Pregnancy, Babies, Parenting News & Tips

Study Shows Mindfulness Training Can Help Reduce Teacher Stress and Burnout

By Staff Reporter / Aug 28, 2013 03:03 PM EDT
  • Study Shows Mindfulness Training Can Help Reduce Teacher Stress and Burnout
  • (Photo : Flickr) Study Shows Mindfulness Training Can Help Reduce Teacher Stress and Burnout

Teachers who practice "mindfulness" are better able to reduce their own levels of stress and prevent burnout, according to a new study conducted by the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Waisman Center.

The results of the study, led by Assistant Scientist Lisa Flook, were recently published in the journal Mind, Brain and Education.

Like Us on Facebook

Mindfulness, a notion that stems from centuries-old meditative traditions and is now taught in a secular way, is a technique to heighten attention, empathy and other pro-social emotions through an awareness of thoughts, external stimuli, or bodily sensations such as breath.

While teachers play a critical role in nurturing children's well-being, progress in addressing teacher stress has been elusive. Stress and burnout among teachers is a major concern for school districts nationwide, affecting the quality of education and incurring increased costs in recruiting and sustaining teachers.

For the study, a group of 18 teachers was recruited to take part in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, a well-established and well-studied method of mindfulness training. The project team adapted the MBSR training to fit the particular needs and time demands of elementary school teachers. It was among the first efforts to train teachers, in addition to students, in mindfulness techniques and to examine the effects of this training in the classroom.

"We wanted to offer training to teachers in a format that would be engaging and address the concerns that were specifically relevant to their role as teachers," says Flook, who has advanced degrees in education and psychology and whose primary interest is in exploring strategies to reduce stress and promote well-being in children and adolescents.

The teachers who received the training were randomly assigned and asked to practice a guided meditation at home for at least 15 minutes per day. They also learned to use specific strategies for preventing and dealing with stressors in the classroom, such as "dropping in," a term to describe the process of bringing attention to the sensations of breath and other physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions for brief periods of time. The training also included caring practices to bring kind awareness to their experiences, especially those that are challenging.

One of the goals of the study was to evaluate outcomes using measures that could be affected by mindfulness training. The researchers found that those who received the mindfulness training displayed reductions in psychological stress, improvements in classroom organization and increases in self-compassion. In comparison, the group that did not receive the training showed signs of increased stress and burnout over the course of the school year. These results provide objective evidence that MBSR techniques are beneficial to teachers.

"The most important outcome that we observed is the consistent pattern of results, across a range of self-report and objective measures used in this pilot study, that indicate benefits from practicing mindfulness," says Flook, who also leads CIHM's "Kindness Curriculum" study involving 4-year-old preschoolers.

Madison teacher Elizabeth Miller discovered that mindfulness is a meditative technique that does not require "just sitting still and trying to observe your thoughts," which she said was difficult for her. The course showed her that mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, at any time.

Although Miller had practiced meditation before participating in the study, it had never occurred to her to use some of the mindfulness techniques, such as focusing on the breath, in the classroom. Now Miller uses this tool throughout the day, such as between subject areas or after recess, to refocus her students' attention, inviting them to pause and take three deep breaths together before beginning math, for example.

"Breath awareness was just one part of the training, but it was something that I was able to consistently put into practice," says Miller. "Now I spend more time getting students to notice how they're feeling, physically and emotionally, before reacting to something. I think this act of self-monitoring was the biggest long-term benefit for both students and teachers."

Next, Flook would like to work on replicating the study's initial findings through a larger-scale, national project that also connects students. "We want to explore how the teacher practice can be sustained, and how that affects the students, she says. "Can we train the teachers to also teach mindfulness? What effect does that have on the students?"

Richard J. Davidson, the study's senior author and CIHM founder and chair, added that "in the future, the group will explore the synergistic impact of teacher and student training on a variety of individual and classroom outcomes."

Provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison
Featured Video : Never Leave Your Child Alone in the Car: Parents Urged to Take Heat Stroke Seriously Before it's too late

Sierra Leone wraps up three-day Ebola lockdown

An empty street is seen at the start of a three-day national lockdown in Freetown September 19, 2014.

Read More »

Cerner and Athenahealth say integrating with Apple's mobile health service

The Apple logo is pictured at a retail store in the Marina neighborhood in San Francisco, California April 23, 2014.

Read More »

White House calls for task force to tackle antibiotic-resistant bugs

A medical technician prepares samples in the specimen set-up area of the Vanderbilt Clinical Microbiology Lab in Nashville, Tennessee on October 19, 2012.

Read More »

U.N. to deploy Ebola mission as death toll reaches 2,630

1 of 3. Health workers remove the body of Prince Nyentee, a 29-year-old man whom local residents said died of Ebola virus in Monrovia September 11, 2014.

Read More »

IMF says Ebola hits economic growth in West Africa

A fan of Ivory coast holds a sign with a message against Ebola during the 2015 African Nations Cup qualifying soccer match between Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone at the Felix Houphouet Boigny stadium in Abidjan September 6, 2014.

Read More »

Nebraska Ebola patient showing more progress : hospital

Nebraska Ebola patient showing more progress : hospital

Read More »

U.S. FDA staff review of NPS drug sparks stock rebound

U.S. FDA staff review of NPS drug sparks stock rebound

Read More »

Ice Cold Awareness—The ALS Association & The #IceBucketChallenge

In terms of marketing ploys, none may be quite as viral in these past few summer months than the “Ice Bucket Challenge” which has swept through social media by storm. The concept, simple: to either donate funds to the ALS Association or douse yourself with a bucket of ice water. And like a chain mail or massive viral text, the challenge has been spread to the corners of the United States.
Initiated by the ALS Association, a non-profit organization that supports awareness and research into Amyotropohic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the organization has picked up momentum and a bank full of funds from the freezing summertime challenge.

Read More »

Mexican Scientists Develop New Device to Monitor Developing Cardiovascular Disease

With staggering statistics of the American Heart Association and other researchers in the field of cardiology proving that Hispanics/Latinos over the age of 20 have a greater than 30 percent incidence of cardiovascular disease, researchers in Mexico have begun developing a device that will monitor cholesterol and triglyceride levels—all without a single drop of blood.

Read More »

A Fanless PC That Can Keep Its Cool And Still Be Hot—Silent Power PC

The days of the traditional tower PC as we remember them are long gone. The contemporary takes on the personal computer are far sleeker, some might even say chicer than their 90's predecessors. Processors have picked up GB's of speed, memory has expanded exponentially and mother-boards have verged on the borderline microscopic. But what's more, some companies are even ditching the essentials for a more creative approach at high-speed processing.

Read More »

An Exercise in Simplicity—Faraday Café Puts An End to the Social Age

There’s something to be said in the simplicity that we grew up in. Confined by the evolutionary limitations our voices and our feet could manage, before the turn of the digital revolution, humans were a far less social creature… at least in theory. But now that we’re so connected on the internet, and constantly looking for more ways to log on rather than hang out, there are those who think that the simplicity and personal connections we once thrived on are lost.

Read More »

Perseids Meteor Shower 2014 [August 11-12 Live Streaming & Peak Times]: Perseids Play ‘til Tuesday

With the closest extra supermoon we’ll witness for another two decades orbiting just beyond our atmosphere this past weekend, many found that the radiating light-pollution was a distraction to the real show; the Perseids meteor shower.

Read More »

Real Time Analytics