Promoting Mindfulness In Preschool Education Psychology Response Paper

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Response paper questions to consider:

  • What is the author’s central claim, argument, or point? (This may be a place to start from in your response papers.)
  • What evidence does the author provide to support their arguments?
  • What could be added to the work to make it more complete?For instance, is there other media, especially empirical research, that we can use to support/refute/or add to the evidence?
  • What assumptions does the author make?
  • What did you find surprising, important, interesting, or relevant?
  • What do these arguments mean for children?

Response paper “Dos and Don’ts”:


  • Backup your claims with science and relevant material discussed in class
  • Build off ideas mentioned in class, adding your own thoughts and insights
  • Use specific examples from the paper and, potentially, from other sources
  • Think deeply: Analyze, Evaluate, Create


  • Only summarize the paper
  • Make superficial, obvious insights
  • Simply repeat ideas mentioned by others in class

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Developmental Psychology 2015, Vol. 51, No. 1, 44 –51 © 2014 American Psychological Association 0012-1649/15/$12.00 Promoting Prosocial Behavior and Self-Regulatory Skills in Preschool Children Through a Mindfulness-Based Kindness Curriculum Lisa Flook, Simon B. Goldberg, Laura Pinger, and Richard J. Davidson This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly. University of Wisconsin-Madison Self-regulatory abilities are robust predictors of important outcomes across the life span, yet they are rarely taught explicitly in school. Using a randomized controlled design, the present study investigated the effects of a 12-week mindfulness-based Kindness Curriculum (KC) delivered in a public school setting on executive function, self-regulation, and prosocial behavior in a sample of 68 preschool children. The KC intervention group showed greater improvements in social competence and earned higher report card grades in domains of learning, health, and social-emotional development, whereas the control group exhibited more selfish behavior over time. Interpretation of effect sizes overall indicate small to medium effects favoring the KC group on measures of cognitive flexibility and delay of gratification. Baseline functioning was found to moderate treatment effects with KC children initially lower in social competence and executive functioning demonstrating larger gains in social competence relative to the control group. These findings, observed over a relatively short intervention period, support the promise of this program for promoting self-regulation and prosocial behavior in young children. They also support the need for future investigation of program implementation across diverse settings. Keywords: mindfulness, executive function, prosocial behavior, preschool, early childhood Supplemental materials: tudinal research demonstrating that self-regulation in childhood predicts health, financial stability, and educational attainment into adulthood (Moffitt et al., 2011). There is particular interest in training during early childhood, given the malleability and plasticity associated with this period of development. Furthermore, economists have demonstrated that investments in early childhood education pay for themselves, yielding a return of 7% or more (Heckman, 2011). Investment in early education, therefore, has the potential to increase health and reduce risk behaviors over the life span, thus reducing overall societal costs. Healthy functioning across academic and social contexts requires exercising self-regulatory ability in the pursuit of short- and long-term goals. Self-regulation involves modulating feelings, thoughts, and behavior, and is associated with academic achievement and social competence, both concurrently and prospectively (Eisenberg, Spinrad, & Smith, 2004; Spinrad et al., 2006). In a classic delay of gratification paradigm, self-regulatory ability at age 4 (indexed by waiting a longer time for a reward) predicts attentional capacity, self-control, and frustration tolerance years later during adolescence (Eigsti et al., 2006; Mischel, Shoda, & Peake, 1988; Shoda Mischel, & Peake, 1990). Furthermore, children who are better able to delay also score higher on the SAT and are perceived as more interpersonally competent by parents and peers (Mischel, Shoda, & Rodriguez, 1989). In contrast, deficits in self-regulation can significantly interfere with learning (Barkley, 2001). Thus, the ability to enhance and strengthen attention and emotion regulatory resources warrants further investigation. Attention and executive functioning play a key role in effective self-regulation. Executive functions (EFs) refer to an array of related, yet distinct cognitive processes, such as cognitive flexibility, inhibitory control, and working memory, which impact all Social, emotional, and cognitive functioning are deeply intertwined throughout the life span. As such, self-regulatory skills are increasingly recognized as important contributors to school success. The capacity to regulate attention and emotion are forms of self-regulation that provide a foundation for school readiness by supporting dispositions conducive to learning and maintaining positive social relationships (Blair, 2002). The importance of developing such competencies early in life is underscored by longi- This article was published Online First November 10, 2014. Lisa Flook, Simon B. Goldberg, Laura Pinger, and Richard J. Davidson, Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison. This project was also made possible in part by an National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) core grant to the Waisman Center (P30 HD003352) and support from the Templeton Foundation and Fetzer Institute. We are grateful to all of the students and parents who participated in this project and the Madison Metropolitan School District for making this collaboration possible; Sharon Salzberg for her inspiration and feedback on the Kindness Curriculum; Lisa Thomas Prince for curriculum support; Lionel Newman and David Findley for their skillful project coordination; and undergraduate RAs for data collection. This research was generously supported by funding from the Caritas Foundation, Mental Insight Foundation, Mind & Life Institute, Cremer Foundation, Baumann Foundation, Drs. Fran and Tim Orrok, Edward L. and Judith Steinberg, Chade-Meng Tan, Peggy Hedberg, and Arlene and Keith Bronstein. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Lisa Flook, Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at Waisman Center, UWMadison, 1500 Highland Ave., Madison, WI 53705. E-mail: flook@wisc .edu 44 This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly. PROMOTING PROSOCIAL BEHAVIOR IN PRESCHOOL CHILDREN areas of functioning (Anderson, 2002; McCloskey, Perkins, & Van Divner, 2009; Miyake et al., 2000; Zelazo, Carlson, & Kesek, 2008). The development of prefrontal cortical (PFC) regions are linked to attention and EFs, abilities which are present in a rudimentary form at the beginning of life and undergo rapid development, congruent with brain growth during the childhood years (Diamond, 2002). EFs are a fundamental component of school success and predict academic performance above and beyond general levels of intelligence (Blair & Razza, 2007). Therefore, early childhood is an opportune period of development for training such skills. Despite evidence highlighting the importance of such selfregulatory skills to academic and life success, these skills are not often explicitly taught in school. Rather, instruction tends to emphasize academic knowledge and performance on standardized tests. There has been a surge in interest among educators, parents, and policymakers in addressing children’s social and emotional development in addition to academic skills but, as yet, no clear consensus exists on what constitute the best strategies and methods for cultivating these positive qualities in young children (Greenberg et al., 2003). Emerging scientific evidence supports the training of these skills in children through a variety of modalities including mindfulness-based practices (Diamond & Lee, 2011). Mindfulness Training and Education Mindfulness training enhances attention and EF by bringing awareness to a particular attentional object, whether it is the breath, external stimuli, thoughts, or emotions. It entails noticing when the mind has wandered from its object of attention (monitoring) and returning attention back to the chosen object (shifting/ cognitive flexibility). Training increases the ability to maintain engagement of self-regulatory neural circuits (PFC), resulting in improved sustained attention and emotion regulation (Lutz, Slagter, Dunne, & Davidson, 2008; MacLean et al., 2010). Through the training of attention, the qualities of kindness and care toward oneself and others can be cultivated implicitly and explicitly. Young children, for instance, engage in setting daily intentions and age-appropriate practices to extend care and well wishes. A similar form of mental training is associated with increased activity in cortical areas responsible for empathy and compassion among adults (Lutz, Brefczynski-Lewis, Johnston, & Davidson, 2008) with measurable change in altruistic behavior and corresponding neural activity in as few as two weeks (Weng et al., 2013). Thus, these practices may effect changes induced through neural plasticity that support prosocial behavior and academic success (Davidson et al., 2012; Davidson & McEwen, 2012). While the popularity of mindfulness programs for children has increased rapidly, there is a paucity of empirical research on the effects of such practices. Initial studies of mindfulness training with children show promising effects (e.g., Flook et al., 2010; Napoli, Krech, & Holley, 2005) and a review of meditation-based interventions among youth reported a median effect size between .27 to .70 for psychological and behavioral outcomes (Black, Milam, & Sussman, 2009). With some exceptions, existing research is primarily limited by a lack of randomized controlled trials and reliance on questionnaire measures. The present study uses a randomized controlled design to assess the effects of a mindfulness-based prosocial skills training curriculum on a range 45 of cognitive and behavioral outcomes in preschool children. In addition, we examine moderators of the intervention effect with the hypothesis that those who are lower in prosocial skills and EF as assessed behaviorally at baseline will improve most in terms of teacher ratings of their social-competence over time. Method Participants Seven classrooms were recruited from six different elementary schools within a public school district in a medium-sized Midwestern city. Within these schools, 37.9% of children are considered socioeconomically disadvantaged. A total of 99 children were invited to participate and parents of 68 indicated they wished to enroll their child in the study (acceptance rate ⫽ 68.7%). The sample included 40 White (58.8%), 8 Hispanic (11.8%), 4 African American (5.9%), 7 Asian/Pacific Islander (10.3%), 8 “Other”/ mixed ethnicity children (11.8%), 34 girls (50.0%) and 33 boys (48.5%), with a mean age of 4.67 years (SD ⫽ .27). Of the parents, 49 (72.1%) were 4-year college graduates and 18 (26.5%) were not (demographic data were missing for one parent and child). Participants were randomly assigned by classroom to either a mindfulness-based “Kindness Curriculum” (KC) intervention or a wait-list control group (n ⫽ 30 from three classrooms and 38 from four classrooms, for KC and control group respectively). Participants were assessed in individual testing sessions before and after the training period. All procedures for this study were approved by both the university and school district research review boards. Kindness Curriculum (KC) Intervention The intervention group received a 12-week mindfulness-based prosocial skills training designed for preschool-age children (see supplemental material for sample lessons). The foundation of the KC is mindfulness practice, aimed at cultivating attention and emotion regulation, with a shared emphasis on kindness practices (e.g., empathy, gratitude, sharing). The preschool KC is progressive in nature and incorporates children’s literature, music, and movement to teach and stabilize concepts related to kindness and compassion. The curriculum was taught by experienced mindfulness instructors in a secular manner and was provided universally to children as part of their standard classroom instruction during regular school hours. Student training in the KC consisted of two 20 –30 min lessons each week over a 12-week period, totaling approximately 10 hrs of training. Measures Teacher-rated social competence (TSC). Teacher’s ratings of their student’s social competence were obtained using items from the Teacher Social Competence Scale (Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group, 1995). The measure (overall ␣ ⫽ .94) was comprised of two subscales: a prosocial behavior subscale (seven items, showing empathy and compassion for others’ feelings, ␣ ⫽ .95) and an emotion regulation subscale (five items, e.g., stopping and calming down when excited or upset, ␣ ⫽ .82). Items were rated on a 6-point Likert-type scale with higher scores indicating greater social competence. This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly. 46 FLOOK, GOLDBERG, PINGER, AND DAVIDSON Sharing task. This task was designed for use in the current study and consisted of four separate trials in which children distributed stickers between themselves and a target recipient. The four target recipients included a most- and least-liked peer (identified by the participant) from their class, an unfamiliar child, and a child who was sick. In each of the four trials, children were presented with an envelope for themselves labeled “me” and an envelope with a picture of the designated target recipient. Children were given 10 stickers at the beginning of each trial and told they could keep as many as they would like for themselves and give as many as they would like to the other person. Scores were computed for each trial along with a total average score that reflected the number of stickers put in the “me” envelope across all four trials. Delay of gratification. The delay of gratification task was based on Prencipe and Zelazo’s (2005) procedure. The task included nine test trials requiring a choice between having a smaller reward “now” (one item) or a larger reward “later” (two, three, or five items). In the present study, rewards included food, crayons, and tokens (which could be exchanged for a variety of small toys). Scores were computed for all trials and each contingency representing the mean number of times the child chose the delay condition. Dimensional change card sort task (DCCS). A computerized version of the dimensional change card sort (DCCS) task was used to assess cognitive flexibility, a core aspect of executive function (Garon, Bryson, & Smith, 2008). This task was taken from the National Institute of Health (NIH) Toolbox Cognitive Function Battery (Zelazo et al., 2013). The task requires participants to sort bivalent test cards first by one dimension (e.g., shape) and then sort the same cards by a second dimension (e.g., color). The DCCS consists of three test blocks—preswitch, postswitch, and mixed. Practice trials (four trials for each dimension), are followed by the preswitch block (five trials). The postswitch block (five trials) requires sorting by the second dimension. The mixed block (40 trials) includes shifting between sorting dimensions. Scoring followed recommended procedures (Zelazo et al., 2013), including the computation of a composite score that allows an equal contribution for accuracy and reaction time (RT). Composite scores were calculated for all trials as well as for only postswitch trials. Although the scoring procedures recommend using only the mixed block, the postswitch block was used given the large percentage of participants not receiving the mixed block due to low accuracy (the task ends if accuracy cut-off is not met). This postswitch block was seen as the next best proxy for cognitive flexibility since it still requires a shift in sorting dimension. Flanker task. A computerized Flanker task, also from the NIH Toolbox Cognitive Function Battery (Zelazo et al., 2013), was used to measure inhibitory control, another core aspect of executive function (Garon et al., 2008). In this task, participants were presented with a row of five stimuli (either fish or arrows) and pressed one of two buttons indicating the direction the middle stimulus (either a fish or arrow) is pointing. During congruent trials all the stimuli are pointing the same direction while in the incongruent trials the flanking stimuli are pointing the opposite direction from the middle stimulus. The Flanker task included three blocks: practice (four trials), fish (20 trials), and arrows (20 trials). Scoring followed recommended procedures (Zelazo et al., 2013), including the computa- tion of a composite score that reflects equal contributions of accuracy and RT. Both the Flanker and DCCS tasks have demonstrated excellent test–retest reliability (ICC ⫽ .92 for both tasks) as well as good convergent and discriminant validity (Zelazo et al., 2013). School grades. Children’s grades reflecting performance for the second half of the academic year were obtained from school records. Teachers assigned grades in five different domains using a 4-point scale with higher scores indicating the child met or exceeded expectations: Approaches to Learning (three items, persists with self-initiated activities, ␣ ⫽ .76), Cognition and General Knowledge (seven items, sorts and/or describes objects by size, shape, color, or use, ␣ ⫽ .72), Health and Physical Development (five items, demonstrates balance and strength, ␣ ⫽ .77), Language Development and Communication (nine items, retells a familiar story in sequence, ␣ ⫽ .87), Social and Emotional Development (seven items, displays age appropriate self-control, ␣ ⫽ .86). Data Analysis Independent t tests were conducted to compare groups at baseline. Repeated measures analysis of variance (RMANOVA) analyses were conducted with baseline scores entered as covariates to assess for group by time interactions. Subsequent RMANOVA models also included child gender and age as covariates. Paired t tests were used post hoc to examine change from pre- to post-test within intervention and control groups separately in cases where the omnibus F value from the RMANOVAs showed a significant effect (i.e., a significant group by time interaction effect controlling for baseline levels). For data only reported at post-test (i.e., school grades), independent t tests were used comparing groups postintervention. In addition, given the exploratory nature of this study and the relatively small sample size, we conducted both formal significance testing (using RMANOVAs and t tests) as well as generated effect sizes reflecting group differences. For measures assessed at both pre- and post-, we computed both within-group pre/post effect sizes (Cohen’s d, using pooled pre- and post-test standard deviations) and between-groups effect sizes (computed as the difference between within-group ds, with KC d minus control group d, equivalent to Becker’s del, 1988). For outcomes assessed only at post-test (school grades), only a between-groups d was computed, also using a pooled standard deviation. Effect sizes were interpreted based on Cohen’s (1988) guidelines. In order to assess for individual differences in response to intervention, ANOVA models were constructed, examining baseline by group interactions as a predictor of change. The small number of level two units (i.e., classrooms) precluded the possibility of modeling treatment effects in multilevel models (Snijders & Bosker, 2012). Intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) were computed to index the amount of variance in outcomes attributable to classrooms. Results There were no significant differences at baseline on any demographic variables or other measures assessed at baseline (i.e., delay of gratification, ...
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Promoting Mindfulness in Preschool Education




In the article, Flook, Goldberg, Pinger, and Davidson endeavor to examine the use of
mindfulness by pre-schools to enhance children’s self-regulatory skills particularly those with
lower ranks in baseline functioning. Flook developed a Kindness Curriculum (KC) based on
mindfulness to find out if its application in preschool can help children to develop and improve
their self-regulation, social development, and executive functioning. Flook argue that
mindfulness can add to the quality of life of preschool children in numerous ways, from
cultivating their sense of inner peace and qualities of empathy to facilitating deeper and more
meaningful relationships with one another. Even though mindfulness is rarely taught in schools,
this article presents a strong argum...

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