Bernadette Carelse _3_

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					 Children’s experiences of learning
mindfulness to help learn attentional
     A study using interpretive
    phenomenological analysis

         Bernadette Carelse
       Educational Psychologist
           1. Context of the study
• Origins of the research project
   – Educational psychology involves supporting children with
     SEN, including attentional difficulties
   – Mindfulness - an area of personal and professional interest
• Rationale for the study
   – Attentional skills are related to academic attainment
   – Mindfulness training can help with attentional difficulties
• Original and distinctive contribution
   – Developing mindfulness-based intervention for supporting
     those with attentional difficulties in a primary school
   – Exploring children’s experiences of mindfulness
          2. Background literature
Research with adults:
• Mindfulness can help develop cognitive skills , including
  attentional skills can be developed through practicing
  mindfulness (adults and adolescents)

Research on mindfulness with children:
• is an emerging area of research
• Indicates improved well-being– mindfulness was taught as
  an additional subject area, e.g. within PSHCE
• Has been used in health settings for reducing anxiety,
  improving behaviour (not in schools)
• Children’s views are important – methodological issues
                     3. Methodology
The research question:
     What are these children’s experiences of learning mindfulness?

• A 10-session small group intervention at School Action for pupils in
  Year 5 with mild attentional difficulties was designed. It was run in a
  mainstream primary school twice a week for 5 weeks - 50 minute
• It was based on ideas from mindfulness programmes including
    – Adults and adolescents to address attentional skills (MAPs for ADHD)
    – Adolescents in secondary school settings (MISP)
    – Breathing Space in Schools – designed by Srivati (London Buddhist Centre)
• The process included data-collection - Interviews before and after
  participation in the group. During the sessions, the children were
  invited to draw or write about their experiences.
• Analysis – used Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis
4.1. Background to the participants
• Adam – struggled to maintain
  attention. Overwhelmed at
  times by “sad feelings”
• Barbara – easily distracted,
• Calvin – daydreams and
  struggles to focus in class
• Dudley – finds to very difficult
  to concentrate in class,
• Eric – unfocused and
  disengages often in class          Fiona: It felt weird because “I shut my
• Fiona – lacks self-confidence      eyes” (Session 1, F1:68)
  and struggles to focus on her
    4.2. Initial views on mindfulness
• “Good” or “fine” (all)
• “Calm” (Eric)
• “Relaxing” (Adam)
• “I feel like better than I
  normally feel.” (Adam)
• “I thought it was good
  because I’ve got more
  energy.” (Barbara)
• My head was spinning
  around and around the
  room, just going slowly, in a
  peaceful kind of way.”
                                  Barbara: “My legs felt that something ..was
  (Calvin).                       tickling me” (B1:81). “I thought it was good
• “Weird funny” (Fiona)           because I’ve got more energy.” (B1: 85)
4.3. The children’s immediate experiences
              of mindfulness

Adam: “I noticed sounds”        Dudley: The initial mindfulness practice was
(A1:121) “I feel like my        described as “nice and quiet.” (D1:118). During it,
muscles are relaxed and my      he had been aware of many different things “all at
body is relaxed .” (A1: 123).   the same time” (D1: 122).
  4.4.1. Drawing physical experiences
(Left) Calvin:
describes his
first session,
saying “I just
felt like I was
spinning round
and round. It
was cool
towards the
end.” (C2: 76)

(Right) Calvin:
describes body
scan in 2nd
session, saying        (Above) Calvin: (I’m in the
“I kind of felt I      middle)..Loads of things were
was spinning           going around. Stars and swirls and
around.” (D2:          stuff.” (C2:102)
4.4.1. Drawing physical experiences

                                  Calvin: Session 8, describes he
Calvin: Session 5, describing     experiences of a sitting mindfulness
his breath “It was the like the   practice “I could feel the air and I
sea, like it was always moving    could hear the bell, the bell outside or
around.” (C2:116)                 something.”
                       4.4.2. Memories

Fiona: “I was thinking of the seaside”   Calvin: “I kept thinking about my bike
and the sun “going down”. “It makes      and how it got nicked... I kept on
me want to swim as well.” She could      thinking about ghosts and stuff... I was
not remember where it was (Session       kind of annoyed about my bike getting
5, F2: 130, 135 , 140 and 146).          nicked.” (Session 9; C2:180, 182 and
                  4.4.3. Imaginary places

Eric: Describes the first session, “I’m            Eric: Describes session 5, “The beach! ..
meditating... I’m feeling cool.. No hotness,       It felt good and I built a sand castle.”
just like it’s smooth.” (E2: 132, 136, 138)

                Eric: Describes session 6: “This is football.. That’s my coach.. And
                that’s me... Goal!” (E2: 210, 214, 216, 220)
                4.4.3. Imaginary places

Eric: Session 8 was depicted with         Eric: At the last interview, drew an imaginary
the caption “I was thinking about me      world “cookie-land”, saying “I’m in my happy
being an animal.” He described his        place” (D2: 306) where “everything is made out
picture, “That’s me being a bird,         of biscuit, even the dog.” (E2: 314) and “When
having a worm in my mouth... I was        I’m upset, I just go into my happy place” (E2:
focused on like the air. That’s like my   346). He struggles to return to the present
breathing (E2: 240 and 252)               from here, needing prompting at times.
                4.4.4. Mental processes

                                            Dudley: described this picture of things that
Dudley: described his picture, saying      distract his attention, saying “This one’s
“The green is me. The blue is the relax.   Basketball and this one’s football and I’m
And the brown is comfortableness.          sitting down thinking of those sports. And
Hmm.. I’ve never done that before.”        someone is singing, who I don’t know. And I
(Session 5, D2: 208)                       wrote in the corner “football, basketball and
                                           singing ”.” (Session 8, D2: 270)
                  4.4.4. Mental processes

                                                Barbara: Describes her way of maintaining
Calvin: it was on like your thoughts or your    her attention on her breath, “I just felt like
concentration. So a candle is burning. It       singing and so I just thought of humming
flickers and stuff. And then after a while it   at bit and then in my thought I was
goes out. (Session 6, C2: 144)                  counting to ten “ ( Session 8, B2: 351)
     4.4.5. Present moment drawings

                                                 Barbara: Describes her drawing from
Barbara: “I was just thinking about triangles,   session 9, “Well I was thinking about
going in my head. And I didn’t have              seeing loads of rainbows, because I’ve
anything , but then, when I started draw..       never seen one, except.. except at in Year
thinking I just kept looking at triangles.       5, because we saw a rainbow when we
Everything’s triangles. So I thought I should    was in the park. “ (B2: 371) “I just got it in
draw the triangles . So I just thought I         my head. I just thought of seeing those
should draw triangles.                           loads of rainbows in one go.” (B2: 373)
  Children’s views on teaching mindfulness

• Mindfulness is about developing ways to concentrate,
  being in the present.
• The mindfulness course was fun, especially body scan.
• The practices were initially difficult but got easier.
• Mindfulness helped them to:
   – Concentrate better in class, ignoring distractions, focus on
     the teacher instead of talking to friends and work quicker
   – Help their friends to be calmer and more focused too.
   – Speak to parents more calmly and be patient with siblings.
• Practicing at home: body scan, sitting mindfulness
              6. Implications
• There is increasing interest in the use of
  mindfulness approaches in school settings
• Using mindfulness-approaches as a school-based
  intervention - it has some potential.
• Use of metaphor to enable children to develop
  understanding and control of attentional
• Use of children’s drawings to help them to
  communicate abstract experiences.
• Supporting children to develop skills to manage
  difficult (sad or angry) feelings.
 7. Further thoughts and conclusions
• Training to teach mindfulness in schools
• Adapting materials for teaching mindfulness
  to help children learn attentional skills.
• Involving school staff and parents
• Personal practice of trainers
• Working with other educational psychologists

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