An Integral View of Mindfulness Practices and the Perception of Challenge Within a High School Setting

An Integral View of Mindfulness Practices and the Perception of Challenge Within a High School Setting

Anne Daniel (University of Calgary, Canada)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5873-6.ch009
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The purpose of this chapter was to examine how mindfulness-based strategies are taught within four different classroom settings in a large urban high school and how they impact students' perceptions of challenge. Two different approaches toward mindfulness training were represented in the four classrooms: the first derived from an explicit, outcomes-based approach within a Yoga class setting with a focus on awareness of personal experience; the other was embedded and implicitly connected to the subject discipline of natural science with a focus on situated being. Integral methodological pluralism (IMP) was used to gather data from multiple viewpoints: phenomenological interviews, structural analysis of language frequency and comparisons, ethnographic observations, and hermeneutic interviews. Integral theory was used to analyze the data and identify the individual and cultural themes. Systemic influences are discussed in connection with these findings, and implications for implementation of mindfulness in relation to perception of challenge are explored.
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Educational stakeholders are charged with the exciting yet daunting task of preparing learners to become competent and contributing future members of a complex and ever-changing society (Robinson, 2009). The pace of transformation has accelerated to the point that attempts to isolate and teach skills and aptitudes best fit for prospective working environments have become futile. Educators are encouraged to reach beyond and focus on building more generalized capabilities that span across different fields of study and experiences (Dweck, 2010). Developing broad-based competencies pushes the educator to prepare classroom environments that ensure students will be both authentically challenged and well supported as they engage in situations designed to provoke higher-order thinking.

To do this effectively the educator must first foster internal structures that enable students to have the academic and emotional stamina to work through each challenging learning task. Dweck (2009) has identified, defined, and illustrated two contrasting types of personal mindsets that support or inhibit students in their engagements with challenging problem-based academic work. The first of these is the growth mindset: the attitude that intelligence can be developed and that challenges and setbacks are essential to the process of learning. The second, the fixed mindset, is the belief that intelligence or talent is a pre-set or fixed trait. This fixed mindset prompts individuals to work to protect their personal ideas of their intelligence or talents, and, as a result, students tend to avoid situations that require facing challenges or setbacks.

The goal of this study was to examine how challenge was experienced by the learner and how mindfulness practices might affect perceptions of challenge. Mindfulness is a state of mental awareness of the present moment, which involves the ability to acknowledge thoughts and feelings without judgment (Kabat-Zinn, 2009). Meditative practices have started to gain acceptance within Western society and are now starting to be employed within the classroom. And since mindfulness practices have been used to increase insight, self-actualization and compassion, this study aimed to evaluate the effects of mindfulness practices on teachers’ and students’ perceptions of challenge.

The purpose of this study was to explore how students perceived challenge and to examine the effects that mindfulness practices might have on developing comfort with challenge. In this research, mindfulness and the perception of challenge were viewed systemically, empirically, phenomenologically and ethnographically by employing the Integral theory model (Wilber, 2007). Integral theory attempts to consolidate diverse philosophies and theorists into one single framework. It endeavours to pull together a number of separate paradigms into an interconnected network of approaches.

While exploring mindfulness practices it was discovered there was a distinct contrast between two very different approaches to developing mindfulness. The yoga classes were based on Eastern practices, which stemmed mainly from Theravada traditions. This eastern form was taught using a clear scope and sequence outlined within the course syllabus. Yoga practices, meditation, and mindfulness were assessed using formative outcomes-based assessment practices. In contrast, the Natural Science classes used mindfulness approaches that focused more on biophilia, gratitude, circle protocols, and grounding rituals. Many of the mindfulness strategies were designed to enable students to connect more deeply and genuinely to the environment they were learning about and will eventually be caretakers of. Each mindfulness or meditative strategy was purposefully not assessed and was implicitly taught in tandem with the Natural Science program of study.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Growth Mindset: The attitude that intelligence is a malleable quality; it has potential that can be developed.

Behavioral Engagement: It is connected to participation and being involved in social, academic, and extracurricular activities.

Emotional Engagement: It is connected to the positive and negative reactions to the people and physical structures that make up a school setting.

Fixed Mindset: The attitude that intelligence is a fixed trait you are born with and cannot change.

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