Last week, I described a small but persuasive study about the benefits of mindfulness.
This study combined techniques from both psychology and neuroscience to show that mindfulness really can help students manage stress.
And, it even had an active control group. Just what a research wonk would desire.
As I noted at the time, however, this study focused on stress and not on grades.
We’d love to see another study: one that includes information on topics other than stress. Like, say, learning.
We’d also be delighted it were larger. 40 people is nice…but several hundred would be even more persuasive.
Sure enough, a just-published study focused on mindfulness and several academic measures:
Standardized math and literacy tests
Number of suspensions
Yup: mindfulness correlated with more of the good stuff (higher grades and test scores) and less of the bad stuff (suspensions).
And, this study included 2000 students in grades 5-8.
This study is, in fact, the first to show strong connections between mindfulness and these academic measures.
We might be tempted to jump to a strong conclusion. If
Study #1: mindfulness interventions reduce stress, and
Study #2: higher mindfulness correlates with better academic outcomes,
We’re tempted to conclude that
Mindfulness interventions lead to better academic outcomes.
But, as we remind ourselves daily
Correlation is not causation.
Until we run a large study (with active controls and random assignment) which shows that students who practiced mindfulness ended up with more learning, we can’t be sure of that conclusion.
However, that’s an increasingly plausible possibility, given these two studies.
A Final Note
Both these studies were supervised by John Gabrieli, at MIT. He’ll be speaking at this fall’s Learning and the Brain conference. If you’d like to learn more about the connection between mindfulness and school, come join us (and Dr. Gabrieli) in Boston.