Emerging Reflective Practice: Mindfulness and Special Education

Year: 2018

Author: Tichy, Michelle

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The purpose of the research is to investigate how training special education teachers to practice mindfulness, both personally and in their classrooms facilitates the development of deep authentic reflective practice as teachers. Reflective practice requires teachers to engage in a continuous cycle of self-observation and self-evaluation in order to respond to how their actions impact their students and themselves. We looked at ways that mindfulness practices supported teacher in expanding their reflective practices in the following areas: Improves classroom climate and reduces stress/threat response, reduces exclusionary discipline, changes teachers’ perceptions of challenging students, improves teachers’ relationship with challenging students, and improves teachers’ own mood, stress levels and patience. We trained a class of Masters Students who are all working Special Educators in Mindfulness over the course of sixteen weeks. We collected mindfulness journals and analyzed the narrative responses that these teachers had to integrating mindfulness into their daily lives impacted them personally and professionally.  We also conducted a survey that looks at how teachers managed classroom behavior before, during and after mindfulness practice. We asked the teachers what long term benefit they feel mindfulness has had on them personally and professionally. Our results support the literature on teacher mindfulness and improvements in their moods, stress levels, and patience. We also found that all of our study participants reported the capacity to use mindful strategies to reflect on every aspect of their professional practice; from pedagogy to responding in a more peaceful manner to children having behavioral challenges. This study supports the value of a wide scale implementation of training pre-service and in-service teachers in mindfulness in order to create daily practices both personally and professionally that create authentic reflective practices. This study also expands our understanding of the value of mindfulness as a tool to engage teachers in deeper forms of reflective practice that allow them to be present in the moment and to engage their students with the calmness that comes from present moment awareness.