My PhD research is multi-sited ethnography of a 9-week secondary school mindfulness programme called ‘dot b’. Such programmes are becoming increasingly popular in the UK, however, to date there has been almost no research examining their social and cultural significance. The programmes have developed from psychological interventions using mindfulness for clinical adult populations and are widely seen as preventative interventions for mental ill health. Beyond this, mindfulness is thought to improve concentration and cognitive functioning and therefore to have potential benefits for attainment and behaviour.
Yet, despite widespread interest in mindfulness, little is known about the content of mindfulness programmes, how they are implemented in practice and how they are interpreted by teachers and students. A core premise of my research is that the programmes do not simply impart a neutral ‘technique’ for stress relief, but prescribe particular values around the ‘self’ and (the meanings of) ‘mental health’, through which children come to understand themselves. My research examines the discourses surrounding the ‘self’ and ‘mental health’ within dot b and how these are taken up, modified and contested by teachers and students in practice. The method involved ethnographic research conducted at a teacher training course and two schools; interviews conducted with 2 course developers and 15 dot b teachers; 4 focus groups with students and 4 student interviews.