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Title: Children's experiences of learning mindfulness to help develop their attentional skills
Author: Carelse, Bernadette
ISNI:       0000 0004 2739 9728
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2013
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Introduction This research explored children’s experiences of learning mindfulness to help develop their attentional skills. Mindfulness is a quality of awareness that may be developed by purposefully cultivating an open, curious attitude of acceptance with which to attend to events in the present moment (Bishop et al., 2004; Kabat-Zinn, 2003). Certain practices may help cultivate this state. Literature Review Practicing mindfulness has been shown to improve attention and well-being and decrease depression. Mindfulness practices may also help adolescents with attentional difficulties (van der Oord, Bogels, & Peijnenburg, 2012; Zylowska et al., 2008). Literature on children’s experiences of mindfulness and mindfulness in schools and for children with attentional difficulties was sparse. These gaps in the literature inspired the main research question: What are children's experiences of mindfulness? Methodology The research adopted a critical realist position at the methodological level, creating a narrative on the participants’ experiences, and a transformative approach at the sociological level, empowering the participants with skills for developing their attention. A small-group Mindfulness-based Attention Training (MBAT) intervention was designed and implemented in a mainstream primary school. Six children (Year 5, aged 9), identified as having mild attentional difficulties, participated in this intervention, during which they learnt mindfulness practices and drew or wrote about their experiences. Before and after the intervention, they were interviewed, during which the Child Acceptance and Mindfulness Measure (CAMM) was completed to explore potential changes in trait mindfulness. During the final interview, the children spoke about their experiences of mindfulness, using their pictures as prompts. iv Children’s experiences from the CAMM The CAMM provided background information to the participants and their attentional difficulties. No significant difference was found between the children’s scores of levels of mindfulness before and after the intervention. Children’s experiences through IPA The research also developed an understanding of the participants’ experiences of the state of mindfulness. This data was analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Their experiences included feeling calm, relaxed and happy and becoming aware of detailed physical sensations and sounds. In addition during the mindfulness practices they recalled past events, mostly happy ones, and imaginary ones with positive associations. Later in the intervention, their experiences indicated emerging detachment from thought processes and included metaphors for awareness of the attentional processes and personalised strategies for developing skills in sustaining their attention on present moment events with kindness. Discussion The research had produced a comprehensive analysis of the children’s experiences of state mindfulness. Its use of drawings had helped the children to recall and express their experiences. Overall, there had been some qualitative, but not quantitative changes in levels of trait mindfulness. The participants’ had applied the practices, including being better able to concentrate, sit still and focus on the teacher. They also preferred the bodyscan, using metaphors and support to develop a personal practice. The discussion included speculation on how mindfulness may address attentional difficulties, such as distractibility, rumination and automaticity. It also evaluated the methodology and considered implications for using mindfulness in school settings and educational psychology practice. Conclusion The research made a unique contribution to understanding children’s experiences of states of being including those reflecting emergent mindfulness and their views on applying and learning mindfulness practices.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Prof.) Qualification Level: Doctoral