Mindfulness – Part 5


Improving Memory and Learning with Mindfulness

In the final part of our mindfulness blog series, we’re going to take a look at how it can improve memory and learning in the classroom. As always, we would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Please let us know in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Mindfulness and Learning

As we continue to practice mindfulness, our brains become able to direct our attention with greater awareness and skill.  For pupils, this could mean that they can develop a greater capacity to concentrate on their learning and become less distracted by everything else that is going on in the classroom. If they are able to concentrate more consistently, this should improve their understanding and retention of information.

Metacognition and Learning

As your pupils become more familiar with the metacognitive techniques that we discussed in part 3 of this series, they will become better able to self-assess their thinking processes and their progress. Having a higher awareness of how they learn best, will give them a personal toolkit of things that they know will help them to learn more successfully. It will also help them to be able to handle unexpected or high-stress situations, like SATs tests, more calmly and systematically.

Memory and Mindfulness

In September 2018, Berkeley, University of California released the findings of their research into mindfulness and memory.

Participants were randomly assigned to either a four-week online mindfulness course or a creative writing course. The mindfulness group spent two weeks learning to focus on their breathing or body sensations and two weeks learning “open monitoring,” being aware of what was happening around them and gently redirecting their attention when their minds wandered.

Before and after the training, participants completed a memory test: They first saw a set of letters appear on a screen and, after a few seconds’ break, they saw a single letter and had to determine if it had been part of that set or not. As the task is repeated multiple times, seeing a letter in an earlier set can interfere with the ability to recall whether the letter appeared more recently, giving researchers a way to measure proactive interference. In addition, some participants were scanned via MRI before and after the training to look for changes in the volume of their hippocampus—an area of the brain associated with memory.

Results of the analyses found that the mindfulness group had significantly less proactive interference during the memory test compared to the writing group, indicating an improvement in short-term memory.

In the mindfulness group, the better people performed on the memory task, the more their hippocampus volume increased, too. While prior research has found that mindfulness meditation improves short-term memory and that meditators have bigger hippocampi, this was the first study to link the two findings together. In other words, the improvements in interference weren’t transitory, but led to actual structural differences in the brain.


Memory and Learning

So, there is evidence to suggest that doing repeated mindfulness practice can physically change the brain and improve memory. Alongside the improvements in concentration and learning, this suggests that using these techniques in the classroom can be a worthwhile exercise, with proven benefits.

The Mindfulness Series

Throughout this series, we have discovered the many reported benefits of using mindfulness in the classroom. From creating a better learning environment to improving learning and helping with emotional mental disorders, it can have a positive impact on pupils (and teachers too).

The complete five-part series will be available as a downloadable PDF in the coming days, so keep an eye on the blog, or, if you’re on our email list we’ll send you a link. If you’re not already on our mailing list, you can sign up for emails from PTS here.

In the meantime, all five parts of the series are still available on the blog, you can find them on the links in the ‘Read More’ section below.

We hope that you have found this series useful. Please feel free to share your ideas and successes in the comments section below.

Read More…

Energy, Emotion and Activity: Creating an Optimal Learning Environment (Mindfulness Part 1). Classroom energy levels can vary greatly depending on the time of day, subject, activity, school events and even the teacher’s mood. But energy levels are incredibly important for retaining information. So, how can mindfulness help you to create the right kind of energy in your classroom?

Introducing Mindfulness in Your Classroom (Part 2). We’ll take a look at the basics of mindfulness and why it works well in the classroom, before we move on to how to make paying attention a positive, how to set your ground rules and your first full mindfulness activity for your pupils.

Metacognition: Thinking About Thoughts and Learning from Them (Part 3). We discuss how to introduce ‘thinking about thoughts’ to your pupils and how to get them to harness their thinking processes to improve their learning and overcome obstacles.

Mental Disorders and Mindfulness (Part 4). Taking stock of our mental wellbeing is a key facet of mindfulness. By becoming aware of any mental disorders as they develop, we can take steps to remedy the problem before it manifests fully. There is evidence that emotional mental health disorders are on the rise for children and young people. We take a look at the latest statistics and discuss how far mindfulness can help to reduce the impact of mental ill health.

Recent Blogs…

Celebrating St Patrick’s Day. St Patrick’s Day is a cultural and religious celebration for Irish people and people of Irish descent across the world. Read our latest blog to find out more about St Patrick and for some great St Patrick’s Day activities for your class.

Five Steps to a Confident Mindset. Our latest guest blog from mindset expert, Ross McWilliam, gives you fives steps to help your pupils to develop a confident mindset in school.


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