Mindfulness practice as a teaching-learning strategy in higher education: A qualitative exploratory pilot study
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BACKGROUND: Students in higher education are experiencing stress and anxiety, such that it impedes their academic success and personal wellbeing. Brief mindfulness meditation and lovingkindness meditation are two aspects of mindfulness practice that have the potential to decrease students' feelings of anxiety and stress, and increase their sense of wellbeing and capacity for compassion for self and for others. PURPOSE: To explore how undergraduate and graduate students experience brief instructor-guided mindfulness practice; specifically, on their feelings of stress and anxiety, and their sense of wellbeing. STUDY DESIGN: Qualitative exploratory pilot study. PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING: Fifty-two graduate and undergraduate students in different disciplines within a community services faculty of an urban university. METHODS: Brief (five-minute) instructor-guided mindfulness practices were offered over eight weeks at the beginning and end of classes. Participating students were asked to also engage in individual home practice of five to fifteen-minute mindful breathing four to five times a week and to keep a log of their experiences. At end of term, individual and group feedback (N=13) was elicited from participating students. Six of the seven instructors who guided the mindfulness practices shared their experiences of the mindfulness activities. OUTCOMES: Students reported an increased sense of calm, and a decreased feeling of anxiety. Lovingkindness meditation was mostly perceived as a positive way to close the class. Their instructors also observed that the brief mindful breathing practice at start of class helped students become more grounded and focused before engaging in the course content. Challenges encountered focused on the need to provide more in-depth information about mindfulness, as it relates to higher education teaching-learning contexts, to both students and participating instructors. CONCLUSIONS: Implications for education suggest further research that includes fuller experiential training of participating instructors, as well as provision of a more comprehensive background on mindfulness to students.