S0022-3999(03)00573-7 DOI:dx.doi.org.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K., & Wilson, K. G. (1999). Acceptance and commitment therapy: An experiential approach to behavior change. New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Hedges, D. W., & Woon, F. L. (2010). Early life stress and cognitive outcome. Psychopharmacology, 214(1), 121–130. doi:10.1007/s00213-010-2090-6.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Hicks, S., & Bien, T. (2008). Mindfulness and the therapeutic relationship. New York: The Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Hölzel, B. K., Ott, U., Gard, T., Hempel, H., Weygandt, M., Morgen, K., et al. (2008). Investigation of mindfulness meditation practitioners with voxel-based morphometry. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 3, 55–61. doi:10.1093/scan/nsm038.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., et al. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 191, 36–42.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Huppert, F. A., & Johnson, D. A. (2010). A controlled trial of mindfulness training in schools: The importance of practice for an impact on well-being. Journal of Positive Psychology, 5, 264–274. doi:10.1080/17439761003794148

  27. Jacobs, T. L., Epel, E., Lin, J., Blackburn, E., Wolkowitz, O., Bridwell, D., et al. (2011). Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 36(5), 664–681. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2010.09.010.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Jennings, P. (2009). Garrison Institute’s CARE Program for Teachers Receives Federal Funding. Retrieved January 16, 2011, from: http://www.garrisoninstitute.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=108&Itemid=1138&limitstart=40.

  29. Jennings, P. A. (2011). Promoting teachers’ social and emotional competencies to support performance and reduce burnout. In A. Cohan & A. Honigsfeld (Eds.), Breaking the mold of pre-service and in-service teacher education: Innovative and successful practices for the 21st century (pp. 133–143). New York: Rowman & Littlefield.

  30. Jennings, P. A., & Greenberg, M. T. (2009). The prosocial classroom: Teacher social and emotional competence in relation to student and classroom outcomes. Review of Educational Research, 79, 491–525. doi:10.3102/0034654308325693.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Jennings, P. A., Snowberg, K. E., Coccia, M. A., & Greenberg, M. T. (2011). Improving classroom learning environments by cultivating awareness and resilience in education (CARE): Results of two pilot studies. Journal of Classroom Interaction, 46(1), 37–48.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Jennings, P. A., Lantieri, L., & Roeser, R. W. (2011). Supporting educational goals through cultivating mindfulness: Approaches for teachers and students. In A. Higgins-D’Alessandro, M. Corrigan and P. Brown (eds.), Handbook of prosocial education. (in press). Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

  33. Jha, A. P., Krompinger, J., & Baime, M. J. (2007). Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 7, 109–119. doi:10.3758/CABN.7.2.109.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain and illness. New York: Bantam Dell.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(2), 144–156. doi:10.1093/clipsy.bpg016.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Kerrigan, D., Johnson, K., Stewart, M., Magyari, T., Hutton, N., Ellen, J. M., et al. (2011). Perceptions, experiences, and shifts in perspective occurring among urban youth participating in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 17(2), 96–101. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2010.08.003.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Lazar, S. W., Kerr, C. E., Wasserman, R. H., Gray, J. R., Greve, D. N., Treadway, M. T., et al. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport, 16(17), 1893–1897.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Lee, J., Semple, R. J., Rosa, D., & Miller, L. (2008). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children: Results of a pilot study. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 22(1), 15–28. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1891/0889.8391.22.1.15.

  39. Liehr, P., & Diaz, N. (2010). A pilot study examining the effect of mindfulness on depression and anxiety for minority children. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 69–71. doi:10.1016/j.apnu.2009.10.001.

  40. Linehan, M. M., Comtois, K. A., Murray, A. M., Brown, M. Z., Gallop, R. J., Heard, H. L., et al. (2006). Two-year randomized controlled trial and follow-up of dialectical behavior therapy vs therapy by experts for suicidal behaviors and borderline personality disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry, 63, 757–766.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Luders, E., Toga, A. W., Lepore, N., & Gaser, C. (2009). The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: Larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter. NeuroImage, 45(3), 672–678.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Ludwig, D. S., & Kabat-Zinn, J. (2008). Mindfulness in medicine. Journal of the American Medical Association, 300(11), 1350–1352. doi:10.1001/jama.300.11.1350.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Metis Associates. (2011). Building inner resilience in teachers and their students: Results of the inner resilience pilot program. Retrieved June 1, 2011 from the Inner Resilience Program web site: http://innerresilience.org/documents/IRP_Pilot_Program_Results_AERA2011_updated_6.9.pdf.

  44. Montgomery, C., & Rupp, A. (2005). A meta-analysis for exploring the diverse causes and effects of stress in teachers. Canadian Journal of Education, 28(3), 458–486.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Napoli, M., Krech, P. R., & Holley, L. C. (2005). Mindfulness training for elementary school students: The attention academy. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 21, 99–125. doi:10.1300/J370v21n01_05.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2007). The science of early childhood development. Retrieved on December 10, 2010 from http://www.developingchild.net.

  47. Poulin, P. A. (2009). Mindfulness-based wellness education: A longitudinal evaluation with students in initial teacher education. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

  48. Poulin, P. A., Mackenzie, C. S., Soloway, G., & Karayolas, E. (2008). Mindfulness training as an evidenced-based approach to reducing stress and promoting well-being among human services professionals. International Journal of Health Promotion and Education, 46, 35–43.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Ruff, K. M., & Mackenzie, E. R. (2009). The role of mindfulness in healthcare reform: A policy paper. Explore, 5(6), 313–323. doi:10.1016/j.explore.2009.10.002.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Saltzman, A., & Goldin, P. (2008). Mindfulness based stress reduction for school-age children. In S. C. Hayes & L. A. Greco (Eds.), Acceptance and mindfulness interventions for children adolescents and families (pp. 139–161). Oakland: Context Press/New Harbinger.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Lawlor, M. S. (2010). The effects of a mindfulness-based education program on pre- and early adolescents’ well-being and social and emotional competence. Mindfulness, 1, 137–151. doi:10.1007/s12671-010-0011-8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Schwartz, J. M., & Begley, S. (2002). The mind and the brain: Neuroplasticity and the power of mental force. New York: Regan Books an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Semple, R. J., Reid, E. F., & Miller, L. (2005). Treating anxiety with mindfulness: An open trial of mindfulness training for anxious children. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 19(4), 379–392. doi:10.1891/jcop.2005.19.4.379.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Semple, R. J., Lee, J., Rosa, D., & Miller, L. F. (2009). A randomized trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children: Promoting mindful attention to enhance social-emotional resiliency in children. Journal of Child and Family Studies. doi:10.1007/s10826-10009-19301-y.

  55. Shapiro, S. L., & Carlson, L. E. (2009). The art and science of mindfulness: Integrating mindfulness into psychology and the helping professions. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Shapiro, S. L., Carlson, L. E., Astin, J. A., & Freedman, B. (2006). Mechanisms of mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62, 373–386. doi:10.1002/jclp.20237.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Sibinga, E., Stewart, M., Magyari, T., Welsh, C., Hutton, N., & Ellen, J. (2008). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for HIV-infected youth: A pilot study. Explore, 4, 36–37. doi:10.1016/j.explore.2007.10.002.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Sibinga, E., Kerrigan, D., Stewart, M., Johnson, K., Magyari, T., & Ellen, J. (2011). Mindfulness instruction for urban youth. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 17, 1–6. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0605.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Siegel, D. J. (1999). The developing mind: How relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are. New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Soloway, G. B. (2011). Preparing teachers for the present: Exploring the praxis of mindfulness training in teacher education. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Toronto, Ontario.

  61. Soloway, G. B., Poulin, A., & Mackenzie, C. S. (2011). Preparing new teachers for the full catastrophe of the 21st century classroom: Integrating mindfulness training into initial teacher education. In A. Cohan & A. Honigsfeld (Eds.), Breaking the mold of pre-service and in-service teacher education (pp. 221–227). Lanham: R and L Education.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Speca, M., Carlson, L. E., Goodey, E., & Angen, M. (2000). A randomized, wait-list controlled clinical trial: The effect of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction program on mood and symptoms of stress in cancer outpatients. Psychosomatic Medicine, 62, 613–622.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  63. Teasdale, J. D., Segal, Z. V., Williams, J. M. G., Ridgeway, V. A., Soulsby, J. M., & Lau, M. A. (2000). Prevention of relapse/recurrence in major depression by mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68(4), 615–623.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Tortora, S. (2005). The dancing dialogue: Using the communicative power of movement with young children (1st ed.). Baltimore: Paul H. Brooks Publishing Co.

    Google Scholar 

  65. Wall, R. B. (2005). Tai chi and mindfulness-based stress reduction in a Boston middle school. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 19, 230–237. doi:10.1016/j.pedhc.2005.02.006.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Wasson, J. M. (Dec.2010/Jan.2011). The power of being heard. Educational Leadership, 68 (4), The Effective Educator. Retrieved August 15,2011 from: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/dec10/vol68/num04/The-Power-of-Being-Heard.aspx.

  67. West, A. M. (2008). Mindfulness and well-being in adolescence: An exploration of four mindfulness measures with an adolescent sample. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B. Sciences and Engineering, 69(05), 3283.

    Google Scholar 

  68. West, A. M., Sbraga, T. P., & Poole, D. A. (2007). Measuring mindfulness in youth: Development of the Mindful Thinking and Action Scale for Adolescents. Unpublished manuscript, Central Michigan University.

  69. What Works Clearinghouse. (2008). WWC procedure and standards handbook. Washington, DC: Retrieved January 1, 2009 from: http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/references/idocviewer/doc.aspx?docid=19&tocid=1.

  70. Zylowska, L., Ackerman, D. L., Yang, M. H., Futrell, J. L., Horton, N. L., Hale, S. T., et al. (2008). Mindfulness meditation training with adults and adolescents with ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders, 11, 737–746. doi:10.1177/1087054707308502.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank Pat Ansay, Raymond Dewar, Paul Jones, Myla Kabat-Zinn, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Susan Kaiser-Greenland, Suzie Shaw, Nimrod Sheinman, Dennis Shirley, Angela West, Cheryl Harlan, and Trisha Stotler for their support and insightful comments. No funding or institutional support was received for this project. The authors declare they have no conflicts of interest.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to John Meiklejohn.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Meiklejohn, J., Phillips, C., Freedman, M.L. et al. Integrating Mindfulness Training into K-12 Education: Fostering the Resilience of Teachers and Students. Mindfulness 3, 291–307 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-012-0094-5

Download citation

Keywords

  • Attention regulation
  • Emotional self-regulation
  • Mindful teaching
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction
  • Social–emotional learning
  • Stress