Incorporating Meditation into Learning

  • Sharon Doetsch-Kidder George Mason University

Abstract

Meditation has been found to have many beneficial effects on learning: increasing attention, cognition, and empathy; reducing stress and anxiety; strengthening metacognition; and relaxing judgmental thoughts, which can improve resilience and encourages thoughtful exploration of local and global issues and experiences, especially in diverse environments. In this mini-workshop, led by a trained meditation instructor at Mason, participants will experience a short guided meditation, have the opportunity to discuss meditation and mindfulness, and learn different ways that mindfulness can be incorporated into the classroom to support a variety of learning goals.  Participants will be able to articulate what mindfulness is and identify some different kinds of mindfulness practices. They will learn some simple activities that can bring mindfulness into the classroom to support learning goals.

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FULL ABSTRACT:

Many students find it difficult to focus, take risks, or to open their minds to new people and ideas. Some students may lack the confidence to try when faced with new cognitive tasks, such as challenging writing assignments. And many students may prefer what is familiar to the discomfort of learning and considering that our long-held ideas and beliefs may be incorrect. 

 

Meditation is a practice of making friends with discomfort, of getting to know our habits of mind and gaining some distance from our emotional reactions. These features of meditation make it incredibly useful, if not essential, for critical thinking. By observing and letting go of thoughts, meditators train their minds to focus and also to open. Repeated practice of meditation has even been shown through EEG and fMRI studies to change the structure of the brain, thickening areas associated with attention (Ricard, Lutz, & Davidson, 2014) and strengthening gamma oscillations, which seems to indicate “an ongoing state of open, rich awareness” (Goleman & Davidson, 2018).

 

Social science research on meditation has found many beneficial effects on learning, including increasing attention, cognition, and empathy; reducing stress and anxiety; strengthening metacognition; and relaxing judgmental thoughts, which can improve resilience and have beneficial social effects, especially in diverse environments (Shapiro, Brown, & Astin, 2011). Meditation has the potential to transform students’ learning experiences and support their intellectual, creative, and personal development. In a diverse educational environment, it provides a means to increase confidence, persistence, and empathy for self and others, and it encourages thoughtful exploration of local and global issues and experiences. 

 

In this workshop, led by a Mason faculty member who is also a trained meditation instructor, participants will experience a short guided meditation, have the opportunity to discuss meditation and mindfulness, and learn different ways that mindfulness can be incorporated into the classroom to support a variety of learning goals. 

 

Goleman, Daniel, & Davidson, Richard (2018). How meditation changes your brain – and your life. Lion’s Roar, 16 Mar. 2018. Retrieved from https://www.lionsroar.com/how-meditation-changes-your-brain-and-your-life/?utm_source=Lion%27s+Roar+Newsletter&utm_campaign=22580c14d6-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_03_19&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1988ee44b2-22580c14d6-20868553&mc_cid=22580c14d6&mc_eid=dbd312c18c

Author Biography

Sharon Doetsch-Kidder, George Mason University

Sharon Doetsch-Kidder teaches academic research and writing withINTO Mason and serves as Assistant Program Coordinator for their International Pathways Programs.  She completed her PhD in English and Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), and her BA and MA at Georgetown University.

Doetsch-Kidder's book, Social Change and Intersectional Activism: The Spirit of Social Movement, argues for the centrality of spirit to the work of antiracist feminist scholarship and social change.  Her areas of interest include social movements, race and ethnic studies, theories of genders and sexualities, pedagogy, mindfulness education, and the globalization of liberal arts education.  She also teaches meditation, mindfulness, and aikido in the local community.

Published
2018-08-08
Section
2:45pm-3:25pm Mini-Workshops, Panels, & Roundtables