Mindfulness and Teaching

Mind full or mindful   Inspiraitonal handwriting on a napkin with a cup of tea.
Image Source: www.bigstockphoto.com

In this piece, adding to the focus on mindfulness that a fellow blogger posted about last week, I present my reflection on this very popular topic.

Namely, I have recently taken a Mindful-based Adult Education course (Canadian College of Educators) searching for new ways of improving my teaching experience, primarily by creating a more comfortable, supportive environment conducive to learning. Mindfulness, in a nutshell, is being aware of what is going on around us/in us at the present moment and being able to respond non-judgmentally.

As expected, I learned new ways of dealing with my feelings in potentially stressful classroom situations. Perhaps even more interesting, it made me think mindfully about what I am already doing: I am actually applying a number of mindfulness-based techniques with my students, but I was not aware of them!

The course also prompted me to delve more deeply into the matters of stress, learning and teaching.

Metacognitive Strategies and Language Learning Anxiety

Acquiring another language can be accompanied by foreign/second language anxiety (FLA), most often during oral production, including both speaking and listening (e.g. Horwitz and al., 1986; MacIntyre & Gardner, 1989, 1991). Teachers can help by explicitly teaching metacognitive and socio-affective strategies, such as showing students how to evaluate what went wrong and why during a listening activity or informing them about how different types of speech are organized. An excellent overview of these strategies and their application can be found in Teaching and Learning Second Language Listening by Vandergrift & Goh and Teaching Speaking by Goh & Burns.

Helping “Flat Profile” Students

Also, some of the flat profile students can be helped with mindfulness-based activities. First, teachers can do a lesson on mindfulness in order to open new perspectives. Second, they can teach students how to apply some strategies mentioned above. In addition, being mindful leads to higher level of creativity, productivity, and efficiency; as students have different predominant learning styles, teachers’ creativity can come up with new ways of accommodating students and students’ creativity can help them approach learning in new ways. Finally, coming from different cultural backgrounds, students can contribute some valuable insights on the topic as well (students as instructional resources).

Connecting Students

As mentioned above, with the application of socio-affective strategies students can lower anxiety levels. Working with others is a productive socio-affective strategy, especially with online learning, as students may feel isolated from their peers. One way to connect students is through forums. In EduLINC, for example, where Forum is an integral part of the course, students can communicate with each other regularly. According to a TED Talk given by a psychologist Kelly McGonigal, stress makes us social, as in stressful times, we have the need to seek support and to offer it.

There are many useful resources on the topic of mindfulness, teaching and learning. To start with, here are some of them:

Do you apply some aspects of mindfulness in your teaching (directly or indirectly)? And if so, how? Have you ever taught a lesson on mindfulness? Do you practice mindfulness in your daily life, and if you do, how does it affect your work?    


Goh, C.C.M. & Burns, A. (2012). Teaching speaking: A holistic approach. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Horwitz, E. K., Horwitz, M. B., & Cope, J. (1986). Foreign language classroom anxiety. Modern Language Journal, 70, 125–132.

Langer, E. J. (2016). The power of mindful learning. Hachette UK.

MacIntyre, P. D., & Gardner, R. C. (1989). Anxiety and second language learning: Toward a theoretical clarification. Language Learning, 39, 251–275.

MacIntyre, P. D., & Gardner, R. C. (1991). Language anxiety: Its relation to other anxieties and to processing in native and second languages. Language Learning, 41, 513–534.

McGonigal, K. (2013, June). How to Make Stress Your Friend. https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend

Vandergrift, L. & Goh, C.C.M. (2012). Teaching and learning second language listening: Metacognition in action. New York: Routledge.

Post written by Dr. Milica Radisic

Dr. Radisic has been an online ESL/LINC instructor at the Centre for Education and Training (TCET LINC Home Study) for the past six years. She has also taught Linguistics at the University of Toronto, where she has done extensive research on a number of language-related topics, including second-language acquisition, sounds production and lexical borrowing.     


One thought on “Mindfulness and Teaching”

  1. Lately, in the capacity of an ESL Teacher, I’ve been constantly hounded and harassed to do meditation.
    Moreover, I’m constantly given forced “mindful” suggestions that I never asked for.
    This has been going on for too long now, and I’m going to launch a lawsuit against any employer that facilitates forced religious-based business practices upon me.
    I’m not the only one complaining and a class action lawsuit is in the near future.
    I have zippo interest in either meditation, yoga and/or mindfulness just as I have for Christianity, Islam or any other religious-based philosophies.
    I should not have to feel anxiety and hopelessness when I go into my workplace just because I’m not interested in this.
    It makes me feel very uncomfortable and mentally-stressed.
    Moreover, the ESL Teachers that practice this are the ones getting the year-round, permanent contracts.
    If you refuse to participate in these forced religious-based activities then they don’t renew your contract.
    That’s obvious to me and to those of us who feel the same.
    Both meditation and mindfulness is merely a lure into a dangerous Eastern cult that is prevalent in Canada and even controlling our halls in the government of Ottawa.
    While I don’t have any problem with whatever works for you I do take issues, legal included, with being forced into something that I have no desire to pursue.
    Your rights end where my begin.
    Don’t forget that.

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