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).
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:
- Many universities worldwide offer mindfulness either as part of a course or as a separate course, such as University of Toronto’s Mindful Moments
- An excellent resource on mindfulness and learning is the book The Power of Mindful Learning by Ellen Langer.
- Some apps that can help start with mindfulness are Headspace , Ten Percent Happier, and Buddhify.
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.