True mindfulness fosters stamina, attention, critical thinking, perspective taking, and creativity. Use mindfulness to enhance learning for all of your students, especially those who have experienced trauma.
Mindfulness allows us to shift from a first person to a third person vantage point, in essence gaining control of our thoughts and actions. When we are truly mindful we withhold judgment, which can actually increase our stamina and attention. Mindfulness allows us to think more critically about what we are learning, in the sense that we can start to pay closer attention to the novelty of all aspects of what we attend to and take into account multiple perspectives. Finally, mindfulness allows us to foster our creativity. Keep reading to learn just what makes mindfulness such a strong tool for learning.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a shifting of vantage points in which we can move from the passenger seat of our mind to the driver's seat. It’s going from the first person, experiencing our thoughts, actions, and reactions without much consciousness, to the third person, aware that our thoughts and actions are related and that we have some control over them. Engaging in true mindfulness allows us to view our thoughts and physical being without judgment and gain control.
MIndfulness Fosters Critical Thinking
Mindfulness can lead to perspective-taking and a consideration of interpretation and context (Langer, 2000). Because of this, it can support critical thinking. When we notice the novelty of new learning, we attend to it mindfully. On the other hand, when we believe we already know something or that there is no interpretation or perspective involved, we may be more mindless. Attention to uncertainty and introducing possibility promotes both mindfulness and curiosity. For example, instead of teaching students “scientific facts” like there are eight planets in the solar system, teach students the nuanced interpretation and how scientists determined that we have a certain number of planets. Let them decide on their own. It may get them into the driver’s seat of their thinking because they have to grapple with the fact that their perspective and what they hold to be true can determine how many planets they think there actually are.
The Difference Between Mindfulness and Paying Attention
Mindfulness can help us notice more about what we are learning than if we tried to simply “focus” on it. The two are different (Langer, 2000). When we are mindful, we actively draw distinctions and notice novel things about what we are attending to. It is an act of deliberate attention, rather than a vague notion of “focus.” A big piece of that is the withholding of judgment. The act of judging our experiences and our thoughts can cause us to ignore certain characteristic, elements, or perspectives.
Because mindfulness is a form of “thoughtfulness” without judgement, it allows us to “gain a deeper understanding of phenomena by recognizing the interrelationships of seemingly independent components and moving fluidly from surface appearances to the underlying essence of things” (Shamas & Maker, 2018, p. 131). When we withhold judgements of like or dislike, good or bad, we avoid becoming removed from the present moment. This happens because judgments can often cause us to feel dissatisfied with our situation and seek alternatives.
Mindfulness for Creativity
Mindfulness can help us to access our more creative selves. That is, mindfulness allows us to cycle between our mind (pure thought) and our consciousness (pure sensation) to evoke creativity and then act on it. Creativity is an act that requires us to cycle between a sense of thoughtfulness or deliberate action and pure sensation or a more subconscious “unawareness” (Shamas and Maker, 2018). Tapping into our subconscious and then taking what we find there and transforming it into the action of creating is supported by mindfulness.
Mindfulness allows us to withhold judgment and see our thoughts neutrally, open to multiple interpretations and perspectives. In order to foster mindfulness in your classroom, remember to attend to your own judgments of what counts as learning and become more accepting of student ideas and suggestions. Be more flexible and less rigid and your students will thrive (Shamas & Maker, 2018).
Claxton, G. (2005). Mindfulness, learning and the brain. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 23, 301-314.
Langer, E. J. (2000). Mindful learning. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9(6), 220-223).
Shamas, V. & Maker, J. (2018). Mindfulness, learning, and the creative process. Gifted Education International, 34(2), 129-143.
My name is Erin E. Silcox. I'm working on my Ph.D. in Literacy Education, focusing on the intersection of trauma and literacy. I want to deepen our base of knowledge about trauma-informed practices in schools and help teachers apply findings right now.