Mindfulness Research Inspiration
My interest in brain research and mindfulness practices became a critical endeavor when my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. There is no history of the disease in our family and it was my mom's belief that the disease was caused from the endurance of extreme and chronic stress. The following Ted Talk asserts that we will all be affected by Alzheimer's whether we contract it ourselves or are the caregivers to others. The speaker then gives hope by asserting that the effects of the disease can be staved off through the continued practice of learning new skills and information. By joining the Master's program and pushing myself to learn new technology tools, I am attempting to do just that. It is through this personal experience of being a caregiver that my inspiration developed. My desire to alleviate stress and curb its effects on the brain is where my research finds its roots.
Where My Process Began
Scientists, through the developments in technology, have uncovered much neurological information that is inevitably going to inform teaching practices. We are learning more and more each day about how we learn. As a teacher my inspiration has been the, 'Why aren't these kids learning? What is impeding their progress? Is it simply lack of language?' After reading Eric Jensen's book, Teaching with Poverty in Mind, it became clear that there was more to the obvious disadvantages that poverty imposes. He speak from the perspective of an educator and a neurologist. He writes of the effects of poverty on the brain and what teachers and districts must to do about it. Understanding why students are not able to learn and then understanding that their education may be their only hope out of their challenging situations, makes the task of teaching them all the more invaluable. We must start with their mental health.
Statement of the Problem
The observed problem [that this research project attempted to address] is that students are unable to participate in active listening exercises, recall information, or stay on task due to attention deficits that are heightened because of stresses that exist outside of the classroom and this has a direct effect on their academic success. The problem may be related to the stress that is causing the students harm and impeding their learning. One known way to relieve stress and to focus the mind is the practice of meditation.
Purpose of the Research Project
The purpose of this study was not quieting students but rather bringing the entire mind to the task of learning. The intent of mindfulness practice is to calm the body and mind, make one aware of their surroundings, and help to focus the mind on certain ideas or activities. This study is particularly relevant when considering the need for meta-cognition in the practice of teaching and learning in the 21st Century classroom. The goal of this study is to determine the effects of mindfulness training on students who need help to focus their minds while learning. In consideration of the negative effects of chronic stress as it is related to memory, focus, social interactions, and self-esteem, this study attempts to explore a tool, mindfulness, to aid in the reduction of that stress.
The technology was not an important aspect of the action research as my study focused on the learning outcomes of mindfulness use and not the means of how the mindfulness was implemented. My Capstone Project has since migrated toward the use of digital resources as an attempt to increase mindfulness use in the classroom and to grant accessibility for my audience.