Mind-calming when facing troubled waters: A strategy to support students’ learning

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting many people’s well-being, and teaching remotely has heightened instructors’ interest in tending to students’ well-being. In addition, living through a pandemic brings any number of distractions that may, understandably, challenge students’ ability to focus on their studies. As a result, conversations among educators about how to help students engage in learning have become more frequent. 

The wellness resource highlighted in last week’s post How can you support student wellness in your remote courses? offers a number of easy-to-implement strategies, including the suggestion for a “mindful moment with listening” (accompanied by a link to an audio file of calming sounds). This “mindful moment” suggestion reminded me of Paul Grogan’s study on mind-calming exercises in undergraduate classes (open access). Grogan, a professor at Queen’s University, has brought mindfulness exercises—intended to calm students’ minds—to the students in his 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year biology classes in the hope of promoting “more focused student attention and engagement” (Grogan, 2019, abstract). (See my post Do students feel that mind-calming exercises promote deep learning?) Results from the study suggest that “… although it is unclear whether these very short exercises actually enhanced learning, many students perceived that it did” (abstract). A majority of students found the mind-calming exercises to be relaxing and enjoyable; they looked forward to them and considered them to be a valuable use of class time. Engaging students in mind-calming exercises might therefore afford a two-fold benefit: fostering well-being, as well as the ability to focus on learning.  

While the wellness resource offers succinct strategies for quick implementation, Grogan’s article is a helpful complement for gaining some insight into the what, how, and why of mind-calming activities. 

What strategies have you implemented for addressing well-being and engaging students in learning?  

Image by Andy Li on Unsplash 

Senior Academic Associate at McGill's Teaching and Learning Services.; former Senior Faculty Lecturer at the McGill Writing Centre; area of specialization: Second Language Education; loves teaching and learning; will work for chocolate (Photo credit: Owen Egan)

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