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Mindfulness and education for sustainable development: how to nurture socioemotional competencies

Marketing y Comunicación | Artículo
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  • May 2021
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To address the challenges of the complex sustainability problems that lay ahead, today’s learners need to cultivate a wider range of competencies. UNESCO proposed a framework of eight key competencies, namely, systems thinking, anticipatory, normative, strategic, collaboration, critical thinking, self-awareness, and integrated problem-solving competence. However, traditionally, in the context of education for sustainable development, the focus on cognitive skills has been overemphasized. Thus, the development of other than cognitive competencies, such as socioemotional competencies (e.g., empathy or compassion), seems to be essential. However, they are harder to cultivate. To this purpose, research in education for sustainable development demands new learning systems.

In this study, mindfulness practice, the cultivation of body and mind as they are interdependent, is posited as an alternative learning method to holistically cultivate learners. The enhancement of socioemotional competencies through mindfulness practice provides them with intrapersonal and interpersonal skills that will ease the way of sustainability transitions by promoting factors such as better self-regulation of emotions or the creation of more positive relationships.

In particular, this study conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the efficacy of mindfulness practices to nurture this set of competencies as well as to identify in which conditions mindfulness interventions would achieve better results. To do so, the framework of key competencies in education for sustainable development proposed by Wiek, Withycombe, & Redman’s framework (2011) was complemented with other fundamental frameworks from which a search string of key terms was built. As a result, out of the 67 studies that were identified, 18 studies were included in the review and 12 in the meta-analysis.

The main findings are the following:

Mindfulness practices are effective in nurturing socioemotional competencies, although the size of the effect is small. However, some differential effects were found. Thus, a greater effect was found for emotional regulation followed by resilience, empathy, and social connectedness. The ability to manage emotions enables learners to achieve more efficiency to improve their academic performance as well as to handle stressful situations among other factors, which is particularly relevant in the promotion of sustainability transitions. Additionally, three aspects were identified as the most important to consider in the implementation of mindfulness practices to cultivate this set of competencies: customization of the mindfulness programs to the objective pursued (e.g., self-compassion) and to the sustainability domain (e.g., mindful climate action curriculum); length and frequency of the mindfulness practices: the longer and more intense the better; mindfulness interventions targeted to both learners and teachers.

Through this study, a twofold contribution to previous research on education for sustainable development is made. First, the study reviews the relationship between mindfulness practices and socioemotional competencies in the context of sustainability as well as empirically measures the effects of existing mindfulness practices in this matter, a line of research not yet addressed. Second, some recommendations for future implementations of mindfulness-based programs are provided so that their efficacy in sustainable education settings is improved.

 

  • Ana M. Gómez-Olmedo is a lecturer in the Marketing and Business Administration Department at ESIC Business & Marketing School. She teaches undergraduate courses. Her research focuses on the benefits of mindfulness on transitions to sustainability, particularly through education.
  • Carmen Valor, Ph. D., is a lecturer in the Marketing Department at Universidad Pontificia Comillas. She teaches Research Methods to both undergraduate and graduate students. Her research focuses on transitions to sustainability and especially on sustainable consumption.
  • Isabel Carrero, Ph. D., is a lecturer in the Marketing Department at Universidad Pontificia Comillas. She teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Her research has focused on consumer behaviour.

 


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