Hirshberg studies benefits of fusing mindfulness training into preservice teacher education

UW-Madison’s Matt Hirshberg is the lead author on a new paper published in the journal Learning and Instruction that examines the merits of incorporating mindfulness training into preservice teacher education, and how such efforts can lead to improvements in the classroom.

Hirshberg is a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the university’s Center for Healthy Minds. He is an alumnus of the School of Education, earning his Ph.D. from the Department of Educational Psychology.


“Because teachers are the single most influential school-based factor in student outcomes, improving teacher practice is paramount,” says Hirshberg. “I hope that this and other on-going research will broaden the discussion of requisite teacher competencies, informing future iterations of teacher education.”

The abstract explains how researchers randomly assigned 88 early education preservice teachers to either standard teacher education — or teacher education, plus a nine-week mindfulness-based intervention.

The team then utilized the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), a validated measure of effective classroom teaching behaviors, to look at teaching practices at baseline, and again at a six-month follow-up that occurred during full-time student teaching. Similarly, mindfulness, negative affect, and well-being were assessed at baseline, post-test, and follow-up.

The results indicated that the educators who took part in the nine-week, mindfulness-based intervention fared better in all the major CLASS domains: instructional supports; emotional supports; and classroom organization. The researchers further found that daily mindfulness practice was significantly associated with intervention group improvements on instructional supports and classroom organization.

The paper notes that no group differences were observed on negative affect or well-being.

“One of the interesting and surprising results here is that the intervention group did not demonstrate reduced negative affect or increased well-being — a finding inconsistent with mindfulness research with in-service teachers — and yet it improved their teaching behaviors,” says Hirshberg. “Examining the mechanisms by which mindfulness training appears to support preservice teacher practice and whether the mechanisms of improvement differ for pre- and in-service teachers is an important area of future research.”

Co-authors on the paper are: Lisa Flook, associate scientist, Center for Healthy Minds; Robert Enright, professor, UW­–Madison Department of Educational Psychology; and Richard Davidson, founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds.

To learn much more about this work, check out the full paper — titled, “Integrating mindfulness and connection practices into preservice teacher education improves classroom practices” — via this journal web page.

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