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Fisher’s S-STEM Team Shares Class-Based Mindfulness Practices at Conference

October 25, 2020

On Sunday, Oct. 25, faculty members on St. John Fisher College’s National Science Foundation (NSF) S-STEM grant team presented an 80-minute workshop as part of the 64th annual Association of College and University Biology Educators (ACUBE) virtual meeting.

Logo: Association of College and University Biology Educators

Dr. Melissa Goodwin, chair and associate professor of psychology; Dr. Sara Goodman, assistant professor of psychology; Dr. Noveera Ahmed, chair and associate professor of biology; Dr. Michelle Erklenz-Watts, director of academic student support and associate professor of education; and Dr. Kristin Picardo, professor of biology and director of the Center for Student Research and Creative Work, contributed to the presentation.

The team delivered the workshop, “A moment can change your mind: mindfulness and mindset interventions to increase success and persistence in STEM,” to demonstrate how class-based mindfulness and mindset interventions and activities can be infused throughout a STEM curriculum and students’ college experience. Activities include a ‘mindful minute,’ reflective journaling, and cognitive reframing and strategizing practices regarding content as well as lived experience.

The team’s NSF funded research demonstrates the effectiveness of an academic experience infused with mindfulness (a practice known to lead the structural and functional changes in the brain) and mindset exercises (a practice known to lead to differential responses to challenge and difficulty) on increased persistence and success in biology and chemistry for academically talented, economically challenged students. By coupling strategic mindset selection training with mindfulness practice, students and educators alike can learn to take advantage of a momentary pause in order to make a metacognitively appropriate shift in motivational framing of a task or challenge. Early findings indicate 100 percent retention and academic success of NSF S-STEM supported students in the program, even in the midst of the disruption throughout the ongoing global pandemic.

One activity the team shared is the ‘mindful minute.’ In a seminar course for first-year S-STEM scholars, students were introduced to the concepts of mindfulness and mindset. They were then asked to regularly apply the practice of mindfulness to specific situations they encountered along their first year in their STEM classes and transition to college life. To do so, the group decided on a particular challenge they had in common. They then explored what a growth mindset response might be, a fixed mindset response, and how to harness the power of the ‘pause’ to make a decision about the best way to move forward.

In the workshop, the team described the literature behind the neuroscientific basis for applying mindfulness and mindset practices to student learning and modeled how educators can use these practices in their classrooms as well as in their own professional development. Attendees of the talk created concept maps and applied reflective practice strategies used when teaching content.

This material in the presentation was based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No.1833904. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.