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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 224-228

Evaluate the effectiveness of teaching mindfulness on learning and study strategies of university students


1 Department of Community and Family Medicine, Isfahan Medical University, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran
2 Department of Mental Health and Counseling, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran
3 Social Determinants of Health Research Center, School of Management and Medical Information, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran

Date of Web Publication9-Feb-2018

Correspondence Address:
Miss. Rahele Samouei
Social Determinants of Health Research Center, School of Management and Medical Information, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan
Iran
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/2395-2296.180311

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  Abstract 


INTRODUCTION: Many factors affect academic success of students among which are learning strategies and factors associated with them. This study aims to evaluate the effect of teaching mindfulness on learning strategies and learning of students in Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in the first semester of 2012.
METHODS: In this study, 62 bachelor degree students were randomly selected and placed in case and control groups. Mindfulness training was carried out in 8 sessions. Before and after training, all students were asked to fill Weinstein learning strategy and 80-item mindfulness questionnaires.
RESULTS: Analysis of the results showed that mindfulness training caused statistically significant improvement in components of information processing in the area of skill, attitude in the area of enthusiasm, and self-examination in the area of self-regulation (P ≤ 0.05).
CONCLUSION: These results show that mindfulness training is successful in improving some components of learning strategy and academic performance.

Keywords: Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, learning strategy, mindfulness, university students


How to cite this article:
Zamani A, Ghasemi F, Salehi B, Yari Z, Samouei R. Evaluate the effectiveness of teaching mindfulness on learning and study strategies of university students. Int J Educ Psychol Res 2017;3:224-8

How to cite this URL:
Zamani A, Ghasemi F, Salehi B, Yari Z, Samouei R. Evaluate the effectiveness of teaching mindfulness on learning and study strategies of university students. Int J Educ Psychol Res [serial online] 2017 [cited 2018 Feb 25];3:224-8. Available from: http://www.ijeprjournal.org/text.asp?2017/3/4/224/180311




  Introduction Top


Academic success and achievements in university depend on various components. One of these defining components is using learning strategies that help students in knowing how to learn; deepens one's learning and helps the students to retain what they have learned for longer periods.

Weinstein et al. in their study state that these learning strategies include attitude, motivation, time management, anxiety, concentration, learning guides, test strategies, self-examination, and main idea selection, which can be learned through teaching and practice.

There are various teaching methods for this purpose, one of the newest and popular scientific methods among them being mindfulness, which is based on theoretical and practical exercises. Mindfulness in this context includes constant and complete attention toward all of one's emotions, excitements, thoughts, and activities.[1] Teaching mindfulness can lead to different attitudes toward thoughts, emotions, and feelings which involve acceptance without judgment.[2],[3]

Some of the effects of mindfulness include reducing preoccupation, consciousness toward personal emotions, optimum performance of short-term memory, ability to concentrate when reading, reduction of mental pressures, effective coping with life's problems, and various other effects.[4]

Also by teaching mindfulness, it is possible to improve learning and studying strategies in the students. This improvement shows itself as facilitating the process of learning, memorizing and remembering, increased excitation level and cognitive engagement, and can finally lead to improved communication and academic achievement in the students.[5]

In this regard, several studies show that by using better and more diverse learning strategies, students can achieve higher success rates in learning strategies.[6] Some of these studies are mentioned in the following section.

A study titled “the benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being” reported that mindfulness is a predictive component in self-management activities and positive emotions.[4] Another study reported that teaching mindfulness is successful in significantly increasing optimism and self-concept assessment.[7] Yet another study investigated the relation between mindfulness and emotional, psychological and social well-being and concluded that there is a positive relation between psychological well-being and mindfulness, which can lead to a more pleasant lifestyle.[8]

In a study on 57 HIV-positive patients, the results showed that all mindfulness measures are related to self-efficiency,[9] while another study reported that teaching mindfulness has been successful in reducing stress.[10],[11] According to the results of these studies, teaching mindfulness was effective in improving self-confidence and empathy in students.[11] Another study reported that teaching mindfulness leads to significant improvement in psychological well-being.[10]

Studies conducted in Iran indicate the effectiveness of teaching mindfulness in reducing depression.[12],[13],[14],[15],[16],[17] Other studies indicate that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is effective in reducing negative self-assessment and dysfunctional attitudes.[13],[17] Other studies report that teaching mindfulness is effective in significant reduction of anxiety [12],[16],[18] and text anxiety.[19],[20] In one study, the relation between “informed attention to present” and personality characteristics of psychosis, general health components, insomnia, and social dysfunction was investigated.[18] In another study, investigating the effectiveness of teaching mindfulness and emotional management on psychological health of victims of chemical weapon showed a significant reduction in average scores of physical symptoms and social problems in the test group.[16] The results of other studies showed that teaching stress reduction methods based on mindfulness are effective in improving mindfulness and reduction of stress.[20] Furthermore, other studies reported that group therapy based on mindfulness and cognitive behavior therapy is effective in improving self-esteem.[21]

Given the results regarding the effectiveness of teaching mindfulness and the nature of these exercises which improve tranquility and individual performance and due to the relation between academic achievement and improvements in reading skills and individual performance; this study aims to investigate the effect of teaching mindfulness on learning strategies of students in Isfahan University of Medical Sciences (IUMS).


  Methods Top


Based on the aims of this study, a semi-empirical method with two pretest and posttest groups was carried out on 64 students of IUMS in the year 2013 (1392). The inclusion criteria included being students in a bachelor degree in the target university, while the exclusion criteria included absence from teaching sessions or not answering the questions of the final test.

Data gathering was carried out using Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) and reading and learning strategy of Weinstein. This FFMQ questionnaire wasfirst normalized in 2004 by Bower and includes 39 items and five main factors including describing emotions and happenings with words, attention to internal emotions and external happenings, attention in carrying out works and activities, acceptance without judgment, and lack of reaction to external experiences. The participants stated their agreement to each item using a 5-point Likert scale from 1 (never or rarely) to 5 (always or most of the times). The score range is between 39 and 195. The total score is the sum of the scores of all components with higher scores indicating higher degrees of mindfulness.

Questions with *mark are scored in reverse [Table 1]. The α for components of observation, description, action with awareness, and lack of judgment were calculated to be 91%, 84%, 76%, and 87%, respectively. In the retest, the reliability with regression for observation, description, behavior, and acceptance had the scores of 65%, 81%, 86%, and 83%, respectively. The questionnaire also had suitable validity and concurrent validity.[22]
Table 1: Questions related to the questionnaire components

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The 80-item standard reading and learning strategy questionnaire of Weinstein investigates three components of determination, skill and self-regulation in 10 sections which include attitude (students' interest in university and studying), motivation (level of perseverance and self-regulation and diligence in study-related duties), time management (proper planning for using all the available time for study-related activities), anxiety (anxiety about university and academic performance), concentration (students' concentration on study-related duties), information processing (development, monitoring of understanding and reasoning), selection (understanding key points of the lessons), study guide (using supporting techniques or methods that help in remembering memorized data), self-examination (reviewing and preparing for examinations), and text strategies (strategies for preparing for exams and methods for answering examination's questions). In this study, each component, except anxiety that used 6 items, was investigated using 8 items in a five-point scale. The scores for all areas of the questionnaire were between 8 and 40 (except for the area of anxiety that has a score range of 6–30). Since this questionnaire is a tool for determination of problems in 10 different areas, total score will not be calculated. Reliability of the questionnaire was determined in a range between 0.76 and 0.88 with no total reliability index; the reliability index for each area is calculated separately.

In thefirst stage, first both groups took part in the pretest. Afterward, one group took part in 8 sessions of teaching mindfulness which included discussions, group works, role-playing, individual tasks, group tasks, and homework. Posttest was carried out for both groups 2 months after the last teaching session. All teaching sessions were carried out with the help of a psychology lecturer familiar with the subject's area and with the following topics.

First session: Definition of mindfulness, uses and consequences of mindfulness, knowing the elements of mindfulness, familiarization with muscle relaxation, and deep breath techniques. Second session: Teaching thefirst skill: “Concentration on a specific object,” teaching the second skill: “Concentrating on presence,” familiarization with the concept of mindfulness about present, tasks related to thefirst and second skills. Third session: Familiarization with the concept of physical mindfulness, teaching the third skill: “Experiencing inside and outside.” Fourth session: Familiarization with the concept of excitement and emotion, mindfulness about emotions, classification of emotions, understanding emotion spectrum (Goleman classification), and homework about mindfulness regarding emotions. Fifth session: Understanding the elements of emotions and mixed emotions, teaching the fourth skill: “Describing emotion,” homework related to the fourth skill. Sixth session: Concept of thought in mindfulness, understanding the difference between thought and emotion, teaching the fifth skill: “Thought rapture” and sixth skill: “3 min recording of thought,” homework related to fifth and sixth skills. Seventh session: Concept of mindfulness of body, thought, and emotion, teaching the seventh skill: “Mindful breathing,” homework related to seventh skill. Eighth session: Several key methods for a mindful live, teaching the eighth skill: “Mindful mind diet,” mindfulness in mindful activities.

Data analysis was carried out using SPSS version 20 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL) software and covariance test.

Findings

The statistical analysis was carried out on the data gathered from 33 participants in the case group and 30 participants in the control group. Among the participants, 72% were female and 26% were male; the most common age of the participants was 21 (27%); most participants were single (82.5%); 39.7% were part of region quota; and 63.5% of the participants were local. The results of covariance analysis are shown in [Table 2].
Table 2: Comparing the effects of mindfulness on strategic components of learning in case and control groups in posttest

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Based on the results of [Table 2], in the area of skill the component of information processing (27.40 ± 3.95), in the area of determination the component of attitude (28.97 ± 4.21), and in the area of self-regulation the component of self-examination (23.70 ± 4.82) showed a significant increase in the case group with the significance level of P ≤ 0.05, but other components showed no statistically significant difference between the two groups.


  Discussion and Conclusion Top


In the area of information processing, mindfulness helps people to concentrate on the present and leads to immediate processing of all aspects of the experience including cognitive, physiological, and behavioral aspects. Furthermore, mindfulness helps people to be constantly aware of all life-related problems such as daily activities, automatic activities of the mind in the past and present, thoughts, emotions, and physiological conditions, and also helps with processing and controlling these types of information, thus freeing the mind from concentrating on the past and present automatic and daily activities.[23] Therefore by categorization of each activity, it is possible to minimize preoccupations and become more effective at studying.

On the other hand, mindfulness helps people to control their negative thoughts and behaviors which then lead to information processing and regulation of reasonable and positive behavior.[24]

By practicing concentration in mindfulness, people can allow thought to end the same way they begin by exciting awareness and returning to the original concentration. Using this method, distractions from studying (which usually happens due to thought patterns that drown out thought) will be minimized. Furthermore, inclusive observation of thoughts allows us to grasp similar thought patterns as thoughts (that are not necessarily real themselves) which in turn helps with development and facilitation of analysis and processing of information.[20]

Teaching mindfulness can affect attitude in several ways:

  • Learn strategies based on acceptance causes people to create a different communication style for upsetting thoughts and emotions and instead of challenging and avoiding these thoughts and emotions, accept them without reaction and using new methods such as confrontation, acceptance, pacification, desensitization, and emotion regulation which then helps deal with these emotions [25]
  • Using voluntary confrontation process, one will be able to tolerate a wider range of thoughts, emotions, and experiences [24]
  • Results of previous studies show that mindfulness-based intervention can increase people's ability for dealing with temptations [24]
  • In interventions based on acceptance strategies, people learn that instead of changing the content of upsetting thoughts and attitudes, it is better to use on acceptance, desensitization, changes in relations, and personal attitudes toward thoughts as a cognitive reality. Furthermore, when faced with change and negative emotions, methods such as acceptance without judgment, confrontation and increased tolerance, negative emotional states, thoughts, and imaginations can be used [25]
  • Teaching mindfulness can protect people against poor behavioral performance related to stress by increasing cognitive intervention processes such as positive reassessment and improving emotion regulation capabilities such as distress tolerance [23]
  • Using mindfulness, people learn to confront negative thoughts and emotions and experience mental events in a positive way [24]
  • Using methods that increase concentration on present, people will be able to change their stress coping methods and their answer to stress.[26] In fact, regular mindfulness exercises and acceptance without judgment can create positive changes income physiological functions which then lead to change and improvement of lifestyle.[23]


Teaching mindfulness can affect self-examination using several methods:

  • Mindfulness increases one's attention toward physical and psychological emotions and learning mindfulness can regulate physiological and physical emotions and helps to clearly observe emotions and physical phenomena as they happen
  • By improving mindfulness, one can be more aware of distracting thoughts during studying and thus remove them from the mind [27]
  • By learning mindfulness, one reduces stress while increasing psychical and emotional self-regulation and can pay attention to the surrounding environment without judgment.[23]


Furthermore, people with practice in mindfulness can act realistic and deliberate when dealing with environmental factors.[24] This helps people to study more willingly.

In regards to the components with insignificant changes in this study, it can be said that some components such as anxiety or motivation require more specific education with suitable content. These components sometimes affect underlying personal characteristics of people and changing them requires specific intervention patterns. On the other hand, learning strategy components are very diverse and widespread, and a simple 8 session training is not enough to create meaningful changes in all components. Therefore, it is suggested for components with similarities to each other to be selected for future training programs. Furthermore, the number of training sessions needs to be consistent with the diversity of the targeted components.

Another problem is the fact that the time for posttest was close to the final exams of the students which might have affected the performance of the students.

Acknowledgment

This article is the result of the research project 291304, IUMS. The authors wish to thank the university and participating students for their cooperation in this study.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
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