Do we have the recipe right yet? A randomized controlled evaluation of a secondary school mindfulness program for early adolescents
Johnson et al aimed to provide a rigorous evaluation of the mindfulness curriculum called .b (“Dot Be”) in early adolescence. A randomized controlled design was used with 555 students assigned to one of three conditions:
The measures included anxiety, depression, weight/shape concerns, well-being and a multi-dimensional mindfulness measure consisting of 8 factors. The students’ average age was 13.44 years. Results were measured post-intervention at 6 and 12 month follow up. No interactions were found between the 3 groups. Only one main effect occurred – students in the two mindfulness conditions had lower scores on one measured mindfulness factor: Acting with Awareness. The researchers explored what might have led to the null findings, such as low distress scores prior to the curriculum introduction. Particular study limitations included low parental involvement in the 3rd condition and limited compliance with home practice in both tested curriculum conditions. While the results from this rigorous study suggest a lack of efficacy for use of .b with this age group, it warrants further replication with a US sample and with students at a later stage of adolescence.
As I read a story to an eighth grade eighth-grade class, they were instructed to imagine themselves as the main character and to notice what the character was thinking and feeling. “What’s the difference between a thought and an emotion?” asked one 8th grade student. I was surprised that I had to explain the difference to an almost high-school age student from an upper middle class background. I went on to explain that emotions are sensations we experience in our body, sometimes strongly, sometimes subtly, that tell us how we feel and that thoughts are ideas, words, opinions, interpretations, judgments, etc., that may give voice to that feeling or arise from other outside stimulation, formed in our heads.
I was grateful that the student had the courage to ask that question, for his own sake and for others who were wondering the same thing. This was a powerful reminder to me of how important it is to educate students about what they experience on the inside, regardless of age so they can learn how to better navigate the terrain of both their inner and outer worlds.
This book has been hailed as a unique resource for transforming our schools by a number of prominent leaders in the fields of mindfulness and social emotional learning. The first half of the book is divided into three parts and sets the context for mindful teaching and education. In Part 1, Why Mindfulness Matters, Rechtschaffen defines mindfulness, introduces us to a range of mindfulness work already happening in schools and presents an overview of scientific findings on personal benefits. Part 2, Begin With Yourself, emphasizes the importance for teachers and parents to experience mindfulness practices before effectively teaching these skills to children and teens. In Part 3, The Mindful Classroom, the author describes the qualities of a mindful teacher, and essential ingredients for a mindfulness classroom, including ways to address diversity and inclusion, stress and trauma and the needs of different age groups.