Research

We use both quantitative and qualitative data to evaluate our effectiveness. In addition to the information on this page, some of the best qualitative evidence comes from two film documentaries: Healthy Habits of Mind (a free film about integrating mindfulness into education) and Room to Breathe (a documentary showing Mindful Schools at a San Francisco middle school with the highest suspensions in the district).

Our Research

Overview Slides

For details about our study, please see this presentation from the 2013 Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth conference, or read further on this page for a summary.

Research Study Summary

In the 2011-12 school year, Mindful Schools partnered with the University of California, Davis to conduct the largest randomized-controlled study to date on mindfulness and children, involving 937 children and 47 teachers in 3 Oakland public elementary schools.

The Mindful Schools curriculum (which has been taught to over 30,000 children) produced statistically significant improvements in behavior versus the control group (shown graphically below) with just 4 hours of mindfulness instruction for the students–a very small, low-cost dose. Further instruction through teacher training could produce even more long-term benefit. Please see below for more detail. A journal paper and more analysis are upcoming.

Population Served

In addition to the study’s size, it is notable for the population served and the environment around the schools. The diagram below (click to enlarge) shows the very high level of crime around the three elementary schools that were studied — surroundings that add tremendous turmoil to children’s lives. In 2010, Oakland was ranked 5th in the United States in violent crime. In addition, 85% of the students in the study were on Free Lunch and 6% were on Reduced Lunch. 68% of the students were English Language Learners. 49% of the parents did not have high school diplomas.

Additional Information

  • The treatment group received only 4 hours of mindfulness instruction over six weeks.
  • The control group had class as usual (without any mindfulness instruction).
  • Treatment and control groups were randomly chosen, stratified by grade level.
  • The mindfulness teachers in the study had a strong mindfulness background, which is a key determinant of success when teaching mindfulness to others.
  • The graph above shows the change in children’s behavior, scored on a teacher-rated scale (courtesy of Kinder Associates LLC, Wellness Works in Schools™).
  • The results show statistically significant improvements in Paying Attention (p=.004) and Social Compliance (p=.026). Showing Care for Others was close to being significant (p=0.165).
  • The control group’s large gain in Self Calming was probably due to the climate in the three schools, all of which were exceptionally calm compared to other schools we have been in.
  • The study’s power was limited by the small number of classrooms used, due to budget and timing constraints. These issues will be addressed in a future study.
  • Standardized Z scores, significance levels, and effect sizes are tabulated below the graph.
  • Ordinary Least Squares regression was used, controlling for gender and age in months.
  • The results show that mindfulness can impact children’s behavior in a short time at low cost.
  • The results show that mindfulness exercises can transcend the language barrier (68% of the children were English Language Learners).
  • A deep discussion of this study, its design, other results, and lessons learned is forthcoming.
  • We are grateful to the S.H. Cowell Foundation and the Julia Burke Foundation for funding this study.
  • Please send any questions or other correspondence to research@mindfulschools.org.
  • If you would like to contribute to hiring a research coordinator for Mindful Schools, or to fund a future study, please contact Randy Fernando.

Detailed Statistical Results

Standardized Value (Z) Significance Level (p) Effect Size (r)
Paying Attention -2.89 .004 -0.10
Self-Calming -0.25 .800 -0.01
Social Compliance -2.23 .026 -0.08
Care for Others -1.34 .165 -0.05

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