Mind the Teachers! The Impact of Mindfulness Training on Self-Regulation and Classroom Performance in a Sample of German School Teachers
European Journal of Educational Research
Mind the Teachers! The Impact of Mindfulness Training on Self- Regulation and Classroom Performance in a Sample of German School Teachers
Silke Rupprecht * 0
Peter Paulus 0
Harald Walach 1
* Corresponding author: Email: 2
0 Leuphana University , GERMANY
1 Europa Viadrina University , GERMANY
2 Silke Rupprecht , Leuphana University , Lu?neburg, Center efodrScitehnecesAopfpHliealth , Germany.
Teacher wellbeing and performance is affected by their ability to cope with the demands of the profession. This pilot nonrandomized, waitlist-controlled study investigated the impact of a mindfulness intervention (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) on teachers' wellbeing, self-regulation ability and classroom performance applying a mixed-method design. The sample was comprised of 32 German school teachers (93% female) which were distributed to a control and intervention group. Compared to the control condition, the intervention showed medium to high effect sizes on most outcome variables at post-test and results were sustained at follow-up. Mediation analyses showed that changes in mindfulness at post-test mediated changes in outcome variables at follow-up. Unexpectedly, the intervention seemed to negatively affect teacher engagement. Qualitative interviews highlighted the way mindfulness may influence teacher engagement and improve performance. Limitations of this study and future directions of research are discussed.
MBSR; teacher education; teacher training; mindfulness; meditation
The high prevalence of teacher stress has been a major international challenge
(Kyriacou, 1987, 2001)
. Chronic teacher
stress has a negative impact on teacher
(sG?uglhieelamltih& Tatrow, 1998; Rothland, 2007, 2012)
and may be
contributing to high teacher leave
(UK: Allen, Burgess, & Mayo, 2012; USA: Goldring, Taie, & Riddles, 2014)
as well as
early retirement of teachers in Germany (Weber, 2004). A large number of studies have highlighted factors associated
with traits of personalities and attributes of schools that contribute to teacher strain
(e.g. Abele & Candova, 2007;
Brouwers & Tomic, 2000; Grayson & Alvarez, 2008; Pas, Bradshaw, & Hershfeldt, 2012)
. Despite the high number of
studies documenting teachers? stress and strain, to date few studies investigated how teachers can
they can cope with the demands of the profession.
To cope with the demands of the professions, teachers need skills to both sustain health and perform well as teachers.
In Germany, the ability for self-regulation has recently been identified as an aspect of professional competence of
(Baumert & Kunter, 2013)
. In motivation theory, the process of self-regulation is usually described as the
ability to initiate, coordinate, and govern behaviour in accordance with personal goals
(Ryan, Kuhl, & Deci, 1997)
ability is regarded as central for health promotion
. In the context of teacher training, the term
selfregulation refers more generally to the capability of teachers toma?nage their own resources in a professional setti
(Klusmann, 2013, p. 293).
A good self-regulation of teachers is an important prerequisite of successful classroom outcomes
(Paulus, 2007, 2011)
For example, in a representative German sample of math teachers, less than a third of teachers showed a healthy
selfregulation which the authors defined as being highly resilient to the demands of the profession as well as highly
engaged in the classroom (Klusmann, Kunter, Trautwein, L?dtke, & Baumer.t,Inte2r0e0s8ti)ngly, the teachers
displaying healthy self-regulation not only showed better health outcomes compared to teachers with less healthy
patterns; their instructional quality was also rated significantly higher by their students.
Research on teacher stress and wellbeing identified key self-regulation skills, for example self-efficacy and emotion
(Abele & Candova, 2007; Baumert & Kunter, 2013; Berking, 2010; Rothland, 2013b; Sieland, 2006)
Teacher Self-efficacy is the belief to be able to handle difficult classroom events in the future for teachers in the
classroom in particular (Bandura, 1997). This belief affects the choices people make, the goals they set for themselves,
the effort they put into their work, and their perseverance in the face of difficulties. Two meta-analyses showed that
self-efficacy of teachers is positively linked to student learning motivation and student self-efficacy as well as teacher
motivation and teacher health outcomes
(Kagan, 1992; Tschannen-Moran, Woolfolk Hoy, & Hoy, 1998)
. In a
longitudinal study, Brouwers and Tomic (2000) showed that a low sense of self-efficacy in teachers predicted burnout
five years later. In fact, burnout has been described as a crisis of self-efficacy
Emotion regulation. Emotion regulation is the ability to show certain emotions and hide or regulate others (Gross &
Mu?oz, 199 5.)Teaching is regarded as emotional work and teachers need to regulate their emotions frequently
(Hargreaves, 1998; Hochschild, 1979)
. Brackett and colleagues (Brackett, Palomera, Mojsa-Kaja, Reyes, & Salovey,
2010) found that emotion regulation ability of teachers was positively associated with job satisfaction, positive affect,
and principal?s support. In -ascalearqgeualitative study,
Sutton, Mudrey-Camino and Knight (2009
) showed that
teachers were aware of the importance of emotion regulation but thought they sometimes lacked the skills to regulate
negative emotions. Emotionally exhausted teachers were also more likely to describe student behaviour as disruptive
(Kokkinos, Panayiotou, & Davazoglou, 2003)
. Furthermore, the more often teachers experienced negative affect in the
classroom, the more negative students rated their instructional quality
(Frenzel, Goetz, Stephens, & Jacob, 2009)
Mindfulness as a Foundation for Healthy Self-Regulation
How can self-regulation be improved?
Brown, Ryan, und Creswell (2007
, p. 218) described mindful awareness as a
?foundation for healthy -resgeulflation.? A recent review of the neuroscience of mindfulness suggest that
of mindfulness may impact self-regulation by improving the regulation of attention and emotions
(Tang, H?lzel, &
Mindfulness is the ability to purposefully pay attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental way
. Originally a Buddhist concept, mindful awareness describes a generic psychological faculty. It may be
directed to bodily sensations as well as to emotional and cognitive experiences (Thera, 1975). Mindfulness is not only
about being aware; it is also about how individuals relate to a given situation. In a mindful state people experience
acceptance of a given situation. For instance, resistance or avoidance of a negative emotion is likely to enhance or
prolong the experience while mindful acceptance has shown to calm emotions
. Therefore, mindfulness
might reduce reactivity to negative emotions which is highly pertinent to the way teachers interact especially with
Mindfulness is a state of mind that most people can attain, but in order to maintain it for longer periods of time, it needs
practicing, for example through mindfulness meditation. A popular and secular way to train mindfulness is
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training. MBSR is a group training program aimed at alleviating suffering
from stress-related symptoms, illness, anxiety, and chronic pain
. MBSR is presented as a structured
8-week course with weekly group meetings that range from 2.5 to 3 hours in length and an additional immersion. Its
main goal is to help people develop mindfulness. Aided by group practice and audio recordings for home practice,
participants experience and reflect on mindfulness meditations such as observing the breath, scanning the body to
become aware of body sensations, and walking mindfully. Furthermore, topics related to stress are presented
(Chaskalson, 2014; Stahl & Goldstein, 2010)
Evidence shows that MBSR effectively reduced stress and alleviated psychological and physical symptoms of stress in
both clinical and healthy populations
(Chiesa & Serretti, 2009; Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt, & Walach, 2004; Khoury
et al., 2013)
. The program requires a high practice commitment: Participants are asked to practice 40 minutes of formal
meditation on six days per week. A recent meta-analysis concluded that the time spent on home practice was linked to
improvements in mindfulness, well-being, and stress-related symptoms (Parsons, Crane, Parsons, Fjorback, & Kuyken,
Review of Impact of MBSR for Teachers
As indicated by the publication of recent studies, there is a growing interest in the impact of mindfulness training for
teachers. While some studies are based on other training formats or apply meditation techniques that are possibly not
comparable to mindfulness meditation
(Anderson, Levinson, Barker, & Kiewra, 1999)
, the four studies reviewed here
use MBSR training or slightly modified trainings for teachers.
In a qualitative pilot study, three primary school teachers (all female) and their students participated in a year-long
(Napoli, Krech, & Holley, 2005)
. Firstly, teachers completed MBSR training. Secondly, students
took part in mindfulness training for nine months. The study examined the connection between teacher stress and
teaching quality. Study participants reported that the training helped them to teach in a less fragmented manner. For
example, they indicated that they were now directing their attention more on the process of teaching rather than the
goal of the class. Due to this shift, teachers felt less exhausted and more closely attuned to the needs of their students.
In another preliminary evaluation, eleven primary teachers (91 % female) took part in MBSR training
Hopper, & Herne, 2010)
. Participants reported a decrease in levels of stress and in symptoms of depression at post-test
compared to pre-test. However, the study design did not include a control condition.
A more recent study by
Flook et al. (2013)
randomized 18 teachers (all female) to a control (n=8) and intervention
group (n=10). The intervention was slightly adapted to the needs of teachers and included additional teacher-specific
content and a higher variability of practice duration times (e.g. 10, 15, 20 minute meditations). Participants were asked
to complete measures of burnout, mindfulness, and self-compassion at pre- and post-test and to take part in
computerized tasks related to attention and emotion regulation. In addition, classroom teaching practices were
observer-rated, and saliva samples for cortisol were obtained as an objective indicator of stress. The intervention group
showed significant improvements in perceived stress, mindfulness, self-compassion and burnout. Observers noted
improved class-management skills in the intervention group but not in the control group. However, no changes were
observed concerning other classroom skills. Teachers included in the intervention group were less prone to implicit
bias after the training compared to those in the control group. Effect sizes (Cohen?s d) of outcome measures
moderate to high. Despite the limited power due to small sample size, the study showed for the first time that a
modified MBSR training may have a positive impact on both teacher health and classroom-management.
Roeser et al. (2013) randomized 113 public school teachers from Canada and the USA (89% women) to control (N=59)
and mindfulness-intervention groups (N=54). The intervention was a slightly adapted version of MBSR. The study
showed that mindfulness training for school teachers was feasible in terms of their ability to comply with home
practice and completion of the program (87% completed the program). In addition to psychological indicators of stress,
the study also considered physiological measures such as heart rate and cortisol level. Compared to control group,
teachers of the mindfulness intervention reported greater improvements in measures of mindfulness, self-compassion,
and considerable reductions in occupational stress and symptoms of burnout, anxiety, and depression. Objective
measures of focused attention and working memory capacity increased significantly in the intervention but not in the
control group. However, the effect sizes between groups were small for these measures. Changes in mindfulness and
self-compassion at post-test mediated effects of the intervention on reductions in stress, burnout, anxiety, and
depression at the 3-month follow-up. However, no positive training effect on physiological indicators of stress such as
blood pressure, resting heart rate, and cortisol level was detected.
While this and the other results discussed above are promising, studies focusing on the impact of MBSR on teacher
selfregulation and classroom performance are lacking.
Purpose of Study
In this trial, we investigated the impact of MBSR training with a teacher sample from Germany on self-regulation and
professional performance. We assumed that increased trait-mindfulness after a mindfulness training will have a
positive effect on self-regulation abilities, and this improvement, in turn, will lead to greater teacher health and teacher
performance (Figure 1).
We addressed the following research questions:
1) Do teachers who take part in MBSR regard it as beneficial? Do they complete the training, do they comply with
home practice, and would they recommend the program?
2) Do teachers assigned to MBSR intervention group show greater increases in mindfulness compared to those of the
3) Do teachers assigned to MBSR intervention group show greater improvements in teacher health and
selfregulation ability than those in the waitlist-control group?
4) Do group differences in mindfulness at post-test mediate the training impact on self-regulation at 3-month
5) Do teachers notice changes in their professional performance that they attribute to MBSR?
The standard MBSR curriculum was delivered by a trainer with over 10 years of experience in delivering this
mindfulness intervention. The programme structure was adapted to the school year schedule. Therefore, the training
lasted 5 weeks and was delivered in four 2.5-hour evenings and two 8-hours days (total of 26 hours). The MBSR
curriculum is comprised of mindfulness meditation practices and mindfulness in daily life. Every course session focuses
on a topic such as coping with stress or working with difficult emotions. The programme contents and structure is
described in more detail by
and Chaskalson (2014).
This study took place in Hamburg, Germany in 2011 and 2012. We conducted a quasi-experimental, non-randomized,
waitlist-controlled study combining quantitative and qualitative data in a mixed-method design. The Public Institute of
Teacher Education in Hamburg (LI Hamburg) advertised the training via their course website and email lists. Generally,
all teachers of publicly funded schools based in Hamburg were eligible for participation. However, we held a mandatory
pre-training information session for interested teachers. During this session teachers were introduced to the study
design, the MBSR training and the importance of making time for personal practice. After the information teachers
could register their interest in participation. Randomization of sample proved not possible due to limited availability of
some teachers. To secure comparability of baseline tests, we distributed the sample by age and school type into
intervention and waitlist-control group. MBSR training took place at the teacher training institution and teachers
received the training for free. Hours spent at training sessions and filling out questionnaires were credited against
teachers? compulsory requirement to engage in 30 to 45 hours of continuing education training
assigned to the intervention group completed the MBSR training in the autumn of 2011 (September to November).
Teachers of the wait-list control group took part in the training in spring 2012 (April to June). There were three
assessment times for both groups: pre-test (September, 2011), post-test (November, 2011), and 3-month follow-up
The pre-assessment scores of one teacher of the control group were missing. This teacher had to be eliminated from the
data. The final sample comprised 32 school teachers (n=30, 94% female) that were assigned to an intervention group
(n=18) and a waitlist control group (n=14). Groups did not differ statistically. Descriptive information can be found in
table 1. One post-assessment of the control group as well as one follow-up assessment of the intervention group was
not returned. This resulted in slightly differing data sets for pre-post-test comparisons (Intervention: n=18, Control:
n=13), and pre-follow-up comparisons (Intervention: n=17, Control: n=14).
Demographic Characteristics Mindfulness Group
Number of Teachers (N=32) 18
Sex (% female) 100.0
Age in years, mean (SD) 45.9 (SD = 9,5)
Years of Professional Experience, mean 14.9 (SD = 9.7)
Working part-time (%) 66.7
School type (% elementary school) 27.7
Wait-List Control Group
49.3 (SD = 9.9)
18.1 (SD = 12.1)
The Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI-14) is an instrument for measuring trait-mindfulness
Buttenm?ller, Kleinknecht, & Schmidt, 2003,. Th2e00s6h)
ort version of the inventory comprises 14 items and is
frequently used to evaluate changes in mindfulness with meditation novices. The FMI measures two aspects of
mindfulness: mindful presence and mindful acceptance. Mindful presence is characterized by the ability to stay present
or to return to the present moment when absent-minded. Mindful acceptance involves embracing negative experiences.
Based on a recent item response analysis (IRT),
(Sauer, Strobl, Walach, & Kohls, 2013)
suggested to leave out the
negatively worded item 13 (?I am impatient with fellow human beings.?) in order to increase construct validity and
internal consistency. Using 13-items, the total mindfulness scales and both subscales were statistically reliable at
pretest (mindful presence: ?=.83; mindful acceptance: ?=.84). A highenrdicmateeasnhigshceorretraiit-mindfulness.
Wellbeing of Teachers
Wellbeing of teachers was measured using a short version of the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ ? 12)
1978; Linden, Maier, Achberger, & Herr, 1996)
. This widely used scale assesses the overall wellbeing relative to a
person?s normal situation. It has also been used as a general screening for psychopatholothgyei.r Particip
ability to concentrate, sleep well, and get things done as well as their feeling low self-esteem, or unhappy. Items were
rated on a 4 ?point metric (e.g. for assessing the quality of sleep: 0=not at all, 1=not worse as usual, 2=worse than usual,
3=much worse than usual. Answers were recoded in a bimodal way (0-0-1-1) to attain a sum score (0-12). A higher
sum score indicated lower wellbeing of teachers. Internal consistency was good (?=.88).
Teacher strain was assessed with the Irritation Scale (Mohr, Mu ller, & Rigotti, 2005; Mohr, Mu 2l0le0r7,). T&hisRigotti,
12-item scale is designed to capture symptoms of strain resulting from an imbalance of personal resources and
professional stress. The scale is widely used in non-clinical and professional settings for introducing health
interventions and prevention. We used a teacher-specific version of the scale that measures two aspects of teacher
strain. Cognitive irritation assesses the ability for mental self-regulation. Possibly a preliminary stage to rumination,
cognitive irritation involves being unable to stop thinking about work-related problems ? even during school holidays.
Emotional Irritation is characterized as the result of a continuous depletion of resources. It includes items relating to
the negative outcome of professional social interactions, such as reacting irritably or feeling like a ?nervous
Items were rated on a 7-point metric of frequency. The sum scores were converted into stanine scores based on a
representative teacher sample provided by the authors. Internal consistency is adequate (irritation total ? = .80,
cognitive irritation ? = .82, emotional irritation ? = .79)
Occupational Stress and Coping Inventory
Occupation Stress and Coping Inventory (AVEM): The AVEM is a 44-item scale that assesses the ability to cope with
(Schaarschmidt & Fischer, 2006)
. In Germany, the AVEM is widely used in teacher health
research and other professional contexts. The 44 items comprise 11 scales that differentiate into three dimensions of
occupational coping behaviour: 1) resilience 2) work engagement 3) emotions regarding the professional setting. In
this study, we focused on teacher resilience and work engagement. Teacher resilience was measured with three scales
with adequate or good internal consistency: Ability to switch-off from work problems (? = .78), Tendency to resign in
the face of strain (? = .90), internal calm and balance (? = .62). The dimension ?work engagement? comprised f
scales with decent reliability: importance of work (? = .78), professional ambition (? = .78), readiness to work hard (? =
.86), and striving for perfection (? = .89). The scale offers standard values for a conversion of the 5-point likert scale
into stanine scale based on large teacher samples.
Self-efficacy is defined as the personal conviction to possess the necessary competences in order to cope with future
difficulties in daily life
. It was assessed with a 10-item scale
(Schwarzer & Jerusalem, 1999)
were rated on a 4-point metric. Internal consistency of the scale was good (? = .86).
Emotion regulation skills were assessed using the Scale for Emotional Competence SEK-27
(Berking & Znoj, 2008)
Originally comprised of 27 items that may be added up to 9 scales, we only measured the core competences as outlined
. These competences are clarity of emotion, awareness of bodily sensation and awareness of emotion.
In addition, we used a scale measuring general emotion regulation competence. Each scale is comprised of 3 items that
are positively worded. The instrument is available in a trait and in a state-version. To increase sensitivity to changes,
we used the state-version of the scales that is introduced with the phrase: [?fIonllowtheed bylatsht e twheeiktem,
e.g.: I regulated my emotions well].? (1=not at al, 2=rarely, 3=sometimes, 4=often, In5t=earlnwaalycso)n. sistency of all
scales was good (awareness of emotion ? = .86, awareness of bodily sensation: ? = .80, clarity of
emotion regulation competency: ? = .89). A higher mean score indicates a higher emotion regulation c
Emo-Check: Emo Check assesses positive and negative affect. The instrument is available online
(http://www.tekonline.info). Participants receive a list of emotions and assess how often they experienced these
emotions in the last week (1 = never, 2 = rarely, 3 = sometimes, 4 = often, 5 = always. The prevalence of positive
emotions was assessed with two scales: positive emotion scale (? = .88) and coping emotion scale ? = .93. The
prevalence of negative emotions was assessed with the scales depressiveness (? = .78), fear (? = .72) and stress (? =
.78). A higher mean score indicates higher prevalence of this emotion in the last week.
Mindfulness Practice Compliance
Participants in the mindfulness training group completed practice logs on a daily basis. Participants recorded the type
of practice (e.g. bodyscan), the number of minutes per day spent engaging in that practice. Composite variables were
created to examine both minutes per day of formal practice, frequency of mindfulness practice and type of mindfulness
Completion of Program and Satisfaction with Program
program was regarded
the programme was
to recommend this
as ?completed?, if a participant did not miss more than two group m
assessed with 2 items: 1) ?I have personally profited from detfhineiteltyraining.?
training to others.? 3) ?I think that my students have profited from m
t-Tests for paired samples were conducted on outcome measures to determine the significance of changes within the
groups. To provide a metric for between-group comparisons, Cohe(n1?s988) d was calculated. To control for pre-test
differences the analysis was based on change scores as suggested by
. First, we calculated two change
scores for each outcome measure (post-test-pre-test, and follow-up-pre-test). Second, we computed d based on
posttest and follow-up change scores and corresponding pooled standard deviations using standard methods. To evaluate if
changes in mindfulness mediate changes in self-regulation ability we used standard procedures for mediational
(Baron & Kenny, 1986; B?hZnieergler&, 2009)
. To analyse the qualitative interviews, interviews were
transcribed and examples given were grouped into themes.
Training Satisfaction and Compliance
Our first research question was whether participants found the training beneficial in terms of participation, practice
compliance and recommendation of the program. 17 of the 18 course attendees completed the training. One participant
of the intervention group dropped out after the first session. The reason she gave was that she was too busy and
couldn?t commit to the course. Participation in course sessions was high: 9 participants (52.9
sessions, 6 (35.3%) missed one session, and 2 (11.8%) missed two sessions ? mostly due to illness.
Reported practice compliance was high. 15 participants of the intervention group returned their homework log
highlighting the amount of time they engaged in home practice. Participants were asked to practice on 6 days a week
during the 5-week course. Calculations are based on a total of 30 possible practice days. Formal meditation exercises
were practiced on average on 24.1 days (SD=5.2) or 80% of designated practice days. On average, participants engaged
in 29.7 minutes of formal practice per day (SD=10.2). In total, participants meditated on average 14.8 hours (SD=5.1)
over the span of the course. Participants practiced sitting meditation on average 16.6 times during the course, followed
by bodyscan (13 times), yoga (6.6 times), and walking meditation (once). They also engaged about 5.2 times in informal
practices, such as mindful eating. However, the two participants that did not return their homework log may not have
Sixteen of the seventeen attendees (94.1%) found the programme rather or very beneficial, while one attendee did not
personally benefit from it. Twelve of the teachers (70.6%) found that the students benefited from them taking part in it
as well. Fourteen participants (82.3%,) would recommend the course highly to fellow teachers, one participant
disagreed strongly, and two participants were unsure (Mean(16)=4.18, SD=1.07). In the qualitative interviews, teachers
highlighted that while they benefited they thought the course is ?not for everyone? indicating that it should be of
only to interested teachers rather than making it a prerequisite.
Intervention effect on teacher mindfulness, strain and self-regulation ability
MBSR?s main objective is to train mindfulnesrse., oTuhrerseefcoond research question was whether MBSR
significantly improves the ability of teachers to be mindful. t-Tests revealed that teachers in the intervention group
reported greater mindful presence and mindful acceptance at post-test and 3-month follow-up than controls. The
between-group effect sizes were large for both post-test and follow-up (Table 2).
Our third research question focused on whether mindfulness training would decrease teacher strain and improve
selfregulation ability of teachers. Descriptive statistics, paired sample t- and p-values, and Cohend?sare reported
separately for post-test (table 3) and follow-up (table 4). At pre-test, groups differed statistically significantly in some
outcome measures that are reported in table 3 and table 4. Generally, teachers in the intervention group showed
greater strain and less self-regulation ability compared to control group teachers. Therefore, we applied change scores
to calculate between-group effect sizes.
At post-test, intervention group participants reported statistically significant reductions in cognitive and emotional
strain. Control group teachers reported increases in these measures that missed statistical significance. Between group
effect sizes were large. t-tests revealed that self-regulation competences improved in the intervention group. Teachers
of that group reported an increased, but not statistically significant, ability to switch off from work problems at home,
while teachers of the control group reported decreases at the same time. Therefore, a medium effect size between
groups was detectable. Teachers of the intervention group reported statistically significant improvements in the
tendency to resign and the ability to find inner calm and balance while non-significant changes were observed in the
control group. Between-group effect sizes were large for the reduced resignation and small for increased inner calm.
Both groups reported non-significant changes in their ability to proactively solve problems. Changes in teacher
engagement yielded surprising results. Teachers in the intervention group reported decreases in professional
engagement in all four scales with two of them reaching statistical significance. At post-test, the willingness to work to
exhaustion decreased statistically significantly in the intervention group, while it increased at the same time in the
control group. Teachers in the intervention group also reported striving less for perfection in their work ? while the
teachers in the control group did not report significant changes. There was a small between-group effect size. Both
general and teacher self-efficacy improved statistically significantly in the intervention group while no changes in
general self-efficacy and a slight reduction of teacher self-efficacy were reported in the control group. Between-group
effect sizes were high for teacher efficacy and medium for general efficacy. Similarly, teachers of the intervention group
reported large improvements in their emotional competence that yielded medium to large between group effects.
Negative emotions decreased in both groups. However, only the decrease in the intervention group reached statistical
significance. Fear and stress emotions also decreased significantly in the intervention group. Between-group effect
sizes for negative emotions were small for depression, medium for fear, and large for stress emotions. Both groups
showed increases in positive emotions at post-test. However, intervention group participants showed greater
improvements that reached statistical significance. Between group effect sizes were small for coping emotions and
large for other positive emotions.
The 3-month follow-up measures took place right before mid-term ? which is usually described as a particularly
stressful working period. However, most improvements in the experimental group were sustained or increased. For
example, teachers in the intervention group reported greater improvements in the ability to stop ruminating about
work problems at home. At the same time, the control group reported being less able to switch off. Between group
effect sizes were high. Similarly, teachers of the intervention group reported greater decreases in emotional irritation ?
a measure of teacher irritability ? while teachers of the control group found themselves more irritable. Between-group
effect sizes were high. However, the control group reported greater increases in work-related ambition that reached
statistical significance while the increases in the experimental group did not. There was a small effect in favour of the
control group. Intervention group teachers reported greater decreases in negative emotions such as fear, while control
group teachers found their negative emotions on the rise. At the same time, control group teachers reported
experiencing less positive emotions, while the intervention group teachers reported greater increases in positive
emotions at follow-up. Between-group effect size was medium.
Mediation Analysis of Intervention Effects
Our fourth question investigated whether group differences in mindfulness at post-test mediated the training impact on
self-regulation ability at 3-month follow-up. We looked at two mediation models:
1) Experimental condition (predictor) ? Changes in mindful presence at post test (mediator) ? Changes in
selfregulation at follow-up (outcome)
2) Experimental condition ? Changes in mindful acceptance at post test ? Changes in self-regulation at
We applied a standard two-step mediation procedure (B?hner & Ziegler, 2.0F0i9rs)t, we checked if the predictor
(group dummy coded: 1=intervention, 0=control) and the change score of at least one of mediators, the mindfulness
subscales mindful awareness and mindful acceptance, at post-test, and outcome correlated significantly with each other
(p<.05). Eight outcome variables (ability to stop ruminating, tendency to resign, ability to remain calm, readiness to
work hard, self-efficacy, teacher-efficacy, depressiveness, stress emotions) fulfilled the first assumption and thus the
condition of conducting a mediator analysis. In the second step, we regressed the outcome on predictor and mediator. A
full mediation can be assumed, when the mediator, but not the predictor explains the model statistically significantly.
Of the eight qualifying outcome variables, six were fully mediated by changes in one or both mindfulness scales at
posttest (table 5). Table 5 shows a summary of all mediation models. Figure 2 depicts a mediation model for the ability to
? = .65**
? = .55**
? = .41**
Interven on or
Effect without mediator: ? = .50**
Effect with mediator: ? = .11 (n.s.)
Ability to stop
Interven on or
Effect without mediator: ? = .50**
Effect with mediator: ? = .27 (n.s.)
Ability to stop
A: Test for mediated effect of mindfulness training on teachers? ability to stop ruminating at follow-up through teachers? mindful acceptance at post-program . The indirect effect accounted for 38% of the variance (adjusted r2, F (2.25 = 9.55**) in the ability to stop ruminating at follow-up. n.s,= nonsignificant, *p<=.05. **p <= .01.
B: Test for mediated effect of MT on teachers? ability to stop ruminating at follow-up through teachers? mindful presence at post-test. The indirect effect accounted for 31% of the variance (adjusted r2, F (2.25 = 7.00**) in the ability to stop ruminating at follow-up. n.s,= nonsignificant, n = 28 *p<=.05. **p <= .01.
Our final research question focused on teachers? narratives about the changes they had observed in
performance, illustrated by a specific example. Interviewees were prompted to share their experiences until they
couldn?t think of any more. The main author coded the quotes and grouped them into themes following thematic
Wiser engagement: Teachers reported engaging more wisely in work demands, terminating activities that cause stress
while finding more space to teach creatively. For example, a primary school teachers said: ?I im
boundaries and delegating tasks. It?sforeasmieer to say: ?This is my responsibility and this is not?.? On a
secondary school teacher observed ?I am more aware of strain and better able to say ?stop, I ca
same time, teachers felt more engaged. A secondary school teacher, said ?Due to an increased inner calm and
felt I was able to teach my classes in a more interesting way. I felt more motivated.? A prim
relaxed even during stressful times like Christmas. She prepared a theatre play with students and was surprised that
somehow felt easier to do ? maybe because of a changed attitude, I was less judgemental of myself and the students, I
felt more efficient and just had more fun!?
Greater self-efficacy: Teachers were more confident in coping with difficult students and effectively dealing with
professional demands. A secondary school teacher, observed that ?when I stay calm in the inter
students, they are calmer as well.? Another teacher noticed thaht heitr?smenthootdssbout mrauthcer her presence
that predicts a successful class outcome. She summarized that ?No matter what I do, as long as I
somehow works out ? I have also experienced bad times before, where nothing worked out at all and I didn?t know
Better emotion regulation: Teachers developed more skills in coping with negative emotions in the classroom, namely
accepting negative emotions and embodying emotions. An elementary school teacher was able to pause and stop
herself reacting in an unhelpful way: ?When it is so loud in the classroom that I notice the urge t
calms down, I was now able to pause and remember that this is not the right way of doi
described that taking a couple of deep breaths helped when struggling with a similar challenge. She also realised that
?being compassionate? with herself supported her terminate ruminating about emotionally charged situati
better able to accept a challenging situation ? like being confronted by a parent ? and let go of it, rather than walking
around with it for a couple of days, sleeping poorly and talking to everybody about it.? Another t
can let go tense situations faster ?Even though I left osenley I wclassarboloemto etnetner the next with half a smile.
I learned not to drag the annoyance about any old disturbance in one classroom into the next. It is so helpful to be able
to return to the present moment.? One teacher explains: ?I -cognafiindeednce mjuosrteby shealfving a greater
awareness of my body. It?s not that I am doing a specific exercise, I just feel I can take more
more present with my body in the classroom. It?s just a small change but it means a lot to me.?
Greater resilience: Teachers were using mindfulness practices to switch off from work stressors, to regain energy
during lunch breaks, to be able to work more effectively on activities demanding endured attention like grading exams.
Additionally, some of them felt they were given a tool that helps them in the face of difficulties and that they can resort
to when needed. For example, one teacher described an increased ability to cope with difficulties ?
notice ?This is very hectic?. And thtoenotItakteenthdings so personal anymore. I take a deeper breath and regulate
myself with a greater inner distance to the physical reaction.? One teacher found it ?a great new f
step out of situation and look at it from a greater distance. I am not a slave of my habitual patterns anymore.?
To our knowledge, this study is the first to investigate whether Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) enhances
teachers? se-lrfegulation ability and classroom performance. Participants complied with home practice, practicing on
average about 80% of the practice days. Furthermore, the satisfaction with the MBSR intervention was high; 82 % of
the teachers would recommend it to colleagues. MBSR seems to be promising to improve mindfulness and most
selfregulation abilities in a self-selected sample of teachers. Teachers improved significantly on measures of stress and
health, coping abilities, emotion regulation, and self-efficacy from the intervention. Additionally, the training effects
stabilized or improved at the 3-months follow up. We observed medium to large between-group effect sizes. This is in
line with other trials that showed mindfulness training decreased teachers?
Bonus, & Davidson, 2013; Roeser, Skinner, Beers, & Jennings, 2012)
However, we also found that measures of teacher engagement decreased significantly in the intervention group
compared to the control group and that these effects were sustained at the 3-months follow up. Qualitative data
highlighted a more complex view on the decreased teacher engagement. Teachers explained that they became more
aware of stressors and in turn, engaged more wisely with work demands: Deciding where effort is needed most and
retreating from unnecessary additional tasks. The findings suggested a more empowered employee that takes better
care of their resources which is at the core of self-regulation as a professional competence. However, more research is
needed to investigate the impact of mindfulness on work engagement.
Changes in mindfulness at post-test fully mediated changes in self-regulation at 3-month follow-up. This indicates that
increased mindfulness led to these changes. Interestingly, mindfulness did not account for the changes in work
engagement. Roeser and colleagues (2012) were also able to show that mindfulness levels at post-test mediated
teacher stress and self-compassion at follow-up. However, they used a different instrument to assess mindfulness.
The consistency of the results within the quantitative domains of measurement and confirmation by qualitative data
are encouraging and build the basis for further implementation of such mindfulness trainings as a potential instrument
for teacher training, at least for those teachers that find such a training appealing.
Limitations of this first pilot study should be borne in mind: The sample was self-selected and mostly female teachers
were interested in participating in the study. Even though there is a higher ratio of females in the education sector, the
actual percentage of women is lower with 68.7 percent across all school types (Statistisches Bundesamt, 2017). The
small sample size and the non-randomized design limit generalisability of results. Since this is the first pilot-testing of
MBSR in a professional teacher setting in Germany, a randomized follow-up study is required before our results can be
Future studies should also use more objective outcome measures, such as observer-rated teaching performance or
student feedback could, to assess the general performance of teachers in addition to self-report data. This is especially
warranted given that teacher wellbeing is linked to classroom performance and the self-assessment of teaching
performance of teachers hardly overlaps with more objective assessments by students and classroom observers
Despite these limitations we are confident to summarise that a mindfulness training of teachers together with diligent
home practice of mindfulness can help teachers to improve their self-regulation capacity, their well-being and their
self-efficacy. A deeper investigation of this potential is warranted.
The authors wish to thank MBSR trainers Manrntiannad PAa?umlSatammeier who lead the preparatory and pilot
training, respectively. We also wish to thank Public Institute of Teacher Education in Hamburg which hosted the study
and advertised it to their teachers.
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