Teachers teaching mindfulness with children: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

Author:

Albrecht, Nicole Jacqueline, 2016 Teachers teaching mindfulness with children: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, Flinders University, School of Education

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Abstract

Research Background An extraordinary phenomenon has occurred. Teachers, en masse, in various countries around the world are teaching children techniques to cultivate loving kindness, compassion and inner peace. These practices are generally inspired by mindfulness principles and practices, commonly associated with Buddhist traditions. To date, research in this new field has focused on assessing the efficacy of mindfulness programs in child populations, predominately using outcomes-based study designs. There has been less research focussing on the teacher’s experience. In order to deepen and expand our understanding of mindfulness instruction with children, contributors to the topic have highlighted a critical need to understand the teachers’ experience – particularly teachers with experience teaching mindfulness. Research Question In order to understand teachers’ experiences, the following research question was posed, “How do teachers who are experienced MindBody Wellness practitioners make sense of teaching children mindfulness?” Methodology and Methods Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), a qualitative methodology, was employed to interview teachers and analyse a range of illustrative material. Eight teachers from Australia and the United States (one male and seven females) were interviewed during 2014. Participants’ teaching experience in schools and out-of-school care settings varied from two years to 25 years. The teachers all had a regular mindfulness practice, but at a minimum, they also practised one other modality, such as yoga. The participants additionally provided demographic information and in some cases, data illustrative of their practice, such as unpublished materials, worksheets, journals and photos. Interviews with participants were facilitated by a method that incorporates authenticity, developing relational flow and mindful communication. Findings Through an in-depth analysis and interpretation of teachers’ texts, it was found that MindBody Wellness practices, such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness played an integral role in teachers’ lives. Four inter-related super-ordinate themes captured the essence of how eight teachers made sense of child-based mindfulness instruction: • Spirituality • Creativity • Responsibility for Nurturing a Child’s Wellbeing • Being a Mindful Role Model. It was found that a regular long-term mindfulness practice led to enhanced levels of wellbeing and connection to the self, others and the planet. The participants, having personally experienced the benefits of MindBody Wellness techniques, felt an inclination to share their wisdom with others, especially children. This inclination was generally supported and encouraged by either the school management or the school community and, when it was not, teachers moved to workplaces where a mindful way of being was valued. Being able to teach mindfulness to children and colleagues further heightened participants’ sense of wellbeing and enabled teachers to feel at home in their work environment, creating a conducive environment for learning and being. Teachers emphasised the importance of teaching mindfulness holistically and nourishing the whole of a child’s wellbeing. They felt that there were many ways to approach child-centric mindfulness instruction. However, in general, it was the participants’ personal and professional view that anyone considering teaching children mindfulness should first come to know and live the practice in his or her own life. A number of other recommendations are suggested for practice, policy and future research.

Keywords: Mindfulness, Mindfulness Meditation, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, Wellness, Mindfulness Education, Spirituality
Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2016
School: School of Education
Supervisor: Leigh Burrows