Health and Wellbeing is recognised as being the foundation for all learning to occur, if children are not meeting health and wellbeing outcomes, then it is likely that they are having difficulty achieving outcomes in the whole curriculum. Considering this idea, our group decided to implement a reflective diary after lunchtime. It was anticipated that this would generally have a positive impact on the learning environment, making it more conducive for effecting teaching and learning to take place. The enquiry was designed to look specifically at three areas: listening, concentration and participation.
The aim of this enquiry was to explore the correlation between mindfulness in the classroom as a transition technique, and reflect upon the change in pupil enthusiasm, quality of work, ethos and atmosphere of the classroom. Classrooms across the country present with a wide range of abilities and behaviours which can impact negatively on learning and teaching in the classroom environment, in avertedly impacting on peers learning experience. This enquiry involved 6 classes using a personal reflective journal over a four week period. It was anticipated that a positive effect on pupil focus and the overall ethos of the classroom would be achieved.
In the school setting, mindfulness-based interventions (MBI’s) have been proposed as a way to help improve social/emotional well-being and thus lead to better educational outcomes. Precisely, mindful awareness, which can be cultivated by various techniques, allows one to experience the present moment with openness, an accepting attitude, enhanced attention and increased cognition and has therefore seen a recent exponential increase in use within schools. As children from deprived backgrounds are at increased risk of poor social/emotional well-being; this enquiry group felt that a MBI would be a worthy area of exploration in light of the Scottish Attainment Challenge.
All children were issued with a questionnaire that enabled the collection of data about how they felt about their ability to listen to others, concentrate and participate in the afternoon. This is was prior to the implementation of a mindfulness reflection journal. The questionnaire enabled the analysis of data to be carried out quantitatively and methodically. The children then recorded their reflections every day for four weeks in their own mindfulness journal where they were unloaded their feelings, worries and thoughts. After four weeks, the children were given the same questionnaire and qualitative analysis began to find out key information and emergent themes.
Analysis of the qualitative and quantitative data collected from all enquiries shows that the introduction of a mindfulness activity has had a positive impact on the learning environment. Although this varies from minor to more significant changes, there is a positive trend showing in pupil listening, concentration and participation in the afternoon. Evidence gathered also indicated that pupils enjoyed the activity and wish to continue this in the future.
In conclusion, it can be seen that the implementation of reflection exercises has a positive impact on the level of focus and concentration of the children. The result of this improvement being that the children became more active learners, more engaged in lessons and better learners overall. By teaching reflection strategies and their importance it allowed pupils to remain focused on their work creating an equitable working environment where children were able to fulfil their emotional and social needs resulting in a more accessible learning environment. These strategies were adopted at times when the pupils appeared disengaged or lacking in focus in order to increase productivity during lessons, this usually occurred after lunchtime. The results indicate that the reflection strategies improved pupil focus and concentration in the classroom, which is expected to have the knock on effect of improving their learning.
Implications for Future Practice
This enquiry demonstrates that there is a continued need for educators to be cognizant of and prioritise mental wellbeing in the classroom. Furthermore, incorporating mindfulness techniques need not be complicated; the use of a simple tool such as a Mindfulness Journal proves that It is possible to introduce mindfulness into the classroom without rigorous training or costly investment. It is an uncomplicated, convenient, cost-effective and inclusive method to assist learners in recognising and processing their own thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness Journals also lend themselves to wider application across the curriculum; the act of journal keeping provides children with opportunities to practise literacy skills in a more informal setting, free from teacher expectations. Mindfulness Journals could also be used as an extension or stand-alone activity, or as a tool for emotional regulation, as a “time-out” exercise.
Health and Wellbeing continues to be one of the key priorities of the Scottish Government’s Curriculum for Excellence. It is crucial, therefore, that practitioners ensure that they are aware of effective measures that can be implemented within their classrooms with immediate effect.