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Mindfulness-based Training in Preservice Teacher Education Leads to Improvements in Classroom Teaching Practices
February 5, 2020
Matthew Hirshberg

Researchers from the Center for Healthy Minds published results from a recent study in a new paper in the journal, Learning and Instruction. The study examined the merits of incorporating mindfulness training into preservice teacher education and how such efforts could lead to improvements in the classroom.

“This study provides the first evidence that mindfulness training for preservice teachers leads to significant improvements in effective classroom teaching practices,” says Matt Hirshberg, a postdoctoral research associate at the Center for Healthy Minds and the lead author on this paper.

This study provides the first evidence that mindfulness training for preservice teachers leads to significant improvements in effective classroom teaching practices.

Matt Hirshberg

In the study, researchers randomly assigned 88 early education preservice teachers to either standard teacher education — or teacher education plus a nine-week mindfulness-based intervention.

Researchers utilized the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), a validated measure of effective classroom teaching behaviors, to look at teaching practices at baseline and again at a six-month follow-up that occurred during full-time student teaching. Similarly, mindfulness, negative affect and well-being were assessed at baseline, post-test and follow-up.

The results indicated that the educators who took part in the nine-week, mindfulness-based intervention fared better in all the major CLASS domains: instructional supports; emotional supports; and classroom organization. The researchers further found that daily mindfulness practice was significantly associated with intervention group improvements on instructional supports and classroom organization.

The paper notes that no group differences were observed on negative affect or well-being.


“Because teachers are the single most influential school-based factor in student outcomes, improving teacher practice is paramount. I hope that this and other on-going research will broaden the discussion of requisite teacher competencies, informing future iterations of teacher education. One of the interesting and surprising results here is that the intervention group did not demonstrate reduced negative affect or increased well-being – a finding inconsistent with mindfulness research with in-service teachers – and yet improved their teaching behaviors. Examining the mechanisms by which mindfulness training appears to support preservice teacher practice and whether the mechanisms of improvement differ for pre- and in-service teachers is an important area of future research” says Hirshberg. 

Examining the mechanisms by which mindfulness training appears to support preservice teacher practice and whether the mechanisms of improvement differ for pre- and in-service teachers is an important area of future research.

Matt Hirshberg

Hirshberg is a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow. He is an alumnus of the UW-Madison School of Education, earning his Ph.D. from the Department of Educational Psychology.

Co-authors on the paper are: Lisa Flook, associate scientist, Center for Healthy Minds; Robert Enright, professor, UW­–Madison Department of Educational Psychology; and Richard Davidson, founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds.

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