Posted 02.23.2015 | by AMRA

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Educators and administrators seek out school-based programs that help students develop self-awareness, self-regulation, relationship, and decision-making skills. Schonert-Reichl et al. [Developmental Psychology] evaluated a mindfulness-based social and emotional learning curriculum (MindUP) to see if it improved children’s cognitive control, well-being, prosocial behavior, and academic performance.

Ninety-nine British Columbian public school 4th and 5th graders had their classrooms randomly assigned to either the MindUP program or a routine social responsibility curriculum. The 4-month MindUP intervention included 3-minute mindfulness exercises (breathing and listening) repeated 3 times daily. It also included twelve 40-50 minute weekly lessons on mindfulness, perspective taking, optimism, empathy, gratitude, kindness, and community service.

The control group followed the standard British Columbian public school curriculum. The children were assessed before and after the interventions on computerized tests of executive function, self-report measures of pro-sociality, and year-end math grades were also obtained from school records.

The MindUP children showed significantly greater improvement in executive function reaction time. They also showed significant moderate-sized improvements on self-report measures of empathy, perspective taking, optimism, emotional control, self-concept depressive symptoms, and mindfulness. In contrast, controls decreased over time on these self-report measures.

MindUP children were significantly more likely to show moderate to large improvements on peer behavioral nominations for sharing, trustworthiness, helpfulness, and taking other’s points of view, while exhibiting significantly greater decreases in rule breaking and starting fights. There was also a trend towards higher math scores for MindUP participants relative to controls.

These results show that mindfulness training may provide added value to programs aimed at improving children’s emotional and social competencies. Classroom interventions like MindUp offer the promise of making a meaningful contribution to children’s future academic and social success.

Reference:

Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Oberle, E., Lawlor, M. S., Abbott, D., Thomson, K., Oberlander, T. F., & Diamond, A. (2015). Enhancing cognitive and social–emotional development through a simple-to-administer mindfulness-based school program for elementary school children: A randomized controlled trial. Developmental Psychology.

[Link to abstract]