Mindfulness & Neuroscience Professional Training Day- Tuesday 23rd September

“The brain changes as the mind is activated in specific ways. The way you repeatedly focus attention activates specific circuits in the brain stimulating the growth of the architectural features of the brain.” Dan Siegel

“Directing attention skilfully through mindfulness is therefore a fundamental way to shape the brain – and one’s life over time.” Ric Hanson


Tuesday 23rd September 
 
Cost:    $150.00 per person, includes morning tea, lunch & handouts.

 

Venue: Pathways to Resilience Trust, 9a/10 Thomas Street, West End.

Time:   9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Parking:  There is metered parking available in surrounding streets, and we are easy to access by public transport

RSVP: click here or call 07 3169 2400

Numbers will be strictly limited – so get in early!

For more information, view our training brochure here

 

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It’s All In Your Mindset

From birth we are taught that some people are ‘talented’ and ‘gifted’ when it comes to certain traits, whether it be intelligence, creativity, personality or sporting prowess. As children, we attend schools and clubs that continually instil in us the idea that failure is bad and losing is for, well, losers.  We are told to fear failure and reap success, but what if we embraced failure? What if intelligence wasn’t fixed? What if ‘gifted’ just meant ‘resilient’?

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Carol S Dweck’s seminal research on the psychology of Mindsets is igniting much discussion and change in the fields of education, coaching and parenting. The Harvard Professor’s research has concluded that people have either a fixed or growth mindset when it comes to assessing certain traits and abilities. In short, those with a fixed mindset believe that certain ‘talents’ are fixed and cannot be changed, that if you have to ‘try’ to be excellent then you’re not REALLY that good after all. On the other side of the coin are those who have a growth mindset, people who don’t believe in the idea of being ‘special’ and that talent is just a starting point; true success comes from effort, engagement and tenacity. Fundamentally, Dweck tells us that intelligence and other traits that many deem as being ‘natural’ are in fact malleable and can be improved and enhanced through practice, challenge and resilience.

Dweck’s work within this area of people’s potential stems from her own experiences of having her intelligence and potential labelled by her sixth grade teacher who believed that a person’s IQ told the whole story of who they were. In her book, she describes what happened in her sixth-grade class:

Even as a child, I was focused on being smart, but the fixed mindset was really stamped in by Mrs. Wilson, my sixth-grade teacher… She believed that people’s IQ scores told the whole story of who they were. We were seated around the room in IQ order, and only the highest-IQ students could be trusted to carry the flag, clap the erasers, or take a note to the principal. Aside from the daily stomach-aches she provoked with her judgemental stance, she was creating a mindset in which everyone in the class had one consuming goal—look smart, don’t look dumb. Who cared about or enjoyed learning when our whole being was at stake every time she gave us a test or called on us in class?

Fixed Failure v Growth Failure

No matter what mindset we have, failure will always find us and for those with a growth mindset, this is a great thing as it provides yet another opportunity to learn and improve. But for those who hold a fixed mindset, failure is a crippling and distressing act that can lead to severe mental trauma. Dweck’s work explains that someone who adopts a fixed mindset when they encounter failure no longer see it as an action but rather an identity, a label that they use to judge themselves and those around them. Consequently, those who have achieved a successful outcome will turn down any further challenging opportunities that may put their ‘successful’ identity at risk for the fear of failing as ‘if you’re a somebody when you’re successful, what are you when you’re unsuccessful?’ ‘This mindset’ , Dweck states, ‘gives you no good respite for overcoming it. If failure means you lack competence or potential- that you are a failure- where do you go from there?’ Thus, resiliency is abandoned for blame, anxiety and depression. The growth mindset, however, doesn’t see failure in the same pervasive manner. Dweck found that for these people, failure is still a tough pill to swallow, but it doesn’t define them. Instead, failure is something to be faced, dealt with and learnt from; as a result, these people become resilient and tenacious in many areas of their lives, from work to relationships.

The Paradox of Praise

Dweck lists many actions that parents, coaches and educators adopt to instruct and educate young children that often lead to them adopting a fixed mindset, and the most surprising one can also be the most damaging: praise. Yes, that thing that we have been told to do to build a child’s self-esteem, to reward a student who has achieved 100%, to bestow on somebody who has done something exceptional- well, it can be extremely counter productive.

Dr Dweck conducted research with hundreds of students. She gave each student a set of 10 simple problems to solve from a non-verbal IQ test. Most of the students did well and when they’d finished, she praised some of the students for their ability (“you got a high score, you must be smart”) and some for their effort (“you got a high score, you must have worked hard”).

Both groups were exactly equal to begin with but, after receiving praise, some students started to suffer. The students whose ability was praised were pushed into the fixed mindset. When they were given a choice, they rejected a challenging new task that they could learn from, opting for more of the same instead. Dweck believes that this is ultimately due to the fact that they didn’t want to do anything which would expose flaws in their intelligence and bring their talent into question. In contrast, 90 per cent of the students whose effort was praised wanted to try the challenging new task precisely because they could learn from it.

Dr Dweck concluded that praising ability actually lowered students’ IQ whereas praising effort raised them. She also said that praising children’s intelligence harmed their motivation because, although children love to be praised, especially for their talents, as soon as they hit a problem their confidence disappears and their motivation stops. If success means they’re clever, then failure means they’re stupid.

Praise and Labels

Dweck’s research concludes that children have the most to lose from adopting a fixed mindset, and it is therefore essential that those of us who work with these vulnerable minds are able to use and foster a culture that reinforces a growth mindset approach to all aspects of life, from developing friendships to academic potential. And the way we praise and deliver feedback to a child is essential to this growth. Praising a child for being a ‘natural athlete’ rather than praising them for their dedication to training three evenings a week undermines their commitment and hard work; the actual skills that have lead to their athletic ability. Rewarding and labelling a student as ‘brilliant’ for finishing a test ‘quickly’ sends the message that if they don’t complete it as quickly next time, then they are not as good, and ultimately causes them distress in undertaking further challenging activities. Dweck’s work also tells us that this student would shy away from completing more challenging tests for fear of not living up to their ‘brilliance’. Instead, they would choose to undertake work that was of a similar difficulty level or easier so that they could uphold this label of being ‘brilliant’.

Fixed Mindset Narratives

But it is not surprising that this ‘fixed’ vocabulary is so often used when we evaluate performance; it has been instilled in us from a very young age through stories of success. Dweck uses the example of the tale of the tortoise and the hare to exemplify this point: the moral of this narrative is that success is either determined by being naturally talented (the speedy hare) or by expanding no effort (the slow and steady tortoise). Both of these assessments reinforce a fixed mindset when it comes to achievement as although the tortoise wins, it is not through problem solving, devising strategies or skilful collaboration; he too focuses on his ‘inherent’ capabilities and just slowly plods on.

The outcome of Dweck’s dedicated research seems more common sense than ground-breaking study: effort, resilience and tenacity are the real ingredients for success and potential, not ‘special gifts’ and ‘natural talents’. As Dweck states in her book, ‘what’s so heroic about having a gift?’ And she’s right: surely it’s more impressive to value your achievements based on how they were achieved as opposed to what was achieved. These findings are also nothing new when it comes to pedagogy; Benjamin Bloom, an eminent educational researcher renowned for his work with high achievers concluded that, “After forty years of intensive research on school learning in the United States as well as abroad, my major conclusion is: What any person in the world can learn, almost all persons can learn, if provided with the appropriate prior and current conditions of learning.” Thus, the foundations we lay for young people as they build their skills and capabilities must be conducive to growth and make room for failure; only then will they be able to fulfil their potential.

Changing Your Mindset

What is most promising from Dr. Dweck’s research is that we can change our mindsets from fixed to growth through our understanding of how the brain works. From educating others about the neurological processes behind stress to knowing strategies for enhancing neuroplasticity, we are able to not only change our own mindsets but also those around us: our communities, our families, our students and our children.

Grow Your Mindset:

Choose Neuroscience over Neuroses!

Neuroscience has changed our understanding of intelligence and has shown that your brain can grow. Make neuroscience a focus for your personal and professional development.

If you fall, bounce back up!

Failure has become one of the ugliest words in our vernacular and people will do anything and everything to avoid it. And if they can’t avoid it, they let it consume them. Practice resilience building skills and see every adversity as an opportunity.

Plan for Positivity!

Have you avoided doing something because it involves a risk to your supposed ‘identity’? Not trying out for a sports team? Avoiding certain ‘talented’ peers? Stop hiding and start planning! Make a plan to do something that you’ve always wanted to but were too afraid. Make sure the plan is achievable by forming habits that encourage consistency and are also realistic. Committing to joining a social soccer club and planning to leave work early one evening a week to train is much more rewarding and empowering than planning to be captain of the Soccerooos. I’m not saying it won’t happen, but having smaller, achievable goals will make the likelihood of you owning the next captaincy all the more realistic.

For further research examples, watch Carol Dweck’s talk from the ‘Happiness & Its Causes’ Conference that was held in Melbourne last October.

New Study Reveals SEL Program Increases Literacy and Numeracy Skills and Decreases Behaviour Problems in Early Childhood.

Researchers at New York University have found that a Social and Emotional Learning Program aimed at decreasing behavioural problems in order to increase academic competencies has improved the reading and mathematic skills among low income kindergärtners and first graders.

The importance of SEL programs in the curriculum has always been met with contention due to the often conflicting demands of the education system: academic intelligence is often held in higher regard than emotional and social intelligence as universities and employers make offers based on students’ academic performance rather than their wellbeing and social skills. With so many time constraints dictating the content of the curriculum, educators are often forced to prioritise their time teaching the material that will ultimately lead to positive academic outcomes for students and reaching their appropriate level as opposed to their optimal social and emotional wellbeing. Researchers at New York University’s Steinhardt Department have conducted a study that finally illuminates the correlation between increased  social and emotional skills and improved academic performance, concluding that the implementation of an SEL program to curb behavioural issues and promote self-regulatory practices ALSO benefits students reading and math skills as students utilise the SEL strategies to improve their focus and engagement in daily classroom activities.
In their study, researchers at New York University selected 22 schools from low-income neighbourhoods and randomly assigned 11 of them to the SEL program INSIGHTS and the other 11 to a supplemental reading program. All in all, 435 children across 122 classrooms participated in 10 weekly sessions, with parents also receiving training concerning child management strategies throughout the 10 week period to provide consistency in the approaches being adopted inside and outside the classroom.

The Results
The results of the study provided convincing evidence of the benefits of a universal SEL program, not just on self-regulation, but for improving children’s academic development. Children who took part in the INSIGHTS program demonstrated:
INCREASED math achievement;
INCREASED reading achievement;
INCREASED sustained attention;
DECREASED behavioural problems.

A NEW APPROACH TO BOOST LITERACY AND NUMERACY
The findings suggest that schools would benefit from implementing a SEL program to boost literacy in young students rather than the common low-dose supplementary reading programs, as SEL programs enable students to develop attention and behavioural skills that are required to engage and focus in daily classroom activities. Additionally, this research reinforces the link between focus and function as the study concluded that SEL programs help students develop and practice the self-regulatory skills that they need to engage in daily numeracy activities in the classroom. This evidence has never been more necessary in our early years education; with research after research telling us that children who fail to develop basic literacy and numeracy skills by an early age are much more likely to drop out of school (Hernadez 2011; Duncan 2011), early childhood intervention could dramatically impact upon the education outcomes of students from low socio-economic backgrounds.
The findings from the study once again highlight the many benefits of implementing a Social and Emotional Learning program that works with students, educators and families within schools and communities.

To read the full journal, click here

UK Report Advises Schools to Build Emotional Resiliency in Students

A UK report is calling for happiness classes to become part of school life, to help improve young people’s deteriorating mental health in the wake of research that warns that approximately 10% of children currently have a mental health disorder which has led to more young people turning to alcohol, cannabis and self-harm.

happiness report

Early intervention

The report entitled ‘The Pursuit of Happiness: A New Ambition for our Mental Health’ from the Centre Forum Mental Health Commission calls for much needed prioritising and promotion of the mental health of children and young people from conception onwards. The report highlights the need for early intervention as ‘three quarters of lifetime cases [of mental health issues] are diagnosed before the age of 25 and half of all lifetime cases are diagnosed before the age of 14…However the majority of [UK] public spending on mental health is focused on crisis intervention and longer‐term acute care and support, rather than on prevention and early intervention.”

Parent and School Intervention

Proposals set out in the report include a requirement for teachers to educate children on how to look after their mental health, parenting programmes for families of children with behavioural problems, and regular development assessments at key stages during a person’s childhood.

In reference to schools, the report recommends that:

  • The national curriculum should include the requirement to teach children and young people how to look after their mental health and build emotional resilience through approaches such as mindfulness.
  • Teachers and other educational staff should receive training in child development, mental health and psychological resilience to enable them to identify children who are vulnerable.
  • For children experiencing mild to moderate mental health problems, there should be increased access to psychological and other therapies in schools or in the community.

Transforming Powers

The Commission urges governments to prioritise investment in the mental health of children and teenagers. It says this will not just transform people’s life chances but reduce the costs to society of low educational attainment, negative behaviour, worklessness, crime, and antisocial behaviour. Prof Sue Bailey, Chair of Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition and outgoing President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “I am delighted that this report points out the current stark reality of lack of resourcing for the well being, resilience and mental health of all children and young people from conception to adulthood. But more importantly the report offers practical steps that move from the rhetoric to the reality of how to best invest in the well being and mental health of children and young people. How to deliver effective early identification, assessment, timely support and treatment because our children simply deserve better.”

Nelson Mandela International Day: The greatest lessons.

Friday 18th July- the day that Nelson Mandela was born- marks Nelson Mandela International Day. In 2009, the UN General Assembly declared this day in honour of Mandela’s dedication to resolving conflict, promoting equality and striving for peace. His incredible courage, resilience and positivity is a lesson that continues to be taught throughout the world; he is a model for compassion and optimism and has taught us some of the greatest lessons for a happier healthier life.

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Stay positive, stay alive.

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed towards the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

–              Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: Autobiography of Nelson Mandella.

Mandela’s optimism and positive mindset was what kept him moving forward rather than basking in his despair and misfortune. By looking up and keeping his head toward the sun, he ensured that he was always heading towards the light and moving away from the dark moments which often tested his resolve. His courage and conviction is inspiring and encourages us to always focus on the light in our lives and not dwell on the dark.

Model and teach positive emotions.

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than it’s opposite.”

–              Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: Autobiography of Nelson Mandela.

Educators, counsellors and communities all play a valuable role in educating and empowering young people through the modelling of positive behavior and emotions. Just as Mandela boldly states, we often teach our young people how to deal with emotions by example. But how can we effectively teach people to be positive and self aware if we are unable to identify and model it ourselves? In order to cultivate a culture that promotes self-awareness and confidence, we must become aware of our own ‘triggers’ that can ignite a negative emotion and learn to diffuse the feeling before it evolves into something corrosive that permeates the emotions of young people in our care.

In his publication ‘Why adults strike back: Learned behavior or genetic code? (1995)’, Nicholas Long reveals that ‘the number one reason for the increase in student violence in schools is staff counteraggression. While staff do not initiate student aggression, they react in ways that perpetuate it’. Take a pair of tuning forks for example; if one tuning fork is struck then the other fork will begin to vibrate, modelling the reaction of the first fork. People are no different: we mimic and absorb the negative emotions of others and often create more conflict as a result. Thus, in order to influence behavior, we must learn how to self-regulate our own counteraggressive actions. By training ourselves to be more self-aware and insightful about our own feelings, we can create more rewarding and purposeful relationships.

For further information concerning a student’s conflict cycle, see the full article at http://www.cyc-net.org.

NSW Report Reveals Teens Want More Mental Health Support and Skills

With the alarming knowledge that one in four young Australians aged 16-24 experience at least one mental disorder (AIHW 2011) and that they are more likely to die by their own hands than be killed in a road accident, it is no surprise that Australian youth are crying out for support and information about mental health. A recent report has recommended that the New South Wales government ensure that more resources are put in place to raise awareness of how young people can access mental health services and for schools in NSW to dewhats up westvelop and implement a mental health policy.

The What’s Up West? 2013 Project was devised to get young people across Western Sydney talking to each other to discuss what they can do to make their communities better and ultimately empower young people with the skills and knowledge to make real and lasting changes. The project was run and funded by the Western Sydney Project and Youth Action with the objective of giving young people a chance to have their say about the positive changes they want to see in their community. Their findings from the project are a result of the contributions from more than 170 young people from across 14 local areas in Western Sydney and have been published in their What’s Up West? DIY Reality report. The report highlights 21 recommendations for government and other public agencies on seven different topics, including culture, sexuality and mental health.

The report further outlines what individuals can do to change the stigma attached to mental health, including speaking openly about mental health and being aware of the mental health of people around you. What seems most encouraging is that young people are aware of the necessity to look after personal mental health and to utilise a range of strategies to relieve stress, including exercise and meditation.

Encouraging young people in our care to be more mindful of their emotions and to talk openly about mental health issues that they have encountered is by no means an easy task due to the stigma that it attached to the issue, not to mention the fact that many people feel unqualified to discuss such sensitive subjects. However, What’s Up West? has illuminated the fact that maybe it’s time for individuals, communities and governments to start opening their own discussions about mental health and to start finding ways to help those who need and want it most: our youth.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Visit http://www.youthaction.org.au to download the latest What’s Up West DIY Reality report.

Communication is Key to Improving Relationships with Culturally Diverse Students and Families.

Since 1983, the Harvard Family Research Project has helped to develop and evaluate strategies to promote the wellbeing of children, youth, families and their communities. One component of their complementary learning research focusses on family and community involvement in education in the form of FINE: Family Involvement Network of Educators; a network of people interested in promoting strong partnerships between schools, families and communities. An important question that the network have discussed as part of their ongoing research is how to better prepare teachers to work with culturally diverse students and their families and the skills that educators need to develop to do this successfully.

teaching is communicating with parents

 POSITIVE CORRESPONDENCE

Sherick Hughes, Assistant Professor in the College of Education at the University of Toledo, states that ‘teachers must come to understand the real life experiences of the families and children they teach…to set up plausible situations to give families a legitimate voice in their curriculum and unit planning… [to] encourage teachers to take the spiritual lives of families seriously as a key point of connection.’ Hughes further acknowledges that it is difficult for teachers to build rapport with families as they are not always able to go out into these diverse communities and make the necessary connections. She therefore advocates three family-specific alternatives for teachers to utilise at least once during the school year to build better relationships with parents and carers:

1. Call each child’s family with positive information regarding their progress;

2. Email each student’s family during the school year with positive information;

3. Through email, mail, or student delivery, send a positive message via audio or audio/visual medium regarding each student.

INVOLVE PARENTS

Eileen Kugler, a speaker and trainer on building community support for diverse schools, further reinforces Hughes’ advice to teachers to build relationships with families using positive information and states that they also ‘need to identify nonthreatening opportunities to welcome parents with diverse backgrounds to the school. At the end of a unit of study, teachers can invite parents into the classroom so the students can share their achievements with them. As opposed to the stereotype of not caring, parents frequently feel left out, just waiting to be asked to be involved.’ Communication is therefore essential for teachers, including planning and using opportunities to engage positively with families.

RAPPORT NOT RITUALS

Although teachers are deemed as being exceptional communicators when it comes to delivering information to their students, it can be a different story when it comes to delivering information to parents and carers. According to Bonnie Rockafellow, the Education Consultant for the Michigan Department of Education, teacher education needs to include more interpersonal communication skill building to ensure that teachers are able to effectively build rapport and share meaning with families. This is most evident in parent-teacher conferences, an opportunity for teachers to communicate and engage face to face with families. Rockafellow videotaped several parent-teacher conferences and through her analysis of the interactions she concluded that in each conference a ‘ritual played out. Most often the teacher presented the information she had prepared and at the end of the timeframe the teacher would ask if the parents had any questions, and then close the conference. The result of the conference was most often a reporting of the school’s information rather than an opportunity for teachers to meaningfully engage with families and listen to their suggestions and comments.’ She ultimately identifies a key opportunity for teachers to engage with families with meaning.

The FINE research and evaluation of strategies for improving the preparation of teachers to work with culturally diverse students and their families is vast and resourceful; identifying opportunities for teachers to examine their own attitudes and connect with those who ‘think and look differently’ than they do.

If you would like to read more about FINE, visit the Harvard Family Research Project at http://www.hfrp.org