Campbell Collaboration review examines mindfulness based interventions in schools

Campbell Collaboration review examines mindfulness based interventions in schools

The MYRIAD national programme of studies will address some of the uncertainties identified in a recent Campbell Collaboration study of mindfulness-based interventions in schools, which finds that "further evidence is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of this type of intervention," and calls for "rigorous evaluation of the practice should schools choose to implement it."

The review (1) published by the Campbell Collaboration Education Coordinating Group in March 2017, examines the effects of school-based MBIs on cognitive, behavioural, socio-emotional and academic achievement outcomes with youth in a primary or secondary school setting.

It includes a total of 61 studies in preschool, primary and secondary schools which reported at least one of these outcomes: cognition, academic performance, behaviour, socio-emotional, and physiological. Most of these studies were carried out in North America, as well as Asia, Europe and Canada. Interventions were conducted in a group format, ranging in duration from 4 to 28 weeks, covering between 6 to 125 sessions.

Findings from the review indicate mixed effects of MBIs in schools: “There is some indication that MBIs can improve cognitive and socio-emotional outcomes, but no support for improvement in behavior or academic achievement“. However, it adds, “These findings should be read with caution given the weakness of the evidence produced by the studies. The high risk of bias present in the studies means that further evidence is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of this type of intervention.” This review is one of several recent reviews, each reaching broadly similar conclusions (e.g., Klingbeil and colleagues, 2017; Zenner and colleagues, 2014). It is clearly time to move to larger scale and more definitive research to address these questions.

The national research programme MYRIAD, which started in 2015, will address some of these uncertainties, use enhanced study study designs and samples large and representative enough to answer the questions. It aims to investigate the effectiveness of school-based mindfulness training as a means of preparing young people to manage their emotional health and improving resilience. Funded by the Wellcome Trust, a series of linked research projects will recruit over 25,000 young people to examine the impact of mindfulness training, with follow ups of up to 2 years.

The three themes of the project will:

  • examine whether MT improves resilience in young adolescents, how it effects their processing of thoughts and feelings, whether there are different effects at different stages of development, and examine effects among both those with poor or good mental health;
  • discover the best way to train teachers to deliver a MT curriculum and how to implement it in schools; and
  • conduct a large cluster-randomised controlled trial to establish whether mindfulness training in schools is effective and cost effective (Kuyken and colleagues, 2017).

The MYRIAD programme is led by Mark Williams and Willem Kuyken of the University of Oxford, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore of University College London, and Tim Dalgleish of the Medical Research Council in Cambridge. It brings together an international team on each of its three themes, see MYRIAD.

1 (Maynard BR, Solis MR, Miller VL, Brendel KE, Mindfulness-based interventions for improving cognition, academic achievement, behavior, and socioemotional functioning of primary and secondary schools students),