The causal and mediating influences of knowledge and experience of mediation on learning processes.

Doctoral Studies Completed Theses - 2009 Archive

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Jen Hwa Shih

PhD thesis, conferred 2009

Academic researchers have suggested that the practice of meditation may act as a component in academic settings to enhance students' learning processes. Extensive research has shown meditation to be an important influence in different non-academic fields, such as medical science, health science, business management and industrial management. Research in educational settings, although very limited, has also suggested that meditation may play an important role in the student learning.

The present research aimed to investigate the possible effects of the practice of meditation on tertiary students' selection of a deep learning approach. A conceptual model established to examine meditation practice effects on students reported use of a deep learning approach incorporated self-efficacy in academic learning, self-regulated learning, and conceptions of learning as hypothesised mediating processes.

The research study which was conducted in intact classes in Huafan University, Taiwan consisted of three phases. The initial phase of the project, a quantitative survey phase (Study 1), employed a set of questionnaires administered to 258 tertiary students. Path analysis data from Study 1 showed moderate support for the conceptual model. It was found that the indirect effects through these mediators were stronger than the direct effects from meditation to learning approach selection.

The second phase was a quasi-experimental phase, in which, an intervention was given to two groups of students within the context of their General Education coursework. The first group (Group A) experienced a more extensive period of meditation practice, the second group (Group B) was given less meditation practice, and a third group (Group C) with no meditation experience was used as a control group. Data were collected for the experimental phase (Study 2) at three time points. After adjustment for pre-experimental differences which favoured Group A, the results of this phase showed no significant differences among the three group means at the end of the 16-week experience.

A small number of volunteer participants from Group A were interviewed on three occasions in the second half of the experimental period. The interview data did show some indicators suggesting meditation had some positive results for four of the eight interviewees who had shown an increase in reported use of deep strategies. Interview data on student meditation processes illustrated that attention, concentration, reflection and evaluation played a role in the student's selection of the learning approach.

Although no quantitative group effect was found in this study, the analysis of interview data suggested some positive links between the mediating processes and the meditation training and student learning approach selection. Some implications of the research for the application of meditation practice in an educational setting are discussed and suggestions for further research are advanced.

Supervisor: Associate Professor Richard Walker