With interest in ‘Mindfulness In Education’ hitting an all time high, the question will soon come as to how it impacts children over the longer term & what teachers are doing to document this profound change in the children as evidence.
This is a re-blog post originally posted by Ross Young and published with kind permission.
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Assessment of children’s development in traditional subjects is often continuous and usually takes place through dialogue with individual children, the class and through the acts of learning. Mindfulness should be no different, if it is to achieve high status within a school’s curriculum.
Documenting & sharing children’s application of mindfulness principles, skills as well as concrete examples of deepening & applied understanding should be regular. For example through parents’ evenings, pupil conferences & school reports. This would allow schools to celebrate application and progress as well as show where development of skills could be undertaken. The following table shows the framework in which this could be done:
- Loving Kindness & Compassion
- Meditation & Mindfulness Practices
- Skilful Living / ‘Mindful Mind Skills’
- The Community
- The School’s Precepts – Or School Rules (if you prefer)
This framework should be regularly used to review the effectiveness of the school’s purpose & aims for mindfulness in their school. Note that this is not ‘levelled’ or ‘scored’ but instead is a way to capture where the children are in their application of skills over the course of their schooling or as it is put in the framework ‘their journey so far’.
There is absolutely no suggestion that this framework would be used to assess or ‘mark scheme’ a child’s kindness in a linear way. Morality and ethics are of course in a constant state of tension and change which often depend on circumstance and well being. It would be inappropriate to ‘assess’ and therefore judge a child on single moments in time.
I do believe that acts of kindness can be observed and therefore should get the recognition they deserve. I don’t asserted that kindness can be taught. However we can observe a deepening understanding and application of kindness, and in this sense progression can be seen.
What this framework does allow is for teachers and schools with this particular ethos to document, note, acknowledge and celebrate children’s demonstration of compassion and kindness over the course of their schooling using positive anecdotal evidence.
This allows children to see that you hold these concepts in the highest of regards and are determined to celebrate this, not only with the children themselves, but with their peers, their loved ones and the school community as a whole. Ultimately we can disregard the tag of ‘mindfulness’ if it makes people feel more comfortable. Because these ‘mindful values’ are universal, fundamental, cross-cultural and are not time-bound. Compassion. Kindness. Collective responsibility. All these concepts have been a key strand of the human story and what it means to be a member of a community since the dawn of civilisation.
I would also be disappointed if a school that was introducing mindfulness into its curriculum was unable to document children benefiting individually or (even more importantly) collectively over the course of their time in school.
It is absolutely right to expect children to progress from all the basic levels over the course of their schooling and I list them below. How, for example, could any school accept that children might not develop in these ways? What a miserable experience that would be.
- Find it hard to be positive about themselves or others.
- Finds it difficult to engage in meditation activities.
- Struggles to share and accept responsibility. Doesn’t always make others feel safe in their company. Finds strong emotions overwhelming and overpowering.
- Only the self is really recognised.
- Finds it tough to be caring towards living things, people and property. Harms people through speech and action. Finds it really tricky to share. Often feels the need to be untruthful and harsh in their speech.
It’s important to note that in an increasing number of schools the teaching of mindfulness is in no way a priority over academic goals, and to suggest so is foolish and ill informed. On the contrary, children’s learning is profoundly impaired if they are unhappy and find themselves in a dysfunctional and hostile learning environment.
So go forth! Observe, encourage and develop.
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