CALM Research

CALM is an evidence-based program that provides space and time to support educators daily wellbeing mindfully.

CALM has been implemented in K-12 schools in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Ohio and Kentucky.

The original pilot research was completed in State College, PA with two middle schools. Since then, CALM has been implemented in other school districts, such as Cleveland Metro Schools, Red Clay Schools in Delaware, and in 25 schools in Jefferson County, KY, as a part of the Compassionate Schools Project. Over 40 instructors have already been trained to facilitate CALM in schools.

CALM Logic Model

While CARE provides a retreat model for developing resilience and caring, CALM is founded on a place-based daily model which provides a school community with a local model of practice. The logic behind CALM (as seen in Figure 1) is that by participating regularly in daily activities like mindful awareness of present moment experiences, breathing exercises, gentle movement, and intention setting, participants will gain strength in emotion regulation, attention, and the ability to manage stress. This practice is hypothesize to improve wellbeing, healthier physiological functioning, better professional efficacy, and create a more positive relational climate in the workplace. The CALM intervention was manualized, and each week involved a different thematic focus (e.g., present-centered awareness, balance, acceptance, contentment) with variations on the theme in each of the four daily sessions.

Study 1 – CALM with Educators

To test this program, Penn State researchers partnered with teachers, administrators, and staff from State College middle schools to conduct an evaluation of CALM. Two Pennsylvania middle schools volunteered to be considered for the trial with one serving as the intervention, and one as a waiting-list control school. Sixty-four educators (42 teachers, 22 paraprofessionals, learning support, etc.) in two schools (intervention school, n=34; control school, n=30) enrolled.The CALM intervention was offered for four days per weeks for 16 weeks (64 sessions).

Results indicated that CALM was feasible to implement. Educators who were offered CALM attended an average of 1.7 sessions per week. Compared to teachers in a “control school” educators participating in CALM reported greater mindful observation, which means they felt more in tune with their sensations and emotions. Compared to educators in the control school, CALM participants showed improved wellbeing, reporting more positive emotions and fewer physical symptoms (like headaches and stomach aches).

Findings also showed that educators handled distress more easily and felt better able to manage their classrooms. There were data trends suggesting they also experienced less time pressure and burnout.

To assess parameters of stress physiology and physical health, pre and post intervention assessment were made of cortisol (stress physiology) as well heart rate and blood pressure.  Findings showed that CALM participants showed a significant lowering of their diastolic blood pressure compared to controls, Further, significant differences showed that CALM helped maintain healthy cortisol functioning throughout the school year. See [i] for further findings.    A separate publication focusing only on stress physiology indicated that CALM acted a buffering effect showing that it created resilience at the physiological level, compared the control teachers who showed a substantial increase in stress as measured by cortisol across the school year [ii].

Study 2 – CALM with Staff of Long-Term Care Facilities

To assess the effects of CALM II, Penn State researchers in prevention and aging conducted a quasi-experimental study involving two long-term care facilities. 48 staff from the two facilities participated in the evaluation study. Initial, unpublished results, indicated that long-term care staff who received CALM II show promising effects compared to staff in the comparison facility, showing improvement in their mindful awareness, reductions in time-related job stress, perceived stress, negative ruminating thoughts, and lower rates of intentions to leave their positions.

For more information on CALM research or inquires regarding workshops, please contact Alexis Harris.

[i] Harris, A. R., Jennings, P. A., Katz, D. A., Abenavoli, R. M., & Greenberg, M. T. (2015). Promoting Stress Management and Well-Being in Educators: Outcomes of the CALM Intervention. Mindfulness, 7,143-154. DOI 10.1007/s12671-015-0451-2[ii] Katz, D. A., Harris, A., Jennings, P. A., Greenberg, M. T. & Abenavoli, R. (2017) Educators’ Emotion Regulation Strategies and Their Physiological Indicators of Chronic Stress Over One Year, Stress and Health. 1-8.