Mr Geoffrey Simmons1, Dr Mariagrazia Bellio1, Rev Judy Redman1
1Charles Sturt University, Thurgoona, Australia
This paper presents a 2016 pilot study investigating whether the use of Mindfulness-based techniques taught on-line could enhance the wellbeing and academic performance of university students. The paper presents: the content of the program that was delivered; the challenges of preparing and delivering the course in an online environment; the learnings from the design and delivery process and the research outcomes. The study had three aims: (1) to determine benchmark data of wellbeing, focused attention and academic motivation across the Charles Sturt University (CSU) student population; (2) to determine whether mindfulness training affected the emotional wellbeing, focused attention and academic performance of university students; and (3) because around 60% of CSU students study by distance, to examine the effectiveness of two different on-line modes for delivering Mindfulness training, one in real time and one self-guided. Based on research findings that “Mindful learning” may benefit students by enhancing their cognitive and socio-emotional capabilities and improving their general wellbeing and academic performance, it used three validated psychometric scales to measure the attention and awareness, wellbeing and academic motivation of the participants before and after a four week mindfulness training course. The results demonstrated three main findings: Mindfulness training may contribute in the long-term to creating a mindset conducive to learning; Mindfulness training may contribute to shifting patterns of motivation for learning from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation; and Mindfulness training can be successfully administered online, both in real time and self-guided. The study was funded by a CSU Student Support Amenities Fee grant and involved a counsellor, a chaplain and a researcher whose combined Mindfulness and statistics expertise helped with the experimental design and analysis of the results.
Mr Geoff Simmons (BA BSW MAASW)
Geoff is a Mental Health Social Worker and has been the counsellor at the Albury-Wodonga campus of Charles Sturt University for 20 years, after working in the fields of services for homeless people and family counselling. As well as being involved in general counselling (both face to face and using various distance modes) and being a qualified Mental Health First Aid Trainer, he has completed training in Mindfulness-based Core Process Therapy (MbCPT), has undertaken numerous training courses in mindfulness including Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training, and meditation retreats. Geoff’s role in the research was to design the training course, develop the on-line modules and deliver the real-time training sessions via Adobe Connect.
Dr Mariagrazia Bellio (PhD-Environmental Science, Cert Oriental Philosophies Counselling, Cert Medical Neuroscience)
Maria brings two sets of expertise to the project: First, she holds a PhD in Environmental Science from the UNSW and has worked extensively in the field of Quantitative Ecology for more than 25 years. She has strong analytical research skills and as part of her research work she routinely undertakes data statistical analysis and interpretation. She has in the past and currently delivers courses on statistical training and research design at a tertiary level both nationally and internationally (e.g. China and Europe). Second, she has had a strong interest in practices of mindfulness-meditation for more than 15 years. She lived in Sri Lanka between 2005-2008, where she had the opportunity to deepen her knowledge about Buddhism and other oriental philosophies that involve the use of meditation practices. On her return to Australia she completed a Certificate in Oriental Philosophies Counselling and started her private counselling practice employing mindfulness and meditation as a form of therapy. In 2012 she completed a Certificate in Medical Neuroscience with Duke University (USA). In 2015 she was involved, as a trainer in mindfulness, in a project assessing the effect of mindfulness practice on improving work performance. She is currently enrolled as a student at Monash University to complete a Post-Graduate Diploma in Psychology. She has a strong interest in developing projects aimed at integrating oriental practices such as meditation and mindfulness with more traditional/mainstream therapies of western Medicine and Psychology. Maria’s primary role in the research was the development of the research design and analysis of the data, but she will also participated in some of the Adobe Connect sessions to help with monitoring and content delivery.
Rev Judy Redman (BScAgr, Grad Dip Nut & Diet, BD, MTheol Qual)
Judy was ordained by the Uniting Church in Australia in 1987 and has worked as a university chaplain for 19 years at four different universities. Her role as Ecumenical Chaplaincy Coordinator is spread across the Albury-Wodonga Campuses of both Charles Sturt and La Trobe Universities. She has specific training and experience in pastoral care and basic pastoral counselling, and has completed training in Mental Health First Aid. She has also been actively involved in running writing groups for research students using Adobe Connect for three years. In addition, she has been involved in multi-faith/interfaith activities for all her time in university chaplaincy and has attended a range of in-service activities in the area. She is interested in meditative aspects of faith and has made it possible for members of the campus community to use labyrinths. Judy’s role in the research was to develop specifically faith-related content for the project, to participate in and monitor the technical aspects of the Adobe Connect sessions and to oversee the Ethics side of the research.