Research Methods and Means of Collecting Evidence
A variety of methods were used to capture evidence from the mini-interventions and the Mindfulness programme. The staff involved in the mini-interventions were asked to choose from a range of evidence, including but not limited to:
- Course and session planning documents such as schemes of work, lesson plans, learner profiles, initial assessments
- Resources they may have used either with the learner or for planning purposes
- Multi-media such as photos, videos, Apps, online learning tools that were used or helped to demonstrate what happened in the mini-intervention
- Presentation slides, completed flipcharts, post-it notes
- Results from questionnaires, surveys, tests or assessments
- Report, action research activities, learner and staff written feedback, anecdotal evidence and research into teaching and learning theories
Evidence of improvement in learners’ achievements, retention and progression.
Although there have been extensive improvements to quality procedures, there is also strong evidence to suggest that mindfulness has contributed to improved performance at Gateshead learningSkills.
Not all learners who participated in the project were on a Study Programme or Traineeship, but a significant proportion were. Therefore, this is the measure that will be used to judge some of the impact.
There have been some significant improvements in the attendance, success and retention of learners, as can be seen in the data table above. However, it should also be recognised that this cannot all be attributed to the mindfulness project. The team who delivers the programmes (who all took part in the project) had also been through a change in management since September 2015. Many of the changes, such as new policies and procedures, action plans to ensure success, strategies to report and improve attendance, could have also contributed to the improvements. However, there is strong evidence from the mini-interventions to suggest that mindfulness has also contributed to this.
Outcomes of the Mini-Interventions
The mini-interventions were brief, mainly due to the delay in the start of the mindfulness programme. Some of the interventions changed, either before or during the activities. This was expected as some of the tutors had not yet met their learners (it was the week prior to the Autumn term) and others identified that what they had planned would no longer work due to time constraints, reluctance from the learner or learner readiness to make a change. One intervention (using scaffolded learning to engage a learner in writing tasks) did not directly include mindfulness at all but was a very useful project with a successful outcome.
It could be argued that through scaffolded learning activities, the learner became more focused, engaged, confident and aware of own abilities – all of which are principles of mindfulness. However, even in a small space of time, some progress was evident:
- Using mindfulness to improve attendance in year 11 alternative education programme (Appendix 1):
- The participant, Lana, was experiencing some very challenging personal circumstances including being identified as high risk of child sexual exploitation, anxiety, substance misuse (used as a way of coping with complex emotions)
- The mini-intervention explored breathing techniques and ways to close off intrusive thoughts and feelings
- Lana reported she enjoyed the session and enabled her to momentarily take her mind off the other things happening in her life
- Mini intervention was stalled when Lana experienced some health issues and a crisis relating to a close member of her family
- The last meeting with Lana was, however very productive. Used the Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence activity to determine reasons why attendance was poor. This explored the relationships between people, circumstances and events. This identified poor attendance wasn’t just due to being tired or not wanting to come but was related to deeper influences. Lana was able to ‘reframe’ her non-attendance as ‘doing the best she can in challenging circumstances’ rather than ‘being bad’ or ‘not bothered’.
- Although too early to tell whether the mindfulness course has had any impact on her personal resilience, Lana did enjoy the sessions. She has engaged very well in her subject specific work – much more than before the mini-intervention. The breathing techniques have helped her sleep, which has been a barrier to improving her attendance in the past.
- Using mindfulness techniques and breathing exercises with a learnerwho has severe anxiety to help them cope with the college environment (Appendix 2):
- Young learner with mild to moderate learning difficulties and mental health needs
- Listens to peers’ life experiences and changes them in to her own personal experiences
- Becomes upset when peers challenge this behaviour
- Uses breathing to focus learner until her anxieties reduce and she can return to class
- Working successfully and learner is starting to recognise the triggers for her anxiety
- Developing the concept of ‘being kind’ with a learner who has low self-esteem but channels this through aggressive behaviour (Appendix 3):
- Used with a client whose emotional responses to situations and other people were immediate and instinctive and often angry, leading to aggression and difficult situations
- Identified positive mantras that can help with grounding and self-celebration
- Building confidence through mindfulness with learners with learning difficulties (Appendix 4):
- Learner is 21, shy and has mild learning difficulties
- Has difficulty focusing on classroom and homework tasks as easily distracted
- Practices breathing exercises of 60 seconds, several times a day to enable him to learn to focus his attention
- Initially reluctant (as he felt shy about doing it) and easily distracted
- Now successfully manages to do this several times a day and keeps a mood diary to reflect on his thoughts and possible triggers
- Delivery Mindfulness to learners on Study Programmes and Traineeships (Appendix 5):
- All learners were experiencing challenging lives which resulted in poor attendance, behaviour and focus
- Explored an 8-week course, integrated into their usual learning programme
- 5 learners participated, all of which saw benefits within some aspect of their lives
- Some learners stayed on beyond their end date to complete the mindfulness programme
- All embraced the practice and some have seen significant improvements in their lives
- Using a meditation App in class to see learner’s levels of stress reduce and able to focus on learning (Appendix 6-8):
- Looking to see if learners focus could be enhanced and whether they could develop healthier relationships with others to combat reports of bullying
- Used a 10-minute mindfulness practise with learners at the beginning of each teaching session
- Learners responded exceptionally well and wanted to ‘return the favour’ by doing something nice for the tutor
- As the programme developed, learners were less agitated, had more positive behaviour, reported feeling happier and were becoming kinder to one another (thoughtful responses and compliments amongst learners)
- Timekeeping and attendance improved slightly and seeing less use of mobile phones
- Learners appear more focused and follow instructions better
- Some learners are using the App at home
- Improving erratic attendance, aggression and disruptive behaviour (Appendix 8):
- Worked individually with two 14-year-old learners in alternative education
- Developed/ negotiated ground rules for the mini-intervention with the learners and ensured these were abided by throughout
- Identified the triggers for aggressive behaviour was not being listened to and unfairness
- Discussed positive and negative emotions, the purpose of emotions and there is no such thing as a ‘wrong emotion’
- Followed on with discussion on actions resulting from emotions, learners felt things escalated too quickly for them to have control.
- After discussing the effects of emotions on the body the learners were able to identify racing heart, faces becoming warm, shoulders tensing up.
- Practiced ways to control actions such as breathing exercises, ways of sitting/ moving/ standing to feel more grounded, safe places/ safe people they can go to and places/ people they should avoid when at crisis point.
- Initial feedback is positive. One learner has been able to (nearly) always remove themselves from negative situations. The other, where crises were happening on a daily basis, has been able to remain in lessons for one full week.
- Improving learners’ engagement in writing skills through scaffolded learning (Appendix 9):
- Examined learner avoidance strategies and delay tactics, levels of engagement, concentration, quality of written work and their emotional journey throughout the writing process
- Learner on Programme of Study in Construction, working towards E2 English and is 17 years old.
- Part of a roll-on, roll-off class and vast majority of learners come from a disadvantaged area of the community, have multiple challenges in their personal lives and have negative pre-conceptions of learning built from poor experiences of learning at school
- Week one provided learner with linear list on how to complete a writing task which resulted in initial disengagement and avoidance to reluctant completion which lacked focus. Learners’ emotional state was negative throughout and displayed signs of anxiety.
- Week two provided learner with similar writing task with scaffolding to provide support and encouragement. Initially given a reading task on the topic (as the learner had better reading skills). Following this, there was a discussion on the content of the text, which the learner actively and confidently engaged in.
- Learner given a short break and returned to the writing task which was well received. After some initial self-doubt, they worked independently, applied a lot of knowledge from the previous reading and discussion. He took care with the task with evidence of proof reading and correction of errors, and stretched and challenged himself to add features to his writing. Learners emotional state throughout was calm, focused and did not distract his peers or allow his peers to distract him.
- Week three aimed at reducing the learner’s initial self-doubt when completing a writing task.
- Used a range of kinaesthetic resources such as flash cards, watched a video, discussed topic with peers, internet research, independent reading task.
- The final activity involved writing a response to a colleague which the learner completed without hesitation, confidently sharing his opinions in the reply. He displayed no self-doubt and his emotional state was happy, positive and confident