In 2009 the US Department of Education, Institute of Educational Sciences awarded a grant to Penn State University (with a subaward to the Garrison Institute) to refine and pilot test the effects of CARE in reducing teacher stress and improving teacher well-being, efficacy and mindfulness [i]. This randomized trial examined effects involving 50 teachers from urban and suburban schools in Pennsylvania. The results from the first cohort of teacher were published in the Journal of Classroom Interaction [ii], and in a volume on teacher education [iii]. Analyses of qualitative data were published in the journal Mindfulness [iv][v]. The findings from both cohorts of teachers were reported in School Psychology Quarterly [vi]. The findings showed significant improvements in well-being, efficacy, and mindfulness among teachers who participated in CARE compared to the control group. These findings, supported by the qualitative data, suggested that CARE is a promising tool to help teachers create and maintain a positive classroom learning environment, avoid burnout and attrition, and enjoy and excel in their work.
A second grant from the Institute of Educational Sciences (with a sub-award to Garrison Institute) involved a large multi-site randomized controlled trial in New York City public elementary schools. This study involved 224 teachers from 36 schools. The findings replicated previous results showing teacher improvements on emotional regulation, mindfulness and reductions in psychological distress and time management.
To examine teacher instructional quality, each classroom was observed both before and after CARE by trained researchers blind to the study aims and the teachers’ assignment. Compared to classrooms in the control group, CARE classrooms were more emotionally positive and the teachers demonstrated greater sensitivity to their students’ needs. In addition, CARE classrooms demonstrated higher degrees of productivity than did control classrooms. These results were published in 2017 in the Journal of Educational Psychology [vii]. More recently a follow-up report Journal of School Psychology (9.5 months after participating in the program), found that CARE teachers showed continued significant decreases in psychological distress, reductions in ache-related physical distress, significant increases in emotion regulation and some dimensions of mindfulness. Findings indicate that teachers who participated CARE reported both sustained and new benefits regarding their well-being at a follow-up assessment almost one-year post-intervention.
In a series of qualitative reports (published in American Journal of Education) [viii] and Mindfulness explore how CARE creates resilience that enables teachers to respond more compassionately with students and colleagues and how home practice impacts appraisal processes.
With today’s high levels of stress and burnout among teachers, districts are looking for science- tested means to support their teaching staff. The results of the CARE data are significant for several reasons. First, the series of CARE studies consistently show improvements for teachers that provide clear evidence that CARE is an effective professional development program for reducing teachers’ occupational stress and promoting their well-being. Second, the NYC study is the largest and most rigorous study of a mindfulness-based professional development for teachers and the first to examine intervention effects on the classroom. Third, the results of the NYC study showing impacts on the classroom are important because they demonstrate an important relationship between teachers’ well-being and classroom quality. Finally, this study is a “proof of concept” that a mindfulness-based intervention can have impacts on both individuals and their work environment.
[ii] Jennings, P. A., Snowberg, K. E., Coccia, M. A., & Greenberg, M. T. (2011). Improving classroom learning environments by Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE): Results of two pilot studies. Journal of Classroom Interactions. 46, 27-48.
[iii] Jennings, P. A. (2011). Promoting teachers’ social and emotional competencies to support performance and reduce burnout. In A. Cohan & A. Honigsfeld (Eds.) Breaking the Mold of Pre-service and In-service Teacher Education: Innovative and Successful Practices for the 21st Century. New York: Rowman and Littlefield. [PDF]
[iv] Sharp, J. E. & Jennings. P. A. (2016). Strengthening teacher presence through mindfulness: What educators say about the Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE) program. Mindfulness. 7, 209-218.
[v] Schussler, D. L., Jennings, P. A., Sharp, J. E. & Frank, J. L. (2016). Improving teacher awareness and well-being through CARE: A qualitative analysis of the underlying mechanisms. Mindfulness. 7, 1-13.
[vi] Jennings, P. A., Frank, J. L., Snowberg, K. E., Coccia, M. A., & Greenberg, M. T. (2013). Improving classroom learning environments by Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE): Results of a randomized controlled trial. School Psychology Quarterly, 28, 374-390.
[vii] Jennings, P. A., Brown, J. L., Frank, J. L., Doyle, S., Oh, Y., Davis, R., . . . Greenberg, M. T. (2017). Impacts of the CARE for teachers program on teachers’ social and emotional competence and classroom interactions. Journal of Educational Psychology, 109(7), 1010-1028.
[viii] Schussler, D. L., DeWeese, A. R., Rasheed, D., DeMauro, A., Brown, J. L., Greenberg, M. T. & Jennings, P. A. (2018) Stress and release: Case studies of teacher resilience following a mindfulness-based intervention. American Journal of Education, published online.