Contemplative education: a systematic, evidence-based review of the effect of meditation interventions in schools

Lea Waters, Adam Barsky, Amanda Ridd, Kelly Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

109 Citations (Scopus)


Schools need reliable evidence about the outcomes of meditation programs before they consider if and how such programmes can influence learning agendas, curriculum and timetables. This paper reviewed evidence from 15 peer-reviewed studies of school meditation programmes with respect to three student outcomes: well-being, social competence and academic achievement. In total, there were 76 results where effect sizes could be calculated. The overall number of participants in the effect size analyses was 1,797. Of the 76 effect sizes calculated, 61 % were statistically significant. Sixty-seven per cent of the results had small effects on student outcomes, 24 % of the results had medium effect strength and 9 % showed a large effect of meditation upon student outcomes. Transcendental meditation programmes had a higher percentage of significant effects than mindfulness-based and other types of meditation programmes, but this may be to do with the settings and programme delivery rather than the technique itself. Programme elements such as duration, frequency of practice and type of instructor influenced student outcomes. A conceptual model is put forward based on two propositions: proposition 1—meditation positively influences student success by increasing cognitive functioning; proposition 2—meditation positively influences student success by increasing emotional regulation. Suggestions are made to stimulate future research and to assist in the development of more efficacious applications for meditation in schools.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-134
Number of pages32
JournalEducational Psychology Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Academic achievement
  • Cognitive function
  • Emotional regulation
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Social competence
  • Student well-being

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