08 SES 13, Wellbeing and Schooling: Cross cultural and cross disciplinary perspectives
With growing concerns about the extent of mental health difficulties amongst children and young people (Fazel et al 2014), mindfulness is increasingly advocated and practiced in schools in an attempt to reduce stress and enhance wellbeing (O’Toole et al., 2017). A growing volume of research suggests that mindfulness brings about positive psychosocial and cognitive outcomes in school-aged children, at least in the short term (eg. Flook et al 2010). However, there is a notable dearth of research that seeks an understanding of children’s subjective experiences of mindfulness. Such research is crucial not least because any long term and sustainable improvement in childhood mental health will necessarily involve a deep understanding of children’s worlds, including the ways that children understand, interpret, negotiate and feel about the activities and events that form part of their daily lives. In this study forty-eight children (aged 10-11 years) completed a structured, six-week mindfulness intervention (called Paws b; see mindfulnessinschools.org) in an ethnically diverse, urban primary school in Dublin, Ireland. Following the intervention, seven children took part in arts-based research and focus groups/interviews. In addition, four children engaged in capacity building exercises (Kellett, 2011; Lundy, et al, 2011) and subsequently acted as co-researchers by conducting a series of focus groups with peers, as well as working with the second author to identify emergent themes. It emerged that while some children reported finding the practices a little strange at first, they generally enjoying the activities, viewing them as a welcome break from the busyness of the school day, and an opportunity to relax. They expressed an interest in establishing mindfulness as a more regular part of their everyday school experience. A small number of children reported using the practices outside of school, particularly at bedtime when they were having difficulty falling asleep. It was evident from the conversations that children depicted their lives as stressful and they identified a pressure to perform -- both in school (eg. academic tests) and outside of school (eg. extra-curricular pursuits) – as a significant source of stress. Such pressures are linked to dominant socio-cultural structures and ideologies skewed toward individualism and competition (Smail, 2005). Thus, while mindfulness is generally perceived positively by children, care must be taken that enthusiasm for the practices do not detract attention from powerful ideologies, which operate at more distal levels, but nonetheless impact children’s wellbeing in potent ways.
Fazel M, Patel V, Thomas S, Tol W. (2014). Mental health interventions in schools in low-income and middle-income countries. The Lancet Psychiatry, 1(5):388-98. Flook L, Smalley SL, Kitil MJ, Galla BM, 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. Kellett, M. (2011). Empowering children and young people as researchers: overcoming barriers and building capacity. Child Indicators Research, 4, 205–219. Lundy L, McEvoy L, Byrne B. (2011). Working with young children as co-researchers: an approach informed by the united nations convention on the rights of the child. Early Education and Development, 22(5), 714-736. O'Toole C, Furlong M, McGilloway S, Bjørndal A. (in press). Preschool and school-based mindfulness programmes for improving mental health and cognitive functioning in young people aged 3 to 18 years [Protocol]. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Smail, D. (2005). Power, interest and psychology: Elements of a social materialist understanding of distress. PCCS Books: Ross-on-Wye, UK
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
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