Opening dialogues between mindfulness and education: Exploring existing mindfulness-based activities in UK schools and perceptions of mindfulness in education with teachers, teacher trainers and mindfulness-based curricula developers

  • Jacqueline Stone

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Interest in mainstream mindfulness has grown exponentially over the past decade. There has also been an increase in the number of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) being applied in both clinical and non-clinical settings. A review of the extant literature pertaining to mindfulness in schools demonstrates a clear focus on the development and implementation of new MBIs, rather than consideration of any existing mindfulness-based activities that may already be taking place in educational settings, and how these are perceived.

To address this dearth of literature, the first phase of this study explored whether or not mindfulness-based activities were currently taking place in schools in the South Midlands region of the UK. The Mindfulness in Schools Questionnaire (MiSQ), a 22-item qualitative questionnaire, was created and implemented to survey educational settings from pre-school to further education colleges. The MiSQ gathered data about the type of mindfulness-based activities taking place, their frequency, who led them, and any impact they may have had on students and in the classroom. The questionnaire also offered respondents the opportunity to add comments and participate in a follow-up focus group even if they had responded that mindfulness-based activities were not taking place in their schools. Nearly half of MiSQ respondents reported that mindfulness-based activities were taking place in their school. However, further investigation of these activities was required to determine whether they were in fact based on mindfulness. Respondents who reported that mindfulness-based activities were not taking place in their schools still expressed an interest in participating in a follow-up focus group.

Thus, as part of the second phase of the study, eight semi-structured qualitative interviews were carried out with teacher trainers and secondary school teachers as well as three focus groups with primary and secondary school teachers. These interviews and focus groups allowed for a follow-up to the MiSQ through a more in- depth exploration of how mindfulness is perceived by teachers, as well as by teacher trainers in educational settings. Thematic analysis was used to identify five over-arching themes: ‘Faddism’, ‘Marketisation’, ‘Teacher wellbeing’, ‘A rose by any other name’ and ‘Implementation’. Perceived barriers to the implementation of mindfulness in schools, such as lack of time, and requirements to overcome these potential obstacles were recognised. Teachers and teacher trainers referenced existing language and activities used in schools to make sense of the concept of mindfulness and its meaning in terms of education.

Building on this second phase of the research, mindfulness-based curricula creators and trainers’ perceptions of mindfulness in schools and education were also explored to provide a wider viewpoint from experienced mindfulness practitioners and teachers. Eight semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted and three resultant over-arching themes of: ‘Expertise’, ‘Mindfulness within and across schools’ and ‘Outcomes and impact’ were identified through the employment of thematic analysis. Participants in this final phase emphasised that based on their own personal experiences, the teaching and practise of mindfulness take time. Accordingly, they suggested that a grassroots approach to the implementation of mindfulness in schools, rather than a top down approach from government, would allow for the required training and development of mindfulness in schools, beginning with school teachers.

The three phases of this study have explored existing mindfulness-based activities in schools and how mindfulness in schools and education is perceived by educators both with and without a prior personal experience of mindfulness.

There is a fundamental difference between the approaches to the implementation of mindfulness in schools discussed in phases two and three of the study. The grassroots growth of the training and practise of mindfulness in schools proposed in phase three is in keeping with mindfulness as education. Whereas, the potential obstacles to, and support required for, the implementation of mindfulness in schools expressed in phase two is representative of mindfulness in education. Whether mindfulness becomes a whole school ethos and embedded within and across the curriculum or is used as a bolt-on and taught as an intervention, ultimately determines the depth of mindfulness practice.

Implications for future research in the field and policy are discussed.
Date of AwardMay 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Northampton
SupervisorChris Roe (Supervisor) & Rachel Maunder (Supervisor)


  • Mindfulness
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Mindfulness-Based Interventions
  • Schools
  • Wellbeing

Cite this