The Evidence

Mindfulness in Education

Scientific studies on mindfulness in education programs are fairly recent, but there is already strong and growing evidence of their effectiveness. If you have an article or study you wish to submit for posting to our website, please email us at info [at] discovermindfulness [dot] ca.


The following are articles found in psychology and education magazines and scholarly journals. Articles in news magazines and newspapers are listed on our News page.

April 27, 2014
Mindfulness Meditation May Reduce Risk of Suicidal Thoughts in Middle Schoolers

Results of a recent pilot study suggest that middle school-aged students who meditated during a 6-week, classroom-based mindfulness meditation program were significantly less likely than non-meditators to develop suicidal thoughts or self-harming thoughts or behaviors. The study also found that both mindfulness meditation and a matched activity condition showed improvements in internalizing problems, externalizing problems, attention problems, and affect, but there were no statistically significant differences between the groups. Findings from the study were published in the Journal of School Psychology.

March 24, 2014
How Does Mindfulness Improve Self-Control?

Previous research has shown that mindfulness can be an effective tool to help regulate our emotions. But why? A new model suggests that the ability to control one’s behavior—a concept that researchers call executive control—may play a role. In a recent paper, researcher Rimma Teper and her colleagues at the University of Toronto write that, despite the common misconception that meditation “empties our head” of emotions, mindfulness actually helps us become more aware and accepting of emotional signals—which helps us to control our behavior.

October 29, 2013
Should Teachers Be More Mindful?

A report published this fall in School Psychology Quarterly found that teachers who participated in a mindfulness program were better able to manage their classes and build relationships with students.

October 10, 2013
Research Round-Up: Mindfulness in Schools

Research is trying to keep pace with the explosion of interest in school-based mindfulness programs. Here’s a round-up of four new studies at the frontier. By Emily Campbell of the Greater Good Science Center.

October 2, 2013
Can Mindfulness Make Us Better Teachers?

A new study suggests that training teachers in mindfulness not only reduces burnout but also improves their performance in the classroom. By Vicki Zakrzewski of the Greater Good Science Center.

August 28, 2013
Mindfulness training can help reduce teacher stress and burnout

Teachers who practice simple, secular forms of mindfulness are better able to reduce their own levels of stress and prevent burnout, according to a study conducted by the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM) at University of Wisconsin – Madison’s Waisman Center.

March 26, 2012
Brief Mindfulness Training May Boost Test Scores, Working Memory

Participants who received mindfulness training showed an estimated 16 percentile-point boost on GRE scores, on average, and higher working memory capacity, compared to those who received instruction in nutrition. Analyses indicated that the improvement could be explained, at least in part, by reduced mind wandering during the task. See the study by Michael D. Mrazek et al in Psychological Science.


Click the title to link to the study.

November 2016
Engaging in Contemplative Practices Predicts Social and Emotional Competencies Among Adolescents

Poster · November 2016

Publication: DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.15946.98248
11/2016, , At: San Diego, CA, Conference: International Symposium for Contemplative Studies, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.15946.98248

Authors: M. Jennifer Kitil, 3.69 · University of British Columbia – Vancouver, Jenna K. WhiteheadJacqueline E. MaloneyKimberly A. Schonert-Reichl 29.59 · University of British Columbia – Vancouver

DescriptionThe aims of education in the 21st century include non-cognitive skills needed to thrive in school, career, and life. As a period of transition and developmental plasticity, adolescence can be been seen as a window of opportunity for intervention to promote these developmental outcomes. The Mind & Life Education Research Network (MLERN) posited that engaging in contemplative practice may boost social-emotional competencies such as self-regulatory skills and prosocial dispositions, among adolescents. This study examined the relationship between adolescents’ current participation in contemplative practices (yoga, meditation) and their social-emotional competence. Specifically, 65 eleventh and twelfth grade students (48% female) completed a self-report questionnaire as part of a longitudinal study examining relations among mindfulness, social-emotional competence, and well-being during the transition from childhood to adolescence. Analyses via a one-way ANOVA revealed that students who reported currently engaging in contemplative practice at least once a week had significantly higher levels of self-reported self-regulation, empathic concern, and gratitude compared to students who did not report current participation in these activities. Statistical trends favoring the contemplative group for optimism, prosocial goals, and social responsibility emerged. The results provide support for the role of contemplative practices in fostering social-emotional competence in adolescence.

POSTER: iscs-2016-poster-engaging-in-contemplative-practices-predicts-social-emotional_final

January 2015
Enhancing Cognitive and Social-Emotional Development Through a Simple-to-Administer Mindfulness-Based School Program for Elementary School Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Subject Program:  MindUP

Authors:  Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, Eva Oberle, Molly Stewart Lawlor, et al.

Publication:  Development Psychology, 2015, Vol. 51, No. 1, 52–66

Description:  MindUP is a mindfulness in education program for grades K-8, developed in B.C. and now in use by over 3,500 public school teachers. This randomized control trial of grade 4 and 5 students found a 24% gain in positive social behaviors, a gain of 15% in math achievement, a gain of 20% in social-emotional competencies and skills, and a reduction of 24% in aggressive behaviors, after just 15 lessons.

 June 2014
Meta-Analysis: Mindfulness-based interventions in schools—a systematic review and meta-analysis

Subject Program: Meta analysis of 24 studies of school mindfulness programs. NOTE: None of the studies below were included in this analysis, as they were made public after the authors’ cutoff date.

Authors:  Charlotte Zenner, Solveig Herrnleben-Kurz and Harald Walach

Publication:  Frontiers of Psychology (Front. Psychol., 30 June 2014 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00603)

Description: This is the first meta-analysis of the data available on the effects of mindfulness-based trainings for children and youths in a school setting. In August 2012 systematic searches were performed to find all studies around the world of mindfulness-based interventions that took place in a school-setting on students between grades 1 – 12 with quantitative measurement of outcomes. The authors grouped the outcomes into 5 categories: (1) Cognitive performance; (2) Emotional problems; (3) Stress and coping; (4) Resilience; and (5) Third person ratings, and then calculated a single “effect size” for each category of outcomes across all applicable studies. In addition to outcomes, they looked at feasibility, acceptability, and implementation issues.

Findings: The “analysis suggests that mindfulness-based interventions for children and youths are able to increase cognitive capacity of attending and learning by nearly one standard deviation and yield an overall effect size of g = 0.40.” Effect size is a measurement of the size of the impact of the mindfulness program on the students. An effect size of g = 0.2 is a small, 0.5 is medium and 0.8 is large. The authors found the effect is stronger the more time students spent practicing mindfulness, as shown in the following Figure 6 from the study:

Zenner Fig 6 - effect size vs minutes of practice

The effects are strongest in the domain of cognitive performance with a large and significant effect size of g = 0.80 for controlled studies. Effect sizes are smaller but still significant in the domains of resilience measures (g = 0.36) and stress measures (g = 0.39), and they are small and not significant for measures of emotional problems (g = 0.19) and third-person ratings (g = 0.25).

What is also clear from our study is that implementing and studying mindfulness-based interventions in schools is a promising avenue. Although not formally assessed, from our own experience and in accordance with others, we suggest a good model might be to train teachers in mindfulness. They could then promote mindfulness in their pupils through teaching mindfully, and through teaching mindfulness directly in diverse settings. For if mindfulness is to be established in a school-based framework it will have to be teachers who are the agents and ambassadors of change. This might be a good resource for teachers’ own resilience and prevention of burnout, in addition to being, very likely, the best way of delivering mindfulness in schools.”

December, 2013
Improving classroom learning environments by Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE): Results of a randomized controlled trial

Subject Program:  CARE for Teachers

Authors:  Jennings, Patricia A.; Frank, Jennifer L.; Snowberg, Karin E.; Coccia, Michael A.; Greenberg, Mark T.

Publication:  School Psychology Quarterly, Vol 28(4), Dec 2013, 374-390

Description:  Using a sample of 50 teachers, it compared a control group of teachers with a group that went through the CARE program. Teachers who underwent CARE reported improvements in self-awareness and well-being, being better able to manage classroom behaviors effectively and compassionately, and improved relationships with their students. The teachers who participated in CARE also saw positive effects in their students, including improvement in students’ prosocial behaviour—including helping, sharing, and working together, improvement in on-task behaviour, and improvement in academic performance. Though these findings are promising, the report notes potential limitations in the study, including its small scale, the self-reporting, and the fact that teachers may have benefitted simply from having ongoing support. To see article in Education Week Teacher, click here.

September, 2013
Mindfulness for Teachers: A Pilot Study to Assess Effects on Stress, Burnout, and Teaching Efficacy

Subject Program:  8-week MBSR adapted for teachers

Authors: Lisa Flook, Simon B. Goldberg, Laura Pinger, Katherine Bonus, and Richard J. Davidson (Center for Investigating Healthy Minds)

Publication: Mind, Brain, and Education, Volume 7, Issue 3, pages 182–195, September 2013

Description: The study found that those who completed the training enjoyed elevated levels of self-compassion and a decrease in anxiety, depression, and burnout. In comparison, a group of teachers placed on a wait list for the course actually increased in their stress and burnout levels. It also looked at the participants’ classroom performance, such as their behavior management skills and their emotional and instructional support of students. What it discovered was that mindfulness made them more effective teachers The study suggests that when teachers practice mindfulness, students’ misbehavior and other stressors don’t bother them as much, allowing them to stay focused on teaching. To see Center for Investigating Healthy Minds press release and video, click here.

June 20, 2013
Mindfulness Can Increase Wellbeing and Reduce Stress in School Children 

Subject Program: Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP) (dot B)

Authors: Willem Kuyken, Katherine Weare, et al

Publication: British Journal of Psychiatry

Description: Study of 500 students, aged 12 – 16. In 6 schools they received mindfulness training and in 6 control schools they did not. Compared to students in the non-MiSP schools, MiSP students reported significantly decreased depression symptoms immediately after the end of the program. In follow-up surveys conducted three months after the program ended, during the stressful summer exam period, MiSP students reported significantly less stress and symptoms of depression and significantly greater well-being compared to their non-MiSP counterparts. Also, the more frequently students reported using mindfulness practices, the better their scores were. These results indicate that the MiSP, and mindfulness in general, shows promise as a tool to bolster adolescent mental health, and possibly their academic achievement as well. Click here for full study.

June 2013
Mindfulness Training and Classroom Behavior Among Lower-Income and Ethnic Minority Elementary School Children

Subject Program:  Mindful Schools

Authors:  Black, D. S. & Fernando, R.

Publication:  Journal of Child and Family Studies, June 2013

Description: 409 children in K-6 were given a 5-week Mindful Schools curriculum. Immediately after the program ended, student behavior improved significantly in all four areas measured—paying attention, self-control, classroom participation, and respect for others—and these gains were maintained seven weeks later. Though this study is limited by the lack of a true control group—i.e., the researchers don’t know whether other students at the school might have shown the same improvements, even without the Mindful Schools training—it is one of the largest studies of a school-based mindfulness program to date. Its findings have exciting implications for the potential of mindfulness training to benefit underserved elementary school students.

April 29, 2013
Mindfulness Training and Reductions in Teacher Stress and Burnout

Subject Program: Stress management and relaxation techniques in education (SMART) program

Authors:  Robert W. Roeser, Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, Amishi Jha, et al.

Description: Preliminary results suggest that the 8-week mindfulness training for teachers under investigation here was acceptable, feasible, and efficacious with respect to helping teachers to reduce stress and symptoms of occupational burnout.

April 2013
Feasibility and preliminary outcomes for Move-Into-Learning: An arts-based mindfulness classroom intervention

Subject Program: Move-Into-Learning (MIL), an eight-week school-based Mindfulness-based intervention, designed to reduce stress and improve behavior in at-risk elementary students

Authors: Maryana Klatta et al

Publication: The Journal of Positive Psychology, Volume 8, Issue 3,  2013

Description: The MIL program involved a weekly 45-minute session, led by an outside trainer, that included mindfulness meditation, yoga and breathing exercises set to music, and positive self-expression through writing and visual arts, to 2 classrooms of third graders at a low-income, urban elementary school in the Midwest. In addition, the two classroom teachers led shorter, daily practice sessions that reinforced those skills. At the end of the 8 weeks, teachers observed significantly less hyperactive behavior, ADHD symptoms, and inattentiveness among their students; these improvements were maintained two months later. In fact, students continued to show improvements in their attentiveness even after the program had ended. What’s more, interviews with the participating teachers revealed that they found the program to be feasible to implement, appropriate and enjoyable for their classrooms, and beneficial for students’ attendance and behavior. These promising preliminary results seem to warrant larger, more rigorous studies of the program.

March 2012
White paper: Integrating Mindfulness Training into K-12 Education: Fostering the Resilience of Teachers and Students

Subject Program: Meta study of 14 studies of mindfulness programs

Authors:  John Meiklejohn, Catherine Phillips, M. Lee Freedman, et al.

Description: Studies with K-12 students demonstrate “improvements in working memory, attention, academic skills, social skills, emotional regulation and self-esteem, as well as self-reported improvements in mood and decreases in anxiety, stress and fatigue.” They also show mindfulness training “can increase teachers’ sense of well-being and teaching self-efficacy, as well as their ability to manage classroom behaviour and establish and maintain supportive relationships with students.”

For more information on evidence re mindfulness in education:

General Benefits of Mindfulness

Mindfulness provides a concrete and established methodology to improve mental wellness. Studies have shown that mindfulness:

• Increases grey matter in key regions of the brain (Holzel et al. 2008, Lazar et al. 2005, Luders et al. 2009, Lazar et al. 2008)

• Improves attention, working memory and executive function (Carter et al. 2005, Tang et al. 2007, Jha et al. 2007, Lutz et al. 2009)

• Reduces anxiety and insomnia (Walsh and Shapiro 2006)

• Reduces stress (Tang et al. 2007)

• Reduces recurrence of depression through use of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) (Teasdale et al. 2000)

• Helps a variety of medical conditions, including cardiovascular disease, asthma, type II diabetes, PMS and chronic pain (Walsh and Shapiro 2006)

• Increases activation of the left prefrontal cortex, which improves mood (Davidson et al, “Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation,” Psychosomatic Medicine 65:564–570, 2003)

• Increases empathy and compassion  (Shapiro, “Does Mindfulness Make You More Compassionate?” Greater Good Science Center, February 27, 2013)

For more information on mindfulness studies generally see