One of the more embarrassing and self-indulgent challenges of our time is the task of re-learning how to concentrate. The past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds steadily on anything. To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible. The obsession with current events is relentless. We are made to feel that at any point, somewhere on the globe, something may occur to sweep away old certainties – something that, if we failed to learn about it instantaneously, could leave us wholly unable to comprehend ourselves and our fellows.
– Alain De Botton, “Ten Things I Believe”. Smith Journal. Issue 1
I really liked this article by Alain De Botton, as I have any book of his I have read. My favourite point was the above as it spoke to that part of me that appreciates the value of mindfulness and concentration, particularly in the ‘always on’ culture that pervades our lives. I have written before of the health benefits of mindfulness meditation but what I would like to blog about today is the educational benefits of the practice.
Hattie’s research contained in Visible Teaching puts students’ self-grade as the greatest influence on learning. What I am positing is that mindfulness practice would have an effect on students’ perceptions of themselves as capable learners (self-grade) and, consequently, their learning.
How? Mindfulness practice centres around the meditator consciously paying repeated attention to an object, usually the breath. If the mind wanders, they take note of what they are thinking about then calmly return their attention to the breath. This concentrated meditation continues for as long as needed. Over time, the meditator develops greater concentrative powers as well as an increased awareness of what their mind thinks about. This increased awareness allows greater objectivity to develop in regards to the meditator’s emotions and thoughts and the fleeting nature of these. When we come to realise how changeable our thoughts and emotions are, then we aren’t so caught up in them and we have the meta cognitive space to question our assumptions about ourselves.
If students are able to question their perception of themselves then they are able to redefine themselves as capable learners, creating a new self-fulfilling prophecy where they are ABLE to learn.