Even More Good News about Mindfulness

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. 

Of course, stress is important. (Let me say that again. Stress is important.) But, as teachers, we probably care about grades too.

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.

Today’s News

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.

A Reminder

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.



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