Aims: School teachers have hundreds of spontaneous interactions with students each hour, requiring frequent decision-making. Often these interactions require social understanding, perspective taking and emotional self-regulation, constructs often identified with wise reasoning and mindfulness. Increasing mindfulness could aid wiser reasoning in addressing the challenges of classroom demands. The present study evaluated effects of an online mindfulness course on measured wisdom in a sample of public elementary school teachers.
Study Design: This study used a pretest/posttest design using data collected immediately before taking the online mindfulness course and after completion of the course. End of the school year follow-up data was analyzed for all teachers.
Place and Duration of Study: Participants were enrolled from multiple cities across the United States including Boston, Columbus, Chicago, Milwaukee, Seattle, and San Diego between June 2014 and June 2015. Data were collected online and analyzed at the University of Chicago.
Methodology: Public elementary school teachers (n = 12) were assigned to a mindfulness training or a matched wait-list condition (11 female, 1 male; age range 26 – 57 years). Teachers had a range of teaching experiences from 1 to 36 years (median =18 years) and taught grades K-4 at schools with 30% – 50% Caucasian students with 40%-60% students receiving free and reduced-price lunches. We used standardized measures for mindfulness, wisdom, emotion regulation, compassion, theory of mind, state/trait anxiety, stress, burnout, and efficacy.
Results: Online mindfulness training produced a significant increase in mindful awareness and changes in cognitive wisdom implying increased understanding of inter/intrapersonal concerns. There was a significant increase in mindful attention in those who completed both pre- and post-class online evaluations (n = 10) solicited by Mindful Schools (t (9) = 2.738, p = .02) from 54.3 to 59.9 following training (ΔM= 5.6, SD = 6.5). Wisdom, measured with Ardelt’s Three-Dimensional Wisdom Scale (n =12), demonstrated a significant increase in the cognitive dimension of wisdom (t(11) = 2.39, p =.03) with a non-significant increase in the affective dimension (t(11) =1.38, p =.19) and a non-significant reduction in the reflective dimension of wisdom (t(11) =.96, p = .35) following mindfulness training.
Conclusion: Online mindfulness training may help develop wise decision making as a skill for teachers to aid classroom management and social problem solving.