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Children’s experiences of learning mindfulness to help learn attentional skills: A study using interpretive phenomenological analysis Bernadette Carelse.

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Presentation on theme: "Children’s experiences of learning mindfulness to help learn attentional skills: A study using interpretive phenomenological analysis Bernadette Carelse."— Presentation transcript:

1 Children’s experiences of learning mindfulness to help learn attentional skills: A study using interpretive phenomenological analysis Bernadette Carelse Educational Psychologist

2 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

3 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

4 3. Methodology The research question: What are these children’s experiences of learning mindfulness? Method 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 sessions. 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

5 4.1. Background to the participants Adam – struggled to maintain attention. Overwhelmed at times by “sad feelings” Barbara – easily distracted, chatty Calvin – daydreams and struggles to focus in class Dudley – finds to very difficult to concentrate in class, unmotivated. Eric – unfocused and disengages often in class Fiona – lacks self-confidence and struggles to focus on her work Fiona: It felt weird because “I shut my eyes” (Session 1, F1:68)

6 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.” (Calvin). “Weird funny” (Fiona) Barbara: “My legs felt that something..was tickling me” (B1:81). “I thought it was good because I’ve got more energy.” (B1: 85)

7 4.3. The children’s immediate experiences of mindfulness Dudley: The initial mindfulness practice was described as “nice and quiet.” (D1:118). During it, he had been aware of many different things “all at the same time” (D1: 122). Adam: “I noticed sounds” (A1:121) “I feel like my muscles are relaxed and my body is relaxed.” (A1: 123).

8 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) (Above) Calvin: (I’m in the middle)..Loads of things were going around. Stars and swirls and stuff.” (C2:102) (Right) Calvin: describes body scan in 2 nd session, saying “I kind of felt I was spinning around.” (D2: 92)

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

10 Memories Fiona: “I was thinking of the seaside” and the sun “going down”. “It makes me want to swim as well.” She could not remember where it was (Session 5, F2: 130, 135, 140 and 146). Calvin: “I kept thinking about my bike and how it got nicked... I kept on thinking about ghosts and stuff... I was kind of annoyed about my bike getting nicked.” (Session 9; C2:180, 182 and 184)

11 Imaginary places Eric: Describes session 5, “The beach!.. It felt good and I built a sand castle.” Eric: Describes the first session, “I’m meditating... I’m feeling cool.. No hotness, 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)

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

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

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

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

16 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

17 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 processes. Use of children’s drawings to help them to communicate abstract experiences. Supporting children to develop skills to manage difficult (sad or angry) feelings.

18 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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