The Effects of Mindfulness Training on Wisdom in Elementary School Teachers

Main Article Content

Jean Ngoc Boulware
Brenda Huskey
Heather Harden Mangelsdorf
Howard C. Nusbaum


Aims: School teachers have hundreds of spontaneous interactions with students each hour, requiring frequent decision-making. Often these interactions require social understanding and emotional self-regulation, two constructs often identified with wisdom and mindfulness.  Increasing mindfulness could aid wiser management of classroom demands. The present study evaluated effects of an online mindfulness course on measured wisdom in a sample of public elementary school teachers.

Study Design: This study used a pretest posttest design using data collected immediately before taking the online mindfulness course and after completion of the course. End of the school year follow-up data was analyzed for all teachers.

Place and Duration of Study: Participants were enrolled from multiple cities across the United States including Boston, Columbus, Chicago, Milwaukee, Seattle, and San Diego between June 2014 and June 2015. Data were collected online and analyzed at the University of Chicago.

Methodology: Public elementary school teachers (n = 12) were assigned to a mindfulness training or a matched wait-list condition (11 female, 1 male; age range 26 – 57 years). Teachers had a range of teaching experiences from 1 to 36 years (median =18 years) and taught grades K-4 at schools with 30% - 50% Caucasian students with 40%-60% students receiving free and reduced-price lunches. We used standardized measures for mindfulness, wisdom, emotion regulation, compassion, theory of mind, state/trait anxiety, stress, burnout, and efficacy.

Results: Online mindfulness training produced a significant increase in mindful awareness and changes in cognitive wisdom implying increased understanding of inter/intrapersonal concerns. There was a significant increase in mindful attention in those who completed both pre- and post-class online evaluations (n = 10) solicited by Mindful Schools (t (9) = 2.738, p = .02) from 54.3 to 59.9 following training (ΔM= 5.6, SD = 6.5). Wisdom, measured with Ardelt’s Three-Dimensional Wisdom Scale (n =12), demonstrated a significant change increase in the cognitive dimension of wisdom (t(11) = 2.39, p =.03) with a non-significant increase in the affective dimension (t(11) =1.38, p =.19) and a non-significant reduction in the reflective dimension of wisdom (t(11) =.96, p = .35) following mindfulness training.

Conclusion:  Online mindfulness training may help develop wise decision making as a skill for teachers to aid classroom management and social problem solving.

Elementary teacher education, practice-based teacher education, problem solving, reflection, learning environment, wisdom, mindfulness training

Article Details

How to Cite
Boulware, J., Huskey, B., Mangelsdorf, H., & Nusbaum, H. (2019). The Effects of Mindfulness Training on Wisdom in Elementary School Teachers. Journal of Education, Society and Behavioural Science, 30(3), 1-10.
Original Research Article


Soloway GB. Preparing teacher candidates for the present: Investigating the value of mindfulness training in teacher education. In: Handbook of Mindfulness in Education. Springer: New York; 2016.

National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. No dream denied: A pledge to America’s children; 2003.


Sutcher L, Darling-Hammond L, Carver-Thomas D. A coming crisis in teaching? Teacher supply, demand, and shortages in the U.S. (research brief). Palo Alto, California: Learning Policy Institute; 2016.


Graue E, Rauscher E, Sherfinski M. The synergy of class size reduction and classroom quality. The Elementary School Journal. 2009;110(2):178-201.

Roeser RW, Schonert-Reichl KA, Jha A, Cullen M, Wallace L, Wilensky R, et al. Mindfulness training and reductions in teacher stress and burnout: Results from two randomized, waitlist-control field trials. Journal of Educational Psychology. 2013; 105(3):1-18.

Jackson PW. Life in classrooms. New York, NY: Teachers College Press; 1990.

Wubbels T, Brekelmans M, Den Brok P, Wijsman L, Mainhard T, Van Tartwijk J. Teacher-student relationships and class-room management. In: Emmer E, Sabornie EJ, editors Handbook of Classroom Management. New York, NY: Routledge; 2014.

Jennings PA, Greenberg MT. The prosocial classroom: Teacher social and emotional competence in relation to student and classroom outcomes. Review of Educational Research. 2009;79(1):491-525.

Roeser RW, Skinner E, Beers J, Jennings PA. Mindfulness training and teachers' professional development: An emerging area of research and practice. Child Development Perspectives. 2012;6(2):167-173.

Kross E, Grossmann I. Boosting wisdom: Distance from the self enhances wise reasoning, attitudes, and behavior. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 2012;141(1):43.

Nusbaum HC. Wisdom develops from experiences that transcend the self. In: Frey J, Vogler C. editors. Self-trans-cendence and virtue: Perspectives from Philosophy, Psychology and Theology. Routledge; 2018. (In press)

Pascual-Leone J. Mental attention, consciousness, and the progressive emergence of wisdom. Journal of Adult Development. 2000;7(4):241-254.

Williams PB, Mangelsdorf HH, Kontra C, Nusbaum HC, Hoeckner B. The relationship between mental and somatic practices and wisdom. Plos One. 2016; 11(2):e0149369.

Baltes PB, Smith J. Toward a psychology of wisdom and its ontogenesis. In RJ. Sternberg RJ, editor Wisdom: Its nature, origins, and development. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press; 1990.

Ardelt M. Empirical assessment of a three-dimensional wisdom scale. Research on Aging. 2003;25(3):275-324.

Kabat-Zinn J. Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York, NY: Hyperion; 1994.

Brown KW, Ryan RM. The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2003; 84:822-848.

Charoensukmongkol P. Benefits of mindfulness meditation on emotional intelligence, general self-efficacy, and perceived stress: Evidence from Thailand. Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health. 2014;16(3):171-192.

Davidson RJ, Kabat-Zinn J, Schumacher J, Rosenkranz M, Muller D, Santorelli SF, et al. Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2003;65(4):564-570.

Baer RA, Smith GT, Hopkins J, Krietemeyer J, Toney L. Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness. Assessment. 2006;13(1):27-45.

Sternberg RJ. A balance theory of wisdom. Review of General Psychology. 1998;2(4): 347–365.

Jha AP, Krompinger J, Baime MJ. Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience. 2007;7(2):109-119.

Jha AP, Stanley EA, Kiyonaga A, Wong L, Gelfand L. Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience. Emotion. 2010;10(1):54.

Leonard NR, Jha AP, Casarjian B, Goolsarran M, Garcia C, Cleland CM, et al. Mindfulness training improves attentional task performance in incarcerated youth: A group randomized controlled intervention trial. Frontiers in Psychology. 2013;4:1-10.

Hölzel BK, Ott U, Hempel H, Hackl A, Wolf K, Stark R, Vaitl D. Differential engage-ment of anterior cingulate and adjacent medial frontal cortex in adept meditators and non-meditators. Neuroscience Letters. 2007;421(1):16-21.

Gross JJ, John OP. Individual differences in two emotion regulation processes: Implications for affect, relationships, and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2003;85(2):348–362.

Hwang JY, Plante T, Lackey K. The development of the Santa Clara brief compassion scale: An abbreviation of Sprecher and Fehr’s compassionate love scale. Pastoral Psychology. 2008;56(4): 421-428.

Neff KD. The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity. 2003;2(3):223-250.

Smith A, Guzman-Alvarez A, Westover T, Keller S, Fuller S. Mindful schools program evaluation. Retrieved from University of California at Davis: Center for Education and Evaluation Services; 2012.

Available: schools_final_report.081512_0.pdf Introduction: Mindful bodies & listening; 2014. Available:

Baron-Cohen S, Wheelwright S, Hill J, Raste Y, Plumb I. The “reading the mind in the eyes” test revised version: A study with normal adults, and adults with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 2001;42(2):241-251.

Fimian MJ, Fastenau PS. The validity and reliability of the Teacher Stress Inventory: A re-analysis of aggregate data. Journal of Organizational Behavior. 1990;11(2):151-157.

Tschannen-Moran M, Woolfolk Hoy A. Teacher efficacy: Capturing an elusive construct. Teaching and Teacher Education. 2001;17:783-805.

Richmond VP, Wrench JS, Gorham J. Communication, affect, and learning in the classroom. Acton, MA: Tapestry Press; 2001

Spielberger CD. State-trait anxiety inventory for adults: Self-evaluation questionnaire. Redwood City, CA: Mind Garden, Inc; 1997.

Toplak ME, West RF, Stanovich KE. Assessing miserly information processing: An expansion of the Cognitive Reflection Test. Thinking & Reasoning. 2014;20(2): 147-168.