How to drive organizational change is schools is a complex challenge to address for which there is no single answer: each school has its own formal and informal systems that leaders must navigate and put to work towards moving forward their agendas. (Cawsey, Deszca, & Ingols, 2016a, p. 88; Cawsey et al., 2016b, p. 103; Fullan, 2006, p. 9). Formal systems in schools include the hierarchies, departments, roles, tasks, planning and processes that structure and influence what happens and how it happens in a school (Cawsey et al., 2016c, p. 197-198). Informal systems in schools can be loosely defined as the ‘culture’ of the school; the shared beliefs, rituals, norms, expectations, and behaviors that provide a sense of identity in the school and are taught to new members (Cawsey et al., 2016d, p. 255; Leo & Wickenberg, 2013, pp. 405-406).
There is no perfect formal system or organizational structure; every school’s organizational design presents hurdles to be overcome and challenges related to gaps or overlaps in duties among departments and administrators (Cawsey et al., 2016c, p. 214). Change agents must be aware of the systems and structures in place in their schools and how best to use them to get formal approval to support and legitimatize change (Cawsey et al., 2016c, pp. 218-219). Formal structures provide individuals and departments with the capacity to influence others and resources to support sustained change iniitiatives (Cawsey, et. al 2016d, pp. 251-253). Change agents should work closely with decision-makers and administrators to develop change plans that relate to the school’s vision, balance costs and benefits to multiple stakeholders, and align with budget cycles and other processes to enhance their prospects for approval (Cawsey et al., 2016c, pp. 219-221).
In addition to working with the formal systems and structures in their schools, change leaders must also leverage the informal systems and structures embedded in the school’s culture to bring change initiatives to fruition (Cawsey et al., 2016a, p. 88). A school’s culture can be expressed in visible and invisible ways as the physical appearance of faculty and facilities as well as in the values and norms that are publicly expressed and privately held (Cawsey et al., 2016d, p. 256; Leo & Wickenberg, 2013, pg 406). Differing views on the nature of culture represent is as either an external, objective feature of schools that can be managed or as an internal, subjective construct that varies between individuals (Connolly, James, & Beales, 2011, p. 425). Regardless of the perspective taken, school leaders as agents of change should feel empowered to leverage symbols, engage subcultures within and outside of the organization, and examine and modify processes to ensure that the values that drive them manifest as artifacts and activities that will feedback in positive ways to build cultures supportive of change (Connolly et al., 2011, pp. 431-434, Leo & Wickenberg, 2013, pg 413).
School leaders exert power to affect change in formal schools structures that can affirm further positive changes informal cultural structures within their organizations. Formal leadership structures can be modified to distribute leadership among faculty to reinforce initiative and a sense of efficacy among teachers and physical and time resources can be structured to ensure that teachers have time for collaborative professional development focused on advancing change visions (Leo & Wickenberg, 2013, p. 419). Though different schools have different needs, change leaders benefit from less formal, decentralized formal structures that support innovation (Cawsey et al., 2016c, pg. 211). Recognizing and leveraging the cause-effect feedback loop that exists between systems, both formal and informal, and the faculty they act on and who act upon them, is a powerful route to driving change in schools (Cawsey et al., 2016, p. 198).
Cawsey, T. F., Deszca, G., & Ingols, C. (2016a). Framing for leading the process of organizational change: “How” to lead organizational change. In Organizational change: An action-oriented toolkit (3rd ed.) [ePUB] (pp. 67–100). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Cawsey, T., Deszca, F., & Ingols, C. (2016b). Frameworks for diagnosing organizations: “What” to change in an organization. In Organizational change: An action-oriented toolkit (3rd ed.) [eBook] (pp. 101–140). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Cawsey, T. F., Deszca, G. & Ingols, C. (2016c). Navigating change through formal structures and systems. In Organizational change: An action-oriented toolkit (3rd ed.) (pp. 197-245). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Cawsey, T. F., Deszca, G. & Ingols, C. (2016d). Navigating organizational politics and culture. In Organizational change: An action-oriented toolkit (3rd ed.) [eBook] (pp. 246-282). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Leo, U., & Wickenberg, P. (2013). Professional norms in school leadership: Change efforts in implementation of education for sustainable development. Journal of Educational Change, 14, 403-422.
Meaningful change is never easy. How to motivate and sustain positive organizational change is a challenge that all change leaders face and a question whose answer relies very much upon the context in which the leader operates (CawSey, Deszca, & Ingols, 2016, p. 103; Fullan, 2006, p. 9). I say ‘positive’ organizational change as the idea of a static organization is a mirage; organizations are collections of people whose habits and actions change with every interaction and adapt to every new iterative cycle of the processes they enact (Tsoukas & Chia, 2002, p. 567). The challenge that change leaders face is reining in the constant change and directing it towards positive ends (Tsoukas & Chia, 2002, p. 567). They must also find means to sustain change to ensure that new knowledge and practice that results from initial drives to change do not dissipate or degrade over time and that new behaviors and practices become embedded in the culture of the school (Hargreaves, 2007, pp. 228–229).
One way in which motivation to change can be incited is through the emergence of a crisis, real or fabricated (Cawsey, Deszca, & Ingols, 2016, p. 161). Leaders should take care when creating narratives that over-amplify or create crises from whole cloth, as it may result in erosion of trust in school leadership. A high degree of trust is a precondition of collaborative decision-making and ‘bottom up’ visioning, both of which are powerful drivers of buy-in and long-term motivation for sustained change efforts (Cawsey et al., 2016; Tschannnen-Moran, 2013, p. 43). Keeping in mind the need for transparency and honesty to support cultures of trust, framing change initiatives with compelling narratives that combine logics and discourses can help bring together stakeholders with different agendas to work towards shared visions (Ball, Maguire, Braun, & Hoskins, 2011, p. 628). While self-interest can bring about complacency even in the face of crisis (Cawsey et al., 2016, p. 142), a change initiative driven by a leader that acts as a ‘boundary spanner’ who engages the ideas and talents of diverse stakeholders towards a shared change vision can create fluid and connective opportunities that produce workable plans for action, cognitive shifts, reframing of challenges, and democratic, communitarian, and economic theories of shared leadership (Grogan & Shakeshaft, 2011, pp. 120, 125; Gordon & Louis, 2012, pg. 349; Starratt, 2008, pg. 89).
To ensure that momentum for change is maintained and that inertia does not slow down or halt work towards change initiatives, leaders should ensure that change visions support and are connected to the broader mission and vision of the school (Cawsey et al., 2016, p. 173). As change processes are enacted, the context of the school will change along with it necessitating modifications to action plans and actors who are flexible and willing to redefine their positions and responsibilities within the school as novel interactions and new problems intersect the ‘fuzzy boundaries’ of our definitions of the roles and departments within the school (Tsoukas & Chia, 2002). The constant ebb and flow of change can defy simple analysis and categorization, and leaders who are able to ‘perceive change’ intuitively as well as ‘conceive change’ in a planning capacity will be well-prepared to deal with the challenges of sustaining change over the long term (Tsoukas & Chia, 2002, p. 572). Additionally, viewing shared visions as broad spaces that allow for varied interpretations by different stakeholders rather than one-way streets can ensure that visions can remain shared in spite of faculty turnover or changing conditions (Cawsey et al., 2016, p. 179).
No single person can hope to sustain long-term organizational change in a school on their own. Engaging diverse stakeholders in crafting visions for change that are shared and meaningful to all allows leaders to access the strength of the entire school community to drive positive change to improve learning in their organizations.
Ball, S. J., Maguire, M., Braun, A., & Hoskins, K. (2011). Policy actors: doing policy work in schools. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 32(4), 625–639.
Cawsey, T., Deszca, F., & Ingols, C. (2016). Frameworks for diagnosing organizations: “What” to change in an organization. In Organizational change: An action-oriented toolkit (3rd ed.) [eBook] (pp. 101–140). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Cawsey, T. F., Deszca, G., & Ingols, C. (2016). Building and energizing the need for change. In Organizational change: An action-oriented toolkit (3rd ed.) [eBook] (pp. 141–196). Thousands Oaks, CA: Sage.
Fullan, M. (2006). Change theory: A force for school improvement. Series Paper No. 157. Victoria, Australia: Center for Strategic Education.
Gordon, M.F., & Louis, K.S. (2012). How to harness family and community energy: The district’s role. In M. Grogan (Ed.), The Jossey-Bass reader on educational leadership (3rd ed.) (pp. 348-371). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Grogan, M., & Shakeshaft, C. (2011). A new way: Diverse collective leadership. In M. Grogan
(Ed.), The Jossey-Bass reader on educational leadership (3rd ed.) (pp. 111-130). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Hargreaves, A. (2007). Sustainable Leadership and Development in Education: creating the future, conserving the past. European Journal of Education, 42(2), 223–233.
Starratt, R.J. (2008). Educational leadership policy standards: ISLLC 2008. In M. Grogan (Ed.),
The Jossey-Bass reader on educational leadership (3rd ed.) (pp. 77-92). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Tschannnen-Moran, M. (2013). Becoming a trustworthy leader. In M. Grogan (Ed.), The Jossey-Bass Reader on education leadership (pp. 40–54). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Wiley.
Tsoukas, H., & Chia, R. (2002). On Organizational Becoming: Rethinking Organizational Change. Organization Science, 13(5), 567–582.
Education policy forms the basic structure of practice and governance and profoundly affects work and outcomes in education (Arafeh, 2014, p. 1), both through formal structures and laws as well as spoken and unspoken social and cultural norms (Arafeh, 2014, p. 4). All policy, education policy not excluded, involves making compromises to seek balances between freedoms, resources, interests, values, and efficiencies, and often involves redefining values in order to justify and account for the outcome of the decisions made (Rizvi & Lingard, 2010, pp. 71–72). Education is a right of citizenship and shaped by national policy, while also largely determining how citizens view the meaning of citizenship in their local context as it relates to their relationship with governing bodies and structures (Bell & Stevenson, 2006, pp. 61–62).
In the past, social welfare policy in the west supported notions of universalism, the belief that individuals’ rights to social welfare should be independent of their ability to contribute to the economic well-being of the nation-state, and that all citizens should have access to every liberty regardless of their station, thus empowering the state to intervene in market processes and redistribute resources in such a way as to balance inequalities. Rights of social citizenship were considered universal, much like civil and political citizenship rights (Bell & Stevenson, 2006, p. 60).In such a policy landscape, support for public education should flourish as a basic right of all individuals in support of democracy, equality, personal fulfillment, and the intrinsic value of every individual and their education (Rizvi & Lingard, 2010, pp. 72, 78).
More recently, a global shift towards neoliberal education policies focusing on human capital in a globalized economy, privatization, efficiency, and accountability has occurred (Rizvi & Lingard, 2010, p. 72). The importance of national human capital development to economic growth viewed from the neoliberal perspective firmly places education policy in the realm of national economic policy, resulting in the dominance of social efficiency as a policy value and education policy that supports economic productivity of nations and corporations (Bell & Stevenson, 2006, p. 58; Rizvi & Lingard, 2010, p. 78). Supporters of neoliberal policy cite the failure of the universal approach to provide balanced service provision to marginalized groups and its inability to address culture in diverse nations and argue that the market offers the only fair way to appraise and allocate resources (Bell & Stevenson, 2006, p. 61).
The shift towards neoliberal education policy poses risks. Education policy is social policy insofar as it promotes welfare, ideology, and social cohesion (Bell & Stevenson, 2006, p. 58). The neoliberal practice of viewing individuals as being only as valuable as their contribution to the free market necessarily results in rebalancing and renegotiating values like equity and democracy, sidelining some values and promoting others (Rizvi & Lingard, 2010, p. 76). Policies promoting test-based accountability resulting from this neoliberal perspective of education may oversimplify complex local contextual issues and reduce social justice (Lingard, Martino, & Rezai-Rashti, 2013, p. 539). The focus on education policy to support global economic competitiveness minimizes the value of discourse centered on altruism and assumes that public institutions and governments are threats to individual freedom (Rizvi & Lingard, 2010, p. 86). Increasing privatization of education services based on assumptions of greater efficiency runs the risk of corroding state commitment to public education resulting in it becoming a low-quality residual service for the poor and those without the political power to ask for more (Bell & Stevenson, 2006, p. 62; Rizvi & Lingard, 2010, p. 87). Decentralization for accountability can decrease national cohesion and, as marginalized students and teachers in low-income schools struggle against the odds to raise scores in subjects on standardized tests, they are more likely to ignore educating students in skills of participatory democracy, further limiting their ability to lobby for more social welfare support (Bell & Stevenson, 2006, p. 68) At the international level, as governments and international aid providers apply results-based criteria to determine whether developing nations receive education funding, there is a risk that developing education systems will lose funding due to low initial capacity or factors out of their control (Holland & Lee, 2017, pp. 26–27).
The proliferation of neoliberal policy in education and tendency to subsume other values to social efficiency as a meta-value risks strengthening historical and economic inequalities by limiting the perception of the value of the individual to their worth in the global market and furthering a reductive notion that success is proportional to effort regardless of starting conditions (Rizvi & Lingard, 2010, p. 78). As state service provision is eroded by increasing privatization, civics education is ignored to secure funding by increasing standardized test scores in core subjects, and the tone of the prevailing discourse paints governments as disconnected and inefficient, education policy devalues citizenship within the state and bolsters the neoliberal view that acting in self-advancing ways to increase one’s status in the global market should supersede altruism and civic responsibility (Rizvi & Lingard, 2010, pp. 87–88). Rizvi & Lingard (2010) state that the goals of education include “ the development of knowledgeable individuals who are able to think rationally, the formation of sustainable community, and the realization of economic goals benefiting both individuals and their communities” (pg. 71) The current neoliberal bent in education policy promises only to address the economic. Where then will individuals turn to develop the capability to act as rational, informed citizens of sustainable communities if success in a global market economy does not support the development of such individuals? What is the cost to be borne by global social welfare and democracy in the pursuit of economic gain?
Arafeh, S. (2014). Orienting Education Leaders to Education Policy. In N. M. Haynes, S. Arafeh, & C. McDaniels (Eds.), Educational leadership: Perspectives on preparation and practice. Toronto: UPA. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/brocku/detail.action?docID=1911841
Bell, L., & Stevenson, H. (2006). Educational policy, citizenship, and social justice. In L. Bell & H. Stevenson (Eds.), Education policy: process, themes and impact (pp. 58–73). London: Routledge.
Holland, P. A., & Lee, J. D. (2017). Results-based Financing in Education: Financing Results to Strengthen Systems. Washington, DC: World Bank.
Lingard, B., Martino, W., & Rezai-Rashti, G. (2013). Testing regimes, accountabilities and education policy: commensurate global and national developments. Journal of Education Policy, 28(5), 539–556.
Rizvi, F., & Lindgard, B. (Eds.). (2010). Education Policy and the Allocation of Values. In Globalizing Education Policy (pp. 77–92). New York: Routledge.
When the Medicine Wheel and Singing Bowl Meet: Can mindfulness support indigenous students in Canadian schools?
A colleague of mine recently made me aware of the work that she had been doing in her district on the “Keeping Aboriginal Students in School” (KASIS) project, a study investigating the challenges that indigenous learners face regarding life in school and what helps to keep them engaged and enrolled.The report is interesting to no end, and set me to thinking on the connections between indigenous learning approaches and mindfulness-based interventions, and the role that mindfulness might possibly play in supporting indigenous learners in K-12 contexts. A quote from the KASIS report was particularly powerful and resonated with me:
I've been taught in the Cree language the phrase “ni nimoya isketen” which translates to English as “I know nothing”. The meaning behind this phrase is more complex than may appear. When I say these words it reminds me about the importance of humility and to accept lessons that are given, at the time they’re given. These words tell me that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and that every person‟s part is of equal value to the whole. (Wallace, 2016, pg. 20)
First, the phrase “I know nothing,” and Wallace’s first reflections on its meanings reminded me a lot of ideas like ‘beginner’s mind’ and how mindful practices can help learners to separate themselves from their preconceptions to develop curiosity, openness to learning, and understanding of interconnectedness (Kabat-Zinn, 1994). Wallace goes further in her reflections of the meaning of the phrase:
The words tell me that the privilege assigned to me through the color of my skin is significant, and actively subverting that privilege is part of what I do to be a culturally safe person. Finally, in the context of reconciliation, these words have a literal meaning - I do not know. I don’t know what it is like to be a scared lonely child starved of their families love and affection; I don’t know what it’s like to be at the intersection of oppression, domination and discrimination; and I don’t know what it’s like to fight for my constitutional and human Rights, only to be denied them. (Wallace, 2016, pg. 21)
It resonated with me in a number of ways. Cushner (2016) suggests that the skills required to experience positive interactions across cultures are curiosity, open-mindedness, empathy, and the ability to cope with the strong emotions that may result (pg. 2014). Wallace’s reflection on reconciliation contains a number of Cushner’s skills in action. Mindfulness programs, by design, seek to promote empathy and compassion (Mindful Schools, 2016, pg. 4). These connections make me curious as to the role that mindfulness training for teachers, students, and leaders might have to play in discussions and initiatives related to reconciliation as it is addressed in K-12 contexts.
Of specific and personal interest to me are the challenges that young indigenous learners from remote northern communities face when attending school in southern schools away from their home communities. My hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario, has been in the news a lot lately in articles bringing to light instances of institutional racism towards the city’s indigenous residents. Much of this was brought out in the open after the tragic passing of a number of young indigenous students living temporarily in the city to study at high school. Unfortunately, many students have no other option but to leave their families and travel to the city if they wish to complete their high school studies (“Deaths of 7 Indigenous students in Thunder Bay the responsibility of all Canadians: author”, 2017).
Since the story broke, there have been so many heartbreaking interviews with young people sharing their stories, feelings, and fears. These young indigenous kids face many challenges in addition to the racism endemic in the community, many of which mirror those faced by international students. Hayden (2012) states that students face challenges when their native culture is not represented in their school life, and issues of identity resulting from lack of stability in their environment (pp. 64-67). Students involved in mindfulness training report that feelings of community, relationships with others, and a greater sense of ‘place’ are central to their experience, offering the possibility that mindfulness may help address such issues (Cheek, Abrams, Lipschitz, Vago, & Nakamura, 2017, p. 2564). Students also reported “getting in touch with their inner self” and “feeling an intuition for me”, indicating that mindfulness training may support positive identity forming as well (p. 2573).
The KASIS report describes IK-SEL as “two ways of knowing and being, with a bridge”. Mindfulness has been shown to support SEL programming for teachers and students (Garner, Bender, & Fedor, 2017; Bakosh et al., 2016; Meiklejohn et al., 2012), and indigenous participants in a previous study in Manitoba related to a mindfulness-based intervention program in the field of health and well-being found the practices used to be effective and culturally acceptable and suitable (Dreger, Mackenzie, & McLeod, 2015). Furthermore, recent studies of mindful engagement with the natural world suggest that it can heal feelings of separateness from the land and that parallels exist between cognitive and spiritual outcomes in secular mindfulness practice and indigenous land-based spirituality (Crews & Besthorn, 2016; Dylan & Smallboy, 2016). I’m very interested to learn the thoughts of indigenous educators regarding the possible utility of mindful learning practices to form a part of that bridge in IK-SEL classroom applications. If there are any Indigenous educators out there reading this, please comment below!
Bakosh, L. S., Snow, R. M., Tobias, J. M., Houlihan, J. L., & Barbosa-Leiker, C. (2016). Maximizing Mindful Learning: Mindful Awareness Intervention Improves Elementary School Students’ Quarterly Grades. Mindfulness, 7(1), 59–67.
Cheek, J., Abrams, E. M., Lipschitz, D. L., Vago, D. R., & Nakamura, Y. (2017). Creating Novel School-Based Education Programs to Cultivate Mindfulness in Youth: What The Letters Told Us. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 26(9), 2564–2578.
Crews, D., & Besthorn, F. H. (2016). Ecosocialwork and transformed consciousness: Reflections on eco-mindfulness engagement with the silence of the natural world. Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Social Work: Social Thought, 35(1-2), 91–107.
Cushner, K. (2015). Development and assessment of intercultural competence. In M. Hayden, J. Levy, & J. J. Thompson (Eds.), SAGE Handbook of Research in International Education (pp. 200–216). London: SAGE.
Deaths of 7 Indigenous students in Thunder Bay the responsibility of all Canadians: author (2017, November 18), CBC News. Retrieved from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/topic/Tag/First%20Nations%20student%20deaths%20inquest
Dreger, L. C., Mackenzie, C., & McLeod, B. (2015). Acceptability and Suitability of Mindfulness Training for Diabetes Management in an Indigenous Community. Mindfulness, 6(4), 885–898.
Dylan, A., & Smallboy, B. (2016). Land-based spirituality among the Cree of the Mushkegowuk territory. Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Social Work: Social Thought, 35(1-2), 108–119.
Garner, P. W., Bender, S. L., & Fedor, M. (2018). Mindfulness-based SEL programming to increase preservice teachers’ mindfulness and emotional competence. Psychology in the Schools, 55(4), 377–390.
Hayden, M. (2016). Third Culture Kids: the global nomads of transnational spaces of learning. In T. Bunnell, M. Hayden, & J. Thompson (Eds.), International Education (Vol. 3, pp. 59–77). London: SAGE.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. New York: Hyperion.
Meiklejohn, J., Phillips, C., Freedman, M. L., Griffin, M. L., Biegel, G., Roach, A., … Saltzman, A. (2012). Integrating Mindfulness Training into K-12 Education: Fostering the Resilience of Teachers and Students. Mindfulness, 3(4), 291–307.
Mindful Schools (2016). Mindful educator essentials: Week 3 integrating mindfulness and
social-emotional learning programs [pdf]. Retrieved from: http://www.mindfulschools.org/courses/mod/book/view.php?id=31295&chapterid=28497
Wallace, S. L. (2016). Factors in Aboriginal Student Success: Final Report on the research project: KASIS - We’re in This Together: Keeping Aboriginal Students in School. School District No. 57 Aboriginal Education Department.
A recent conversation with a colleague in my doctoral cohort led to her posing the question: ‘what [would ] education . . . look like if it were void of politics and if it was truly seen as a “gateway to wisdom” rather than a “road to money”’. I immediately thought back to some readings I have been doing recently regarding global citizenship, cosmopolitan competency, and mindfulness education in K-12 contexts. After such a detailed look these past weeks at the “nuts and bolts’ of financing and accountability, pondering this question was a not only a welcome diversion, but also an important chance to re-center the focus on why so many of us feel compelled to dedicate so much of our lives to our careers in education. Ultimately, it should all come back to giving kids the skills they need to live a good life.
If education is to be seen as a “gateway to wisdom”, then it would be in the best interest of those providing education to at least try to answer the question “What is wisdom?” Not a small task, but an important one to pursue, given the need for school leaders to put forward compelling visions and work to ensure the coherence of school activities with those goals (Enacting School-Level Leadership Practices, 2014, Uplifting Leadership, 2014; Schleicher, 2015, p. 9). Unfortunately, a standard definition of wisdom is elusive (Staudinger, 2013, p. 6). Staudinger cites G. Stanley Hall who defined wisdom as “the emergence of a meditative attitude, philosophical calmness, impartiality, and the desire to draw moral lessons” (p. 4). Distinguishing personal wisdom from general wisdom, she goes on to define it as “individuals’ insight into themselves, their own life” (p. 4). Vervaeke and Ferraro (2013), approaching wisdom from the perspective of cognitive science, define wisdom as “a self-transformation of cognitive processing that enhances the quality of life in some way” (p. 21). They go further to state that wisdom involves insights into “one’s own cognition, the patterns and processes of one’s learning and perception, . . . involving] increased abilities of self-understanding and self-transformation” (p. 25). To facilitate the development of this capacity, they cite research findings that show that wisdom development is complex and involves inter- and intrapersonal factors as well as external factors across the lifespan (p. 30).
Given the above, how might educators go about developing curricula to promote the development of wisdom in their students? Luckily for us, many of the traits and skills put forward as components of global citizenship curricula and elements of cosmopolitan consciousness and international mindedness have correlates in personal wisdom development. Glick and Bluck (2013) see wisdom as being comprised of a sense of mastery, openness to experience, reflectivity, emotion regulation, and empathy (p. 80). Cushner (2016) posits that the skills required for intercultural competency are interpersonal in nature and require curiosity, open-mindedness, empathy, and the ability to cope with strong emotions that may result from intercultural communications (p. 204). Oxfam’s (2015) Education for Global Citizenship: A Guide for Schools offers numerous skills it deems meaningful to global citizens, such as creative thinking, empathy, self-awareness and reflection, and interpersonal communication (p. 8). Rizvi (2008), in defining epistemic virtues in support of cosmopolitan learning, also puts forward an empathic understanding of others and reflexivity as traits that should be developed in international education (pp. 32-33). There is quite a lot of overlap between wisdom and international mindedness in terms of the skills they comprise.
If the above are taken to be the skills and competencies required for the development of both wisdom and global citizenship, then how can educators approach developing these skills in their students? I’d posit that mindfulness training provides a good place to begin, as it supports the development of a number of the skills mentioned above.
Already, social and emotional learning (SEL) programs are being introduced in many schools and combined with modified mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programming to help students deal with strong emotions and be mindful of their actions (Mindful Schools, 2016; Hyde & Frias, 2015, p. 92). Such programs have been shown to positively address interpersonal challenges (Zoogman et al., 2015, p. 292). Students also reported “getting in touch with their inner self” and “feeling an intuition for me” (Cheek, Abrams, Lipschitz, Vago, & Nakamura, 2017, p. 2573) indicative or intrapersonal learning and development. Mindfulness programs, by design, seek to promote empathy and compassion (Mindful Schools, 2016, p. 4), Neuroscientific studies have shown a correlation between mindfulness training and the development of brain structures related to empathy and self-reflection (Meiklejohn et al., 2012, pg. 293).
For many of us, education as a “path to wisdom” is a concept at the philosophical root of our work as educators. However, the increasing focus on academic achievement as measured by standardized large-scale tests (Bruns et al., 2011, p. 29) runs the risk of diverting attention away from such factors of learning and narrowing our definitions of success (NORRAG, 2016, p. 9). Thankfully, in addition to supporting student academic achievement (Bakosh, Snow, Tobias, Houlihan, & Barbosa-Leiker, 2016, p. 65) mindfulness studies in K-12 contexts can also support the development of education as a route to greater personal wisdom.
Bakosh, L. S., Snow, R. M., Tobias, J. M., Houlihan, J. L., & Barbosa-Leiker, C. (2016). Maximizing Mindful Learning: Mindful Awareness Intervention Improves Elementary School Students’ Quarterly Grades. Mindfulness, 7(1), 59–67.
Bruns, B., Filmer, D., & Patrinos, H. A. (2011). Making Schools Work; New Evidence on Accountability Reforms. Washington, DC: The World Bank.
Cheek, J., Abrams, E.M., Lipschitz, D.L., Vago, D.R., & Nakamura, Y. (2017). Creating novel school-based education programs to cultivate mindfulness in youth: What the letters told us. Journal of Child and Family Studies. 26(9), 2564-2578.
Cushner, K. (2016). Development and assessment of intercultural competence. In Hayden, M., Levy, J., & Thompson, J. J. (eds.) The Sage handbook of research in international education. London: Sage. 200-216.
Enacting School-Level Leadership Practices. (2014). Canada: International School Leadership. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=13&v=PmeKIdw1-8I
Glick, J., & Bluck, S. (2013) The MORE life experience model: A theory of the development of personal wisdom. In M. Ferrari & N.M. Weststrate (Eds.), The Scientific Study of Personal Wisdom: From Contemplative Traditions to Neuroscience (pp. 75-98). New York:Springer.
Hyde, A. M., & Frias, E. L. (2015). Mindfulness Education and an Education in Mindfulness: Still Seeking a Less Coercive “Wheel in the Head.” Journal for Peace and Justice Studies, 25(1), 81–104.
Meiklejohn, J., Phillips, C., Freedman, M. L., Griffin, M. L., Biegel, G., Roach, A., . . .Saltzman, A. (2012). Integrating mindfulness training into K-12 education: Fostering the resilience of teachers and students. Mindfulness, 3(4), 291-307. doi:10.1007/s12671-012-0094-5
Mindful Schools (2016). Mindful educator essentials: Week 3 integrating mindfulness and social-emotional learning programs [pdf]. Retrieved from: http://www.mindfulschools.org/courses/mod/book/view.php?id=31295&chapterid=28497
NORRAG. (2016). Learning from Learning Assessments: The Politics and Policies of Attaining Quality Education: Roundtable Report. Geneva: Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.
OXFAM. (2015). Education for Global Citizenship: A guide for schools. Oxford: Oxfam GB. Retrieved from: https://www.oxfam.org.uk/education/resources/education-for-global-citizenship-a-guide-for-schools
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Matthew Boomhower is a mid-career educator with 15 years of classroom teaching and educational leadership experience. He is Head of Innovation & Learning at an international school in Malaysia and is a proud husband and father.