In recent years, “mindfulness” seems to be one of the most prolific and flexible buzzwords, appearing in a vast range of contexts: mindful parenting, mindfulness in the workplace, mindfulness therapy, mindfulness training for Phil Jackson’s New York Knicks, and mindfulness in the classroom. The term was coined in the 1970s by biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn, who defined it as: “The awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Kabat-Zinn’s definition is particularly relevant when considering the context of education. By emphasizing the importance of both being present and paying attention, this description of mindfulness clearly connects to how, as teachers, we often struggle to find relevant, meaningful ways to help (and keep) our students engaged and motivated.
Similarly, social psychologist Ellen Langer specifically addresses the idea of “mindful learning” (or a “mindful approach”) as “the continuous creation of new categories; openness to new information; and an implicit awareness of more than one perspective.” So, what does this kind of mindfulness look like in the classroom? How can we, as educators, help students learn to be attentive to their own learning processes and to the difficulties they might be having with a text, an essay, or a math problem? How can IWT’s writing-based teaching practices help students develop classroom habits of mind that foster confidence, attention, and the ability to sustain ambiguity and failure?
This year’s annual conference aims to explore these connections and the ways in which writing-based teaching and mindful learning can help instill a growth mindset in students. Process writing, one of IWT’s core practices, is an example of how writing can represent an invaluable opportunity for “entertaining new possibilities . . . asking that we become more aware of how our minds are working at a particular time,” as Alfred E. Guy writes. Both mindful learning and process writing encourage students to develop self-reflective habits of mind that enable them to own their own learning. We’ll ask: How can regular in-class writing help to support classroom management and foster self-regulation? For the student who has simply determined “I’m just not good at science,” how can writing provide a way in?
Through experiential workshop sessions and a plenary, this conference will highlight IWT’s writing-based teaching practices and how they help administrators and teachers experience the kinds of teaching that help students learn to work through the roadblocks they encounter—to take individual risks in an effort to develop the habits of mind necessary for active and engaged learning.