Recent data show an increasing number of school-aged children and young people in Portugal with emotional, behavioral and / or mental health problems, compromising, among other factors, academic performance. Additional studies have alerted to high risk of stress and burnout of teachers, with a negative impact on their occupational health and professional performance.
Several decades of research have shown that early, youth-focused interventions such as socio-emotional learning can be effective in preventing or delaying the onset of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders, with clear lifelong benefits. As regards teachers, socio-emotional skills have also been referred to as a protective factor associated with promoting their health and well-being. Recently, a new educational approach, contemplative education, has gained prominence in promoting students' socio-emotional skills. One of the most studied contemplative practices in the educational context is mindfulness. In line with various studies conducted on the effectiveness of the mindfulness-based approaches, it is important to assess their impact on student well-being, positive and negative affect and other variables related to problems associated with the distress of both students and teachers (eg, negative affect, burnout).
This dissertation aims to contribute to increasing the scientific knowledge about the effectiveness of mindfulness-based approaches to promoting socioemotional skills in students and teachers. The objectives are: (1) to evaluate the effects of the MindUp program (developed specifically for children) on students and on the teachers who implemented it; (2) to evaluate the effects of the Atentamente (Attentively) program (developed specifically for teachers) on teachers, classroom climate, and their students; (3) to evaluate the medium-term stability of the Atentamente program effects on teachers and students; (4) to explore the mediating role of mindfulness in the impact of the intervention on teachers’ well-being, selfefficacy and burnout, at follow-up; (5) to evaluate the psychometric qualities of the Mental Health Continuum (Short Form) in two independent samples (children and
pre-adolescents). These objectives were operationalized in four studies.
Study 1 aimed at translating, adapting, implementing and exploring the effects of the MindUp program, which was applied to 3rd and 4th grade students by their teachers, on a pilot group of students and teachers. Participants in this study included 363 students and their 19 teachers.
Results indicated a significant increase in students’ socio-emotional skills and a decrease in their antisocial behaviors and a significant improvement in teachers' classroom management skills.
In Study 2 the effects of the MindUp program on students, and on teachers in an exploratory way, were evaluated through a quasi-experimental design, with two data collection points. The experimental group (EG) comprised 223 children from the 3rd and 4th grades and their 13 teachers. The control group (CG) included 231 3rd and 4th grade children and their 7 teachers. Results showed that on the posttest 58% of the MindUP children scored above the control group average on positive affect and 57% on shared humanity, while 58% scored below on negative affect and on suppression (emotional regulation strategy). In addition, 91% of the teachers who implemented the MindUP scored above the control group on observing, 86% on personal accomplishment and 82% on self-kindness.
Study 3 evaluated the psychometric qualities of the short and adapted Portuguese version of the Mental Health Continuum-Short Form (MHC-SF) in two independent samples of children and pre-adolescents. Sample 1 included 208 children and sample 2 comprised 216 pre-adolescents. The results confirm the three-dimensional structure of subjective well-being in both samples. The three MHC-SF subscales showed high internal consistency and the HTMT85 results indicated discriminant validity. The invariance test between three different age groups (7-8 years, 9-10 years and 11-14 years) confirmed the complete metric invariance and the approximate scalar invariance of the MHC-SF.
Study 4 evaluated the effects of the Atentamente program, a mindfulnessbased program aimed at teachers, on teachers, classroom climate, and their students.
It also the medium-term stability of the effects, and the mediating role of mindfulness in the impacts of the intervention in teachers, through an experimental design with three data collection points. The GE participants included 112 elementary school teachers, their 1381 students and their parents (n = 1271), while the GC included 93 elementary school teachers, their 1121 students and their parents (n = 914). The results showed that after the intervention GE teachers, compared to CG teachers,
reported a significant increase in mindfulness and emotional regulation, self-efficacy and well-being skills and a significant decrease in burnout symptoms. Similarly, a significant improvement in classroom behaviors of GE teachers related to engagement with students was found. In addition, significant improvements were found in GE students' perceptions of the quality of their teachers' involvement, of their own emotional regulation skills and well-being and in their social skills perceived by the parents. Finally, the results showed that mindfulness mediated the effects of the intervention on teachers depersonalization and well-being evidenced three months after the intervention (follow-up).
The results of these studies contribute to deepen the understanding of mindfulness-based interventions role in reducing teachers' stress symptoms and promoting their socio-emotional skills and well-being, in promoting a positive classroom climate and students' socio-emotional skills and well-being. In addition, results emphasize the importance of integrating mindfulness-based interventions in the continuing education for teachers and in the academic curriculum of elementary school pupils with a view to promoting their socio-emotional skills and well-being.