Exploration of the use of meditation in classrooms

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Explore the use of meditation in the classroom

The three main aims of this research are to firstly investigate the benefits of meditation in the classroom, additionally this research aims to explore the role of meditation within the subject school ethos and finally this research aims to establish the perspective of educational practitioners within the subject school on the use of meditation in the classroom.

Brief discussion of relevance to workplace and overview of the field

There is a growing concern in society today about the amount of reports of bad and violent behaviour within schools. This appears to be a huge problem that is regularly voiced by all the United Kingdom main tabloid newspapers, since it has a detrimental affect on the miss-behaved pupil and their fellow pupils. Historically, past methods of controlling this inappropriate behaviour included corporal punishment, detention, suspensions and pupils being expelled or excluded from education. These are all forms of negative punishment and do not seem to be having the desired effect in our modern day schools at controlling behaviour. Because of this, new positive techniques aimed at helping and educating problem pupils are being introduced at an earlier age. These techniques include quite place, self discovery programs, reward schemes and relaxation techniques. Therefore there is a need to help children find natural perhaps holistic ways to enable their bodies and minds to combat the pressures of today's modern living and to find better ways to help focus their minds on matters of importance. There are strong pedagogical reasons Fisher R. (2006) for including meditation as part of the daily experience of pupils of all ages and abilities. Meditation is a proven means for stilling the mind, encouraging mindfulness, and providing optimum conditions for generative thinking and reflection.

According to ECM dcsf.gov.uk (2008) and DfES (2005) one of the ECM objective is for children to 'Be Healthy', ECM stated 2020 as a target for achieving the objective of "Enhancing children and young people's wellbeing". Within this there are targets which refer to improving 'mental health' and 'emotional and behavioral health'. There is growing anxiety about the quality of learning in our schools, despite a decade of exhaustive reforms in education. Nixon, J. et al.(1996) point out that there is a growing realization that the agenda of the recent past has failed to address the continuing levels of underachievement in our schools. The government as has previous governments, pledged to raise educational standards as its main priority, under the battle cry of 'education, education, education'. However the quality of the future of education depends not on the quantitative expansion of access and availability of education, as is commonly thought, but on a transformation of the way individuals think of themselves as learners ECM dcsf.gov.uk (2008) and an awareness that certain mental and emotional prerequisites or 'scaffolding' Garhart Mooney, C. (2000) need to be in place before real learning can occur. Many pupils are underachieving schools because they have come to see themselves as incapable of handling academic work and feel that the curriculum is not relevant to life outside school leading to tem becoming unreceptive to learning because of the negative perceptions they hold of themselves as individuals and as learners. The questions that need to be asked are not how many subjects can be crammed into a school day, but what is the motivation and mental or emotional state of the learner? Can pupils be taught to shift their capacity to learn? Aronson, J., Fried, C. B., & Good, C. (2001) inform that the conventional notion of intelligence as a fixed ability has been overturned in the last 20 years with the dramatic increase in our knowledge of the workings of our brains has been facilitated by neuroscience using revolutionary new computerized techniques to explore the living brain in action. This has led to a flourishing of interest in 'learning how to learn' and the awareness that humans have the capacity to enhance the intelligence they genetically inherited from their parents. This was further illuminated by the convincing suggestion from Smith, M. K. (2002) that we have many different types of intelligence.

Therefore this case study will explore the perceived benefits of meditation in the classroom, whilst looking at the role of meditation within the subject school ethos and establishing the perspective of educational practitioners within the subject school on the use of meditation in the classroom.

Methodology & Data Collection

This case study will draw together conclusions from three main sources. The three main sources will form a triangulation Bell, J. & Opie, C. (2002) and will test the reliability and validity, The Qualitative Report (2003) of the study. Firstly, a comprehensive reading of the literature on the subject of meditation, this reading will be undertaken via Journals, articles, academic subject books and online research. Based on the reading, a questionnaire of open and closed format questions will be compiled using structured questions due to their ease of analyse Youngman, M.B. (1982), Newell, R. (1993), Burns, R. (2000), to explore in more depth the salient issues of which will then be presented to the participating teachers at the subject school.

On receipt of the completed questionnaires, a review Munn, P. & Drever, E. (1999) of the collected data will be carried out and that data used to create structured interviews, taking into account the issue of Ethics (Cohen et al (2000) with a sample of teaching staff at the subject School will be carried out. Each interview predicted to last between 20 and 30 minutes. Data from the questionnaires and interviews will be collated and evaluated in preparation for the writing of the final project report.

Literature review

Meditation is commonly said Fontana, D. & Slack, I. (1997). p5. to be just sitting quietly doing nothing, in which the mind is held clear and still, alert and watchful, and free from losing itself in thinking'. However, research Miller, JP. & Nozawa, A. (2002) p180. And leoni, J. (2006) p126. has shown that there are philosophical, practical and pedagogical reasons to support the practice of meditation. Philosophers have long argued that humans are by nature meditative beings. For them meditation was about serious and sustained reflection on matters of importance.

A large amount of data supporting the effectiveness of meditation has been collected Walsh, R. (1999) p83-108. These benefits include physical ones such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels Murphy, M. & Donovan, S. (1997). Studies have also found that meditation can increase creativity, academic achievement and interpersonal relationships. Alexander, C., Rainforth, M. & Gelderloos, P. (1991) p83-108 & Murphy, M. & Donovan, S. (1997). The major finding of their work was that when meditation is introduced in an academic setting it can have positive long term effect on both the personal and professional lives of educators and the children. It was reported that most of the children felt that meditation helped them become calmer and gain a feeling of being more centred in their work. Another finding was a ripple effect as about one-quarter of the teachers introduced meditation to their students. They found that students looked forward to the meditation, and help make their classes calmer and more relaxed. Much of the learning that occurs in an educational setting is limited to the intellect. It is possible, however, to introduce holistic practices into academic environments in a non-threatening manner that can have long-term effects. In education, it is often cited that there is a need to teach the whole person, yet the methods we employ are almost entirely focused on the intellect part of the child. Therefore, there are practical reasons for engaging in meditative thinking related to its contribution to a child's wellbeing. For many children today's childhood is not always a carefree time. In a materialistic, competitive world children are subject to many of the same stresses and strains as adults. Children face an information overload of words, images and noise. They are prey to the frustration and anger of others and often experience negative emotions more deeply and intensely than adults. Often due to this children can find it difficult to articulate their problems. It is therefore not surprising that so many children find concentrating in class difficult and are perhaps impulsive in their behaviour.

Much research Murphy, M., & Donovan, S. (1999). has gone a long way to highlight the positive and practical effects of meditation. As in most areas of the social sciences positive conclusions are not proved with absolute scientific certainty and some research has proved inconclusive. The main findings of Fisher, R. (2006), Miller, J. (2002), Leoni, J. (2006) say that meditation within education claim to show that meditation can improve Mental abilities, Health (well being) and social behaviour.

There is evidence however, that say that meditative practices can be of specific benefit to children, Bray, M. A., Peck, H. L., Kehle, T. J., & Theodore, L. A. (2005). P415-424, for example helping children who suffer attention problems. Teachers engaged in researching meditation with children Creative Partnerships, (2005) report positive results. More schools are using meditation techniques to treat or prevent common emotional and psychological problems that block learning, such as anxiety and attention deficit disorders. Conis, E. (2005) says that many parents, teachers and children engaged in meditation with children programmes are convinced of their benefits.

Contemplative practices are also vehicles for guiding students to experience the silent spaces between words; a way to help students experience nature; the basis for dialogue Gangadeen, A. (1993 & 1997); a way to evoke insight, intuition, and creativity Dirkx, J. M. (1997).p79-87.; to improve concentration and attention; to reduce stress; and as a means of moving students toward a more inclusive and integral ecological worldview O'Sullivan, E. (1999).

The evidence of research into the benefits of meditation is not undisputable. A recent review by Kirkwood, G., Rampes, H., Tuffrey, V., Richardson, J., & Pilkington, K. (2005). p884-891. of research evidence on the effectiveness of meditative activities for the treatment of anxiety and anxiety disorders reported positive results in the eight studies reviewed, but also highlighted many inadequacies in the methods of research. The authors concluded it was not possible to say that meditative activities were effective in treating anxiety or anxiety disorders in general and that there was a need for further research.

Erricker, C., & Erricker, J. (Eds.). (2001). Show that those who engage in meditation often feed back that it can be very relaxing yet energising, it calms the mind, improves concentration, and boosts creativity. The benefits claimed by meditators include finding 'inner peace', greater energy, more productive solutions to problems, more restful sleep, reduced tension, stress and anxiety.

Meditation aims at 'promoting health and wellbeing in schools' DfES, (2005). But more than that it helps to 'open the brain' and prepare the mind by focusing and energising it ready for the challenge of creative learning. Research from Ljobomir, A., & Semen, G. (2005) p893-909, shows that the benefits of meditation increase over time so therefore it is a discipline that needs practiced.

A common thread through all authors was that the meditative practice can never be entered into with a thought of achievement of a singular goal. There is no goal to be achieved in meditation and all results are by-products. What is learnt during meditation practice is how to do nothing, and how a meditating child can alter the way they view themselves and the world about them.