This is the third post in a three-part series on meditation in schools. The first post discussed ways to articulate what meditation is for school audiences. The second explained some reasons why meditation makes for more beneficial restorative practices. This part will share some characteristics of an effective implementation of meditation in schools.
Across the three posts in this series, I argue that effective implementation of meditation benefits restorative practices in schools. I seek to articulate what “effective implementation” looks like.
A review of research elucidates some of what makes for successful and effective efforts to implement practices in schools, which I will highlight here (Nation et al., 2003).
First per this review, effective programs tend to be comprehensive. That is, they tend to include multiple components that address critical domains that influence the outcomes the particular effort is trying to change. Thus, effective implementation of meditation might include creative ways to introduce meditation essentials (see item 1 in part 1) across many domains of the school environment. Moreover, it might include engaging families and communities so that students may consistently practice in ways that are relevant to all areas of their lives.
Effective programs are also varied in their teaching methods, with a focus on increasing awareness and understanding of challenges and acquiring or enhancing skills. Again, the essentials of meditation might be practices across many parts of the school day.
Programs must also include sufficient dosage. That is, meditation should be reinforced throughout many activities for an extended period of time, particularly because its beneficial effects are known to strengthen over time.
Programs should be theory-driven, based on accurate information. The benefits of meditation have considerable empirical justification. However, the creative application of meditation has less data available. Educators must experiment to identify ways in which creative application might be effective. Researchers must develop and test particular methods; design methods to evaluate this methods; and design, implement, and evaluate implementation efforts.
Programs should foster positive relationships. Meditation practices should be done in groups and provide opportunities to build relationships by discussing the personal elements of an improving meditation and restorative practice.
They should be appropriately timed, to have an impact on the targeted behavior, and be sensitive to the developmental needs of participants. An effective meditation for elementary school students might mirror what I present in item 3 in part 1 of this post series. It represents a few minutes of practice that can be done in a line, when students are supposed to be quiet. A 30-minute secluded meditation for most 6 year-olds would be clearly inappropriate.
Effective programs should be socio-culturally relevant. That is, they must be tailored to the community and cultural norms of the participants—and make efforts to include the target group in program planning and implementation. Put differently, a group of students might be taught the essentials of meditation and help devise creative ways for their peers to practice the essentials of meditation throughout their days.
Effective programs should have an outcome evaluation with clear goals, objectives, and an effort to systematically document results relative to the goals. Although this feature might not be particularly relevant to a teacher’s class, it is essential for school-wide implementation. Even in a classroom, a teacher might evaluate their practices so that they might improve them and support students’ realization of benefits.
Finally, effective programs require well-trained staff. All administrators and teachers must be supported and provided with training to practice meditation. They must be convinced of the utility of meditation, and training should augment and strengthen their present daily practices without adding more activities to their already demanding days. Productive meditation (mentioned in item 3 of part 1) is just one example of how that can be achieved.
With an effective implementation of a school-based meditation program, students can benefit more from restorative practices.
Have you implemented meditation in schools? What challenges did you face? What worked well?
Nation, M., Crusto, C., Wandersman, A., Kumpfer, K. L., Seybolt, D., Morrissey-Kane, E., & Davino, K. (2003). What works in prevention: Principles of effective prevention programs. American Psychologist, 58(6-7), 449–456. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.58.6-7.449