08 SES 08, Teachers' and Student-teachers' Wellbeing
Students’ relationships with their teachers and classmates are important for their learning and wellbeing, and there is currently growing scholarly interest in the contribution that schools can make to promote students’ mental health and emotional competence (Weare, 2004). Teachers are increasingly expected to develop their students’ social and emotional competence as well as life and communication skills, which are regarded as some of the most important skills in the 21st century (Bellanca & Brandt, 2010; Goleman & Senge, 2014).
However, the setting in which teachers are expected to develop these skills is becoming increasingly challenging; the number of students perceived as disruptive in the classroom has increased over recent years, and, in many countries, special needs students are now included in classes (Jennings, 2011). Teachers are thus expected to meet increasingly stringent demands in conditions with increasing perceived disruptions and difficult interactions with students in class. These conditions call for relationship building and –management in teacher education.
A development project with focus on relationship building was realized at a university college in Denmark during 2012-2016. This paper presents research methods and results from a study of the development project in which two classes within the teacher education program were adapted to include contemplative teaching in relationship building competence. This contemplative teaching was conducted throughout the entire four years of the program—from 2012 to 2016— and included fifty preservice teachers in total.
The paper presentation focus on the following question:
How does learning activities with focus on mindful awareness and social relationship building in teacher education contribute to student teachers professional well-being and systems of reason considering relationship building with students in class?
A body-phenomenology approach provides a coherent theoretical framework to conceptualize and study sensory experiences, emotions and thoughts (Merleau-Ponty, 1945/2014; Petit-Mengin & Bitbol, 2009). With this approach, a person is always intentionally oriented from his/her first-person perspective towards the world, and phenomena in the world simultaneously appeal for the person’s attention and intention (Merleau-Ponty, 1945/2014). On the body-phenomenological approach, attention is essentially responsive: when something happens, the person responds to the change by becoming attentive to the new situation (Waldenfels, 2011). In teacher education, the preservice teachers learn to respond with attention to the meaningful learning outcomes. However, the preservice teacher is not only responsive but intentionally orients his/herself towards what is meaningful in the world. The preservice teacher can (learn to) intentionally maintain focus on a specific activity even if something else appeals for his/her attention. In contemplation and mindfulness meditation practices, the preservice teacher can experience him/herself being in the world and feel how phenomena may push and pull the bodily, affective, emotional and mental balance in a continuum of awareness from unconscious responsiveness to conscious mindful awareness (Roeser & Peck, 2009). On the body-phenomenological approach, meditative training is an embodied training that encourages the individual to be mindfully aware of his/her responsive attention because the continuously changing social world calls for immediate responsive attention and action. In the contemplative training project, mindfulness meditation included embodied training of relational attention, which aimed at helping the preservice teachers develop an awareness of both their own and the other’s perspective.
The paper analyses how the participating student teachers experienced these practices, and how it affected their systems of reason, and in- or excluding relationship building strategies.
In the study of preservice teachers’ experiences in the relationship building program, their degree course, and their school practice, the phenomenological approach and theory formed the basis for methodology and method (Petitmengin and Bitbol, 2009). In order to study the preservice teachers’ experiences, we conducted qualitative in-depth interviews in which we asked for detailed descriptions of significant incidents in their in-service placement training (Petitmengin & Bitbol, 2009). Significant incidents focused on their experiences with good contact to one or more students (or the opposite), and incidents in which they experienced themselves to be ‘a good teacher’. Interviews were conducted with groups of 3-5 preservice teachers, which enabled the preservice teachers to describe their specific experiences individually before reflecting on them collectively. The study’s thematic and analytical approach followed Giorgi (2012); each transcript was read in its entirety, important themes and breaches were cited in the text, and the themes and phenomena were rephrased by the researchers. Common themes as well as variations between the project group and the control group were defined.
Our study suggests that the preservice teachers’ personal experiences and mindful awareness training, together with their commitment to using their knowledge and experiences of relationship building, stand out as important resources for their future education and teaching careers. These resources provide them with a foundation to reason about and focus on their intended relationship building efforts. Future research In order to develop and improve the teacher education program in the future, it is important to learn more about which life experiences and practices in this program can help preservice teachers to build relationships and be mindfully aware throughout their education and teaching. It is promising that the students in our study appeared to thrive with contemplative teacher education, and this suggests that future research should study opportunities for sustainable teaching and education with contemplative education.
Bellanca, J. & Brandt, R. (2010). 21st century skills. Bloomington: Solution Tree Press. Giorgi, A. (2012). The descriptive Phenomenological Psychological Method. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology 43(2012), 3–12. Goleman, D. & Senge, P. (2014). The triple focus. A new approach to education. Florence, MA: More Than Sound. Hart, T. (2004). Opening the Contemplative Mind in the Classroom. Journal of Transformative Education 2(1), 28-46. 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 Preservice and Inservice Teacher Education: Innovative and Successful Practices for the 21st Century (133–143). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Merleau-Ponty, M. (1945/2014). Phenomenology of perception. New York: Routledge. Petitmengin, C. & M. Bitbol (2009). The validity of first-person descriptions as authenticity and coherence. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 16(10-12), 363-404. Roeser, R.W., & Peck, S. C. (2009): An education in awareness: Self, motivation, and self-regulated learning in contemplative perspective. Educational Psychologist, 44(2) 119-136. Waldenfels, B. (2011). Phenomenology of the Alien. Evanston, Illinois: North-Western University Press. Weare, K. (2004). Developing the emotionally literate school. Los Angeles: Sage.
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