Skip to main content Accessibility help

‘Making space’: a study into the use of mindfulness for alternative school teachers

  • Kim Preston (a1) and Rebecca Spooner-Lane (a1)

As teachers seek to educate and transform lives, often with limited resources and time, they can experience varying levels of stress and emotional exhaustion, particularly if effective emotion regulation strategies are not employed. The experience of teacher stress may be heightened in alternative schools that provide educational opportunities for students who present with complex needs and are ‘at-risk’ of withdrawing from the conventional school system. This case study explored the perceived outcomes of a 6-week school-based mindfulness program to manage stress and support the emotion regulation of four teachers at a metropolitan Australian alternative school. The study took a mixed-methods approach to data collection, which included self-report questionnaires, interview responses and journal reflections. A number of limitations, such as small sample size and lack of experimental design, had an impact on the generalisability of the study’s findings. However, a range of beneficial outcomes emerged in association with the mindfulness program, revealing that participants experienced increased levels of both mindfulness and emotion regulation ability, in conjunction with decreased stress and emotional exhaustion levels.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author. Email:
Hide All
ACORN. (2007). Reliable change index. Retrieved from
Anderson, V. L., Levinson, E. M., Barker, W., & Kiewra, K. R. (1999). The effects of meditation on teacher perceived occupational stress, state and trait anxiety, and burnout. School Psychology Quarterly, 14, 325. doi: 10.1037/h0088995
Australian Industry Group & Dusseldorp Skills Forum. (2007). It’s crunch time. Raising youth engagement and attainment. Sydney, Australia: Dusseldorp Skills Forum. Retrieved from
Baer, R. A. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: A conceptual and empirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 125143. doi: 10.1093/clipsy/bpg015
Baer, R. A. (2014). Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ). Retrieved from
Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Hopkins, J., Krietemeyer, J., & Toney, L. (2006). Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness. Assessment, 13, 2745. doi: 10.1177/1073191105283504
Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Lykins, E., Button, D., Krietemeyer, J., Sauer, S., … Williams, J. M. G. (2008). Construct validity of the five facet mindfulness questionnaire in meditating and non-meditating samples. Assessment, 15, 329342. doi: 10.1177/1073191107313003
Benn, R., Akiva, T., Arel, S., & Roeser, R. W. (2012). Mindfulness training effects for parents and educators of children with special needs. Developmental Psychology, 48, 14761487. doi: 10.1037/a0027537
Bernay, R. S. (2014). Mindfulness and the beginning teacher. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 39, 5769. doi: 10.14221/ajte.2014v39n7.6
Berry, B., & Center for Teaching Quality. (2007). Recruiting and retaining quality teachers for high-needs schools: Insights from NBCT summits and other policy initiatives. Carrboro, NC: Center for Teaching Quality.
Bishop, S. R., Lau, M., Shapiro, S., Carlson, L., Anderson, N. D., Carmody, J., … Devins, G. (2004). Mindfulness: A proposed operational definition. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11, 230241. doi: 10.1093/clipsy/bph077
Brackett, M. A., Palomera, R., Kaja, J. M., Reyes, M. R., & Salovey, P. (2010). Emotion regulation ability, burnout, and job satisfaction among British secondary school teachers. Psychology in the Schools, 47, 406417. doi: 10.1002/pits.20478
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77101. doi: 10.1191/1478088706qp063oa
Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 822848. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.84.4.822
Brown, K. W., Ryan, R. M., & Creswell, J. D. (2007). Mindfulness: Theoretical foundations and evidence for its salutary effects. Psychological Enquiry, 18, 211237. doi: 10.1080/10478400701598298
Cancio, E. J., & Conderman, G. (2008). Promoting longevity: Strategies for teachers of students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Beyond Behavior, 17, 3036.
Chan, D. W. (2006). Emotional intelligence and components of burnout amongst Chinese secondary school teachers in Hong Kong. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22, 10421054. doi: 10.1016/j.tate.2006.04.005
Chang, M.-L. (2013). Toward a theoretical model to understand teacher emotions and teacher burnout in the context of student misbehavior: Appraisal, regulation, and coping. Motivation and Emotion, 37, 799817. doi: 10.1007/s11031-012-9335-0
Chiesa, A., Serretti, A., & Jakobsen, J. C. (2013). Mindfulness: Top-down or bottom-up emotion regulation strategy? Clinical Psychology Review, 33, 8296. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2012.10.006
Crain, T. L., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Roeser, R. W. (2017). Cultivating teacher mindfulness: Effects of a randomized controlled trial on work, home and sleep outcomes. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 22, 138152. doi: 10.1037/ocp0000043
Darling-Hammond, L. (2001). Constructing 21st-century teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 57, 115. doi: 10.1177/0022476105285962
De Jong, T., & Griffiths, C. (2006). The role of alternative education programs in meeting the needs of adolescent students with challenging behaviour: Characteristics of best practice. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 16, 2940. doi: 10.1375/ajgc.16.1.29
Dyson, M., & Plunkett, M. (2012). Alternative settings — Alternative teachers? Reflections on teaching outside the mainstream. In Joint AARE APERA International Conference. Sydney, Australia: AARE/APERA.
Emerson, L.-M., Leyland, A., Hudson, K., Rowse, G., Hanley, P., & High-Jones, S. (2017). Teaching mindfulness to teachers: A systematic review and narrative synthesis. Mindfulness, 8, 11361149. doi: 10.1007/s12671-017-0691-4
EREA. (2016a). Flexible learning centre information brochure. Brisbane, Australia: Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA).
EREA. (2016b). Foundation statement. Brisbane, Australia: EREA. Retrieved from
Farb, N. A. S., Anderson, A. K., Irving, J. A., & Segal, Z. V. (2013). Mindfulness interventions and emotion regulation. In Gross, J. J. (Ed.), Handbook of emotion regulation (2nd ed., pp. 548567). New York, NY: Guilford Publications.
Flook, L., Goldberg, S. B., Pinger, L., Bonus, K., & Davidson, R. J. (2013). Mindfulness for teachers: A pilot study to assess effects on stress, burnout and teaching efficacy. Mind Brain and Education, 7, 122. doi: 10.1111/mbe.12026
Frank, J. L., Reibel, D., Broderick, P., Cantrell, T., & Metz, S. (2015). The effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction on educator stress and well-being: Results from a pilot study. Mindfulness, 6, 208216. doi: 10.1007/s12671-013-0246-2
Fresco, D. M., Moore, M. T., van Dulmen, M. H., Segal, Z. V., Ma, S. H., Teasdale, J. D., & Williams, J. M. (2007). Initial psychometric properties of the Experiences questionnaire: Validation of a self-report measure of decentering. Behavior Therapy, 38, 234246. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2006.08.003
Füstös, J., Gramann, K., Herbert, B. M., & Pollatos, O. (2013). On the embodiment of emotion regulation: Interoceptive awareness facilitates reappraisal. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 8, 911917. doi: 10.1093/scan/nss089
Garland, E. L., Gaylord, S. A., & Frederickson, B. L. (2011). Positive reappraisal coping mediates the stress-reductive effect of mindfulness: An upward spiral process. Mindfulness, 2, 5967. doi: 10.1007/s12671-011-0043-8
Garrison Institute. (2014). Database of programmes. Retrieved from
Gold, E., Smith, A., Hopper, I., Herne, D., Tansey, G., & Hulland, C. (2010). Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) for primary school teachers. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19, 184189. doi: 10.1007/s10826-009-9344-0
Gross, J. J. (1998a). Antecedent- and response-focused emotion regulation: Divergent consequences for experience, expression, and physiology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 224237. doi: 10.1037//0022-3414.74.1.224
Gross, J. J. (1998b). The emerging field of emotion regulation: An integrative review. Review of General Psychology, 2, 271299. doi: 10.1037/1089-2680.2.3.271
Gross, J. J. (2015). Emotion regulation: Current status and future prospects. Psychological Inquiry, 26, 126. doi: 10.1080/1047840x.2014.940781
Gross, J. J., & John, O. P. (2003). Individual differences in two emotion regulation processes: Implications for affect, relationships, and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 348362. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.85.2.348
Grossman, P. (2008). On measuring mindfulness in psychosomatic and psychological research. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 64, 405408. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2008.02.001
Henry, J. D., & Crawford, J. R. (2005). The short-form version of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS-21): Construct validity and normative data in a large non-clinical sample. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 44, 227239. doi: 10.1348/014466505X29657
Holzel, B. K., Lazar, S. W., Gard, T., Schuman-Olivier, Z., Vago, D., & Ott, U. (2011). How does mindfulness meditation work? Proposing mechanisms of action from a conceptual and neural perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6, 537–339. doi: 10.1177/1745691611419671
Hosotani, R., & Imai-Matsumura, K. (2011). Emotional experience, expression, and regulation of high-quality Japanese elementary school teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27, 10391048. doi: 10.1016/j.tate.2011.03.010
Hulsheger, U. R., Alberts, H. J. E. M., Feinholdt, A., & Lang, J. W. B. (2013). Benefits of mindfulness at work: The role of mindfulness in emotion regulation, emotional exhaustion and job satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98, 310325. doi: 10.1037/90031313
Ioannidis, C. A., & Siegling, A. B. (2015). Criterion and incremental validity of the emotion regulation questionnaire. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 110. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00247
Jennings, P. A., Frank, J. L., Snowberg, K., Coccia, M., & 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, 374390. doi: 10.1037/spq0000035
Jennings, P. A. & Greenberg, M. T. (2009). The prosocial classroom: Teacher social and emotional competence in relation to student and classroom outcomes. Review of Educational Research, 79, 491525. doi: 10.3102/0034654308325693
Jennings, P. A., Lantieri, L., & Roeser, R. W. (2012). Supporting educational goals through cultivating mindfulness: Approaches for teachers and students. In Brown, P. M., Corrigan, M. W., & Higgins-D’Alessandro, A. (Eds.), Handbook of prosocial education (pp. 371397). Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield.
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 Interaction, 46, 3748.
Johnson, S., Cooper, C., Cartwright, S., Donald, I., Taylor, P., & Millet, C. (2005). The experience of work-related stress across occupations. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 20, 178187.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York, NY: Dell.
Koeske, G. F., & Koeske, R. D. (1989). Construct validity of the Maslach Burnout Inventory: A critical review and reconceptualization. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 25, 131144. doi: 10.1177/0021886389252004
Kyriacou, C. (2001). Teacher stress: Directions for future research. Educational Review, 53, 2735. doi: 10.1080/00131910124115
Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal and coping. New York, NY: Springer.
Lehr, C. A., & Lange, C. M. (2003). Alternative schools and the students they serve: Perceptions of state directors of special education. Policy Research Brief, 14, 111.
Lehr, C. A., Moreau, R. A., Lange, C. M., & Lanners, E. J. (2004). Alternative schools. Findings from a national survey of the states (Report No. 2). Minneapolis, MN: Institute on Community Integration.
Lehr, C. A., Tan, C. S., & Ysseldyke, J. (2009). Alternative schools: A synthesis of state-level policy and research. Remedial and Special Education, 30, 1932. doi: 10.1177/0741932508315645
Lomas, T., Medina, J. C., Ivtzan, I., Rupprecht, S., & Eiroa-Orosa, F. J. (2017). The impact of mindfulness on the wellbeing and performance of educators: A systematic review of the literature. Teaching and Teacher Education, 61, 132141. doi: 10.1016/j.tate.2016.10.008
Lovibond, P., & Camilleri, L. (2014, November 10). Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS). Retrieved from
Lovibond, S. H., & Lovibond, P. F. (1995) Manual for the depression anxiety stress scale (2nd ed.). Sydney, Australia: UNSW School of Psychology.
Maslach, C., & Jackson, S. E. (1981). The measurement of experienced burnout. Journal of Occupational Behavior, 2, 99113. doi: 10.1002/job.4030020203
Maslach, C., Jackson, S. E., & Leiter, M. P. (1996) Maslach Burnout Inventory manual (3rd ed.). Palo Alto, CA: CPP.
Maslach, C., Jackson, S. E., Leiter, M. P., Schaufeli, W. B., & Schwab, R. L. (2015). Maslach Burnout Inventory. Menlo Park, CA: Mind Garden Inc. Retrieved from
McGregor, G., & Mills, M. (2012). Alternative education sites and marginalised young people: ‘I wish there were more schools like this one’. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 16, 843862. doi: 10.1080/13603116.2010.529467
Montgomery, C., & Rupp, A. (2005). A meta-analysis for exploring the diverse causes and effects of stress in teachers. Canadian Journal of Education, 28, 458486. doi: 10.2307/4126479
Morgan, A. (2013). Different ways of being educator: A sociocultural exploration of educator identity and development in practice, in a system of non-traditional flexi schools (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia.
Pietarinen, J., Pyhältö, K., Soini, T., & Salmela-Aro, K. (2013) Reducing teacher burnout: A socio-contextual approach. Teaching and Teacher Education, 35, 6272. doi: 10.1016/j.tate.2013.05.003
Poulin, P. A. (2009). Mindfulness-based wellness education: A longitudinal evaluation with students in initial teacher education (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.
Precey, M. (2015, March 17). Teacher stress levels in England ‘soaring’ data shows. BBC News. Retrieved from
Roeser, R. W., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Jha, A., Cullen, M., Wallace, L., Wilensky, R., … Harrison, J. (2013). Mindfulness training and reductions in teacher stress and burnout: Results from two randomized, waitlist-control field trials. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105, 787804. doi: 10.1037/a0032093
Safe Work Australia. (2015). Work-related mental disorders profile. Canberra, Australia: Author. Retrieved from
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, 130142. doi: 10.1007/s12671-015-0422-7
Segal, Z. V., Teasdale, J. D., & Williams, J. M. G. (2004). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: Theoretical rationale and empirical status. In Hayes, S, Follette, V., & Linehan, M. (Eds.), Mindfulness and acceptance: Expanding the cognitive-behavioral tradition. New York, NY: The Guildford Press.
Shapiro, S. L., Carlson, L. E., Astin, J. A., & Freedman, B. (2006). Mechanisms of mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62, 373386. doi: 10.1002/jclp.20237
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, 209218. doi: 10.1007/s12671-015-0474-8
Sharplin, E., O’Neill, M., & Chapman, A. (2011). Coping strategies for adaptation to new teacher appointments: Intervention for retention. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27, 136146. doi: 10.1016/j.tate.2010.07.010
Shay, M. (2013). Practices of alternative schools in Queensland in supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to remain engaged in education (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.
Siegling, A. B., & Petrides, K. V. (2014). Measure of trait mindfulness: Convergent validity, shared dimensionality, and linkages to the five-factor model. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 18. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014/01164
Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Winton, A. S. W., Karazsia, B. T., & Singh, J. (2013). Mindfulness training for teachers changes the behavior of their preschool students. Research in Human Development, 10, 211233. doi: 10.1080/15427609.2013.818484
Soloway, G. B. (2011). Preparing teacher candidates for the present: Exploring the praxis of mindfulness training in teacher education (Doctoral dissertation). University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.
Swars, S. L., Meyers, B., Mays, L. C., & Lack, B. (2009). A two-dimensional model of teacher retention and mobility: Classroom teachers and their university partners take a closer look at a vexing problem. Journal of Teacher Education, 60, 168183. doi: 10.1177/0022487108329116
Taylor, C., Harrison, J., Haimovitz, K., Oberle, E., Thomson, K., Schonert-Reichl, K., & Roeser, R. W. (2016). Examining ways that a mindfulness-based intervention reduces stress in public school teachers: A mixed methods study. Mindfulness, 7, 115129. doi: 10.1007/s12671-015-0425-4
te Riele, K. (2007). Educational alternatives for marginalised youth. Australian Educational Researcher, 34, 5368. doi: 10.1007/bf03216865
te Riele, K. (2012). Learning choices: A map for the future. Dusseldorp Skills Forum. Retrieved from
te Riele, K. (2014). Putting the jigsaw together: Flexible learning programs in Australia: Final report. Melbourne, Australia: The Victoria Institute.
Tsouloupas, C. N., Carson, R. L., Matthews, R., Grawitch, M. J., & Barber, L. K. (2010). Exploring the association between teachers’ perceived student misbehaviour and emotional exhaustion: The importance of teacher efficacy beliefs and emotion regulation. Educational Psychology: An International Journal of Experimental Educational Psychology, 30, 173189. doi: 10.1080/01443410903494460
U.K. Network of Mindfulness-Based Teacher Trainers. (2011, November). Guidelines. Retrieved from
Van Dam, N. T., Earleywine, M., & Danoff-Burg, S. (2009). Differential item function across meditators and non-meditators on the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire. Personality and Individual Differences, 47, 516521. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2009.05.005
Vogt, P. W. (Ed.). (2005). Social desirability bias. In Dictionary of statistics & methodology (3rd ed., p. 301). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Weinstein, N., Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2009). A multi-method examination of the effects of mindfulness on stress attribution, coping, and emotional well-being. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 374385. doi: 10.1016/j.jrp.2008.12.008
Wilson, K., Stemp, K., & McGinty, S. (2011). Re-engaging young people with education and training. What are the alternatives? Youth Studies Australia, 30, 3239.
Winzelberg, A. J., & Luskin, F. M. (1999). The effect of a meditation training in stress levels in secondary school teachers. Stress Medicine, 15, 6977. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1099-1700(199904)15:2<69::aid-smi787>;2-w
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools
  • ISSN: 2055-6365
  • EISSN: 2055-6373
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-psychologists-and-counsellors-in-schools
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed