Mindfulness and leadership come together as a model for arriving at solutions in the field of education. Two approaches, Eastern and Western, present perspectives on mindfulness that are distinct, however both aim towards the same goal of enhancing awareness. Originating in the East, mindfulness is at the core of Buddhist philosophy and includes enhanced attention and an attentiveness to the present. Conversely, the Western approach to mindfulness gained traction in the 1970s in the field of cognitive and social psychology. Within the field of education in the United States, mindfulness has contributed, primarily in the classroom, as an activity to foster better classroom management and improved focus on learning. Mindfulness has also been applied to mindful learning, aimed at revealing enhanced approaches to learning. Along a similar vein, applications of mindfulness in the leadership field, encourage the approach of focused attention to individual leadership development, problem-solving, and self-reflection. Resonant leadership and authentic leadership are two of the primary leadership models that include the strategy of mindfulness. Moving beyond the individual perceptions of mindfulness in leadership development, a more collaborative approach of mindfulness has emerged, where social change emerges from interdependence and mutuality amongst a number of individuals. Whether at the individual or collective level, mindfulness is impacted by cultural influences. Educational leaders are tasked with leading ethnically diverse learning communities by necessity, as demographics change and ethnic minority populations become minority majority populations. Thus, awareness of one’s cultural mindset, both limitations and strengths, can contribute to one’s leadership abilities. Mindfulness, when directed inward, can paradoxically enhance one’s ability to better understand others and to breakthrough stereotypes. This perspective could foreseeably foster cultural competence and greater levels of cultural integration, but as a function of greater self-awareness. Thus, mindfulness and leadership, as a creative combination of self and other, come together as a promising model of leadership for educators. Whether integrated as a necessary element of existing leadership theories, or identified as an important process of reflection in leadership development, mindfulness opens a pathway to greater insight and awareness. Aspects of mindfulness can therefore contribute to leadership, in particular, at the intersection of these elements relative to culture.
Marina Schwimmer and Kevin McDonough
Mindfulness meditation is a growing social phenomenon in Western countries and is now also becoming a common part of life in public schools. The concept of mindfulness originated in Buddhist thinking and meditation practices over 2,500 years ago. Its original purpose was mainly to alleviate people’s suffering by providing a path to inner wisdom and vitality, which implied the development of compassion, patience, and forgiveness, as well as other values conducive to inner peace. In the 1970s, this practice was popularized in the West as it was adapted to and integrated with secular intervention programs aimed at reducing stress and dealing with chronic pain. Packages promoting mindfulness practices are disseminated commercially, backed by research in neuroscience and developmental psychology, for use in schools through programs like MindUp and Mindful Schools. In recent years, there has been a marked uptick of interest from educational researchers in mindfulness education. Several distinct research orientations or approaches can be discerned—mindfulness-based intervention (MBI), an instrumental approach that views mindfulness practices in clinical or therapeutic terms; a spiritualist approach, which emphasizes the rootedness of MBIs in ancient religious traditions and focuses on the benefits of mindfulness practices for individual spiritual growth; and a political approach, which highlights the potential benefits of MBIs to develop students’ capacities for democratic deliberation and participation. Contemporary mindfulness education in schools also sometimes reflects the cultural influence of New Age values, an orientation distinct from the instrumental, spiritualist, and political approaches, and whose impact may raise troubling questions about the purported educational benefits of MBIs. Accordingly, the alliance between New Age values, neoliberal economic and cultural values, and mindfulness practices in contemporary democratic societies and schools should be given due consideration in assessing the relative educational costs and benefits of MBIs. In particular, cultural and educational values at the intersection of neoliberal values entrepreneurialism and New Age values of personal and spiritual growth may have corrosive rather than benevolent effects on the pursuit of democratic values in schools.
Rosalyn H. Shute
Mindfulness, adapted from ancient Buddhist thought and practice, was introduced into the West in a secularized and Westernized form during the 1980s. In subsequent decades, it spread around the world, into clinics, workplaces, and schools. The practice involves cultivating the ability to focus attention, and to notice any distracting thoughts and feelings without judgment or elaboration, in order to reduce stress and improve mental health. As such, it is a psychological phenomenon involving metacognition, or thinking about thinking, though this can be placed within a holistic framework that sees the mind as intricately linked with the body and the external world. In the early years of the 21st century, concerns grew about children’s mental health, and schools became seen as places to address this through universal programs; that is, mental health promotion programs that reach all students and that therefore do not stigmatize those who already have psychological difficulties, or are at risk of developing them. Evidence was also accruing that, with samples of healthy (non-clinical) adults, mindfulness had moderate effects on measures such as anxiety, and strong effects in reducing stress. Although research designs were generally not very strong, the positive results and public enthusiasm for mindfulness encouraged the introduction of universal programs into schools, and even preschools. However, the dissemination of school-based mindfulness programs ran well ahead of the scientific evidence examining their efficacy (under tightly controlled conditions) or their effectiveness in real-world school contexts. While studies were suggestive that mindfulness could affect many aspects of children’s and adolescents’ wellbeing and development, the body of research as a whole fell short in terms of scientific rigor. There were few well-designed randomized controlled trials that would enable firm conclusions to be drawn that any identified effects were due to the mindfulness program rather than to unknown factors. Moreover, little attention was paid to the presumed mechanisms of change or to the developmental appropriateness of programs. As more, and better-designed, studies began to emerge, accumulating results suggested that effects were generally small, but stronger for older than younger adolescents, and longer lasting for adolescents than for children. Issues that remained for further systematic attention included many matters of program design and implementation, the safety of the practice, its basis in developmental theory and research, and its ethical and political implications.
Sunil Behari Mohanty
Spirituality is concerned with eternal truth and universality and is essential for sustainable development. Many education systems also view spirituality as a part of religion as religious organizations also consider that their activities promote spiritual development. Such a situation has led many secular nations to avoid spiritual education. However, universities in secular countries have been conducting studies on spiritual intelligence of individuals and also spiritual development in students and teachers reflected in their day to day activities. Certain school systems have been giving stress on spiritual development of students. Many co-curricular activities including prayer classes contribute to the development of spirituality in school students. At the higher education stage, discussions and debates play crucial role in making students realize the limitations of religions and evil effects of religious fanaticism. Spiritual development has its origin in the mother’s womb. The spiritual practices of the mother have much influence on the baby. Later, family members contribute to the spiritual development of the baby. Although the foundation of the spiritual development of an individual is laid by one’s family members, it is nurtured by a formal education system that is steered by teachers. Hence, the preparation of teachers for this role has assumed significance. The teaching about various spiritual leaders and their contributions to education system is utilized by teacher training programs in making their trainees aware of importance of spirituality in the life of an individual. High quality teacher training programs Train their trainees in skills of conducting debates, dialogue sessions, discussions and conducting a plethora of co-curricular activities for developing spirituality in school students.
Sharon D. Kruse
Organizational mindfulness refers to an organization’s collective disposition toward learning and supports its ongoing quest for effective and reliable performance. Descended from Buddhist thought, mindfulness draws attention to a leader’s awareness of the moment and subsequent decision-making and is informed by in-the-moment observation and attentiveness. This Eastern perspective suggests that as leaders work to craft informed responses to the demands before them, mindfulness places them in a position to maximize learning in real-time and respond to challenges from a place of equanimity. Complemented by the Eastern perspective, Western perspectives concerning organizational mindfulness have focused on the development of practices designed to increase highly reliable leadership performance. In this conception, mindful leadership is focused on potential threats to organizational performance and leadership effort is oriented toward eliminating or minimizing negative impact. Furthermore, mindful leaders seek robust and complex interpretations of organizational threat, embracing a heightened sensitivity to the link between organizational processes and outcome. Finally, Western notions of mindful leadership suggest that resiliency, a tenacious commitment to learning from failure, and deference to expertise rather than formal authority are hallmarks of mindful practice. In this way, mindful leaders orient their work toward organizational and cultural change evident in a collective attention that orients the work of its members. To do so requires that a leader’s attention be oriented toward deeply developed explanations of activities within the organizational school setting, including opportunities for formative, substantive data use and on-the-ground real time orientation to communal learning. In turn, mindful practice sets the stage for school leaders to engage the school community in becoming active partners in communal knowledge creation with the intent of improving classroom practice, student learning, and well-being.
Holistic education as a field of inquiry began in the 1980s. Previously this field was referred to as humanistic education, confluent education, affective education, or transpersonal education. The work of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow inspired many educators working in these areas. In 1988 The Holistic Education Review under the editorship of Ron Miller was first published along with The Holistic Curriculum by John Miller. However, as a field of practice holistic education can first be found in Indigenous education. Historically, Socrates, Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Froebel, Bronson Alcott, and Tolstoy can be viewed as working from a holistic frame. What is that frame? It is educating the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. At every level, education tends to focus on skills and a narrow view of the intellect. The body receives little attention while the spiritual life of the student is ignored. One image of the student from this approach is as a brain on a stick. In contrast, the holistic curriculum attempts to reach the head, hands, and heart of the student. The other main principle of holistic education is connectedness. Connectedness is one of the fundamental realities of nature. In contrast, the curriculum at every level, except perhaps for kindergarten, is fragmented as knowledge is broken down into courses, units, lessons, and bits of information. Rarely are there attempts to show how knowledge is interconnected. Holistic education seeks to be in harmony with how things actually are by focusing on connections. Six connections are at the core of the holistic curriculum: connections to the earth, community, subject integration, intuition/logic, body/mind, and soul. There are many models of holistic education in practice. They range from more structured approaches, such as Waldorf education, to schools such as the Sudbury Valley School that give students a great deal of choice. Despite these differences these schools view the child as a whole human being.
Students identified with emotional and behavioral disorders (E/BD) comprise a diverse group in terms of academic, social, emotional, and behavioral strengths and needs. Identification and diagnostic criteria and terminologies vary widely across and within many countries and school systems, resulting in a complex research base. Estimates of prevalence range from 4 to 15% of students meeting criteria for an emotional and/or behavioral disorder or difficulty. Approaches to teaching learners with E/BD have shifted since the turn of the 21st century from an individual, deficit-focused perspective to a more ecological framework where the environments interacting dynamically with the learner are considered. Research increasingly demonstrates the benefits of multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) where the needs of most students can be met through universal preventative and whole-class approaches. Students who do not find success at the first level of supports receive increasingly specialized services including intensive, wraparound services that involve partners beyond school walls. MTSS are common across North America and beyond and are typically focused on externalizing behaviors; positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) is the most prevalent multi-tiered system currently being implemented. Since the mid-2000s, efforts have been made to focus on academic as well as behavioral goals for students, often through the inclusion of response-to-intervention approaches. Comprehensive strategies that combine academic and behavioral support while drawing on learner strengths and relationship-building are successfully being adopted in elementary and secondary settings. Approaches include social and emotional learning, mindfulness, peer-assisted learning, and a range of classroom-based instructional and assessment practices that support the academic, social, and emotional development of students with E/BD.