Navigating Stress: Graduate Student Experiences with Contemplative Practices in a Foreign Language Teacher Education Course


  • Emily E. Scida University of Virginia
  • Jill N. Jones University of Virginia


teacher education, contemplative pedagogy, graduate student stress, teacher stress, stress management, affect


The present case study investigates the experience of stress among graduate students, particularly stress related to teaching, their coping strategies, and their experience with contemplative practices integrated into a teacher education course. While there is a significant body of research on contemplative practices in K-12 teacher development, few studies have looked at the integration of contemplative practices in graduate student experiences in higher education. Data for this case study include interviews with 19 graduate students enrolled in foreign language M.A./Ph.D. programs. Results suggest that students’ perceived stress stems from the difficulties of adapting to and balancing new responsibilities and concerns about teaching. To cope with stress, graduate students most commonly rely on emotional support from peers and time management strategies. Students report that participating in contemplative practices together as a class cultivated community, providing them with support, collegiality, interconnectedness, and collaboration as teachers and scholars. The integration of contemplative practices promoted an awareness of the importance of self-care, compassion for self and others, and social and emotional awareness. 

Author Biographies

Emily E. Scida, University of Virginia

Emily E. Scida is Professor of Spanish and Director of the Spanish Language Program in the Department of Spanish, Italian & Portuguese at the University of Virginia, Virginia, USA. Her research interests include teacher education, learning technologies, e-portfolios, and contemplative pedagogies. Emily has been the recipient of a number of grants and awards, including a 2014 Contemplative Sciences Center Grant, the 2011-2014 Daniels Family NEH Distinguished Teaching Professorship, a Fall 2012 Hybrid Course Challenge Grant, Learning Technologies Incubator Grants, and a Teaching + Technology Initiative Fellowship. In 2011, she was inducted into the University Academy of Teaching at UVA.

Contact details:
Emily E. Scida
University of Virginia
Department of Spanish, Italian, & Portuguese
PO Box 400777, 444 New Cabell Hall
Charlottesville, VA, USA 22904-4777
Phone: 434/924-4646
Fax: 434/924-7160

Jill N. Jones, University of Virginia

J. N. Jones is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the higher education program at the University of Virginia, Curry School of Education, in Charlottesville, Virginia, and works at Hanover Research as a survey specialist. Her research interests include effective pedagogical practices, student learning outcomes, and student/faculty professional development.  

Contact details:
Jill N. Jones
120 Edgeview Dr. #5519
Broomfield, CO, USA 80021


Abenavoli, R. M., Jennings, P. A., Greenberg, M. T., Harris, A. R., & Katz, D. A. (2013). The protective effects of mindfulness against burnout among educators. Psychology of Education Review, 37(2), 57-69.

Astin, J. A. (1997). Stress reduction through mindfulness meditation. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 66, 97–106.

Baer, R. A. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: A conceptual and empirical review. Clinical psychology: Science and practice, 10(2), 125-143.

Bauer, J., Stamm, A., Virnich, K., Wissing, K., Müller, U., Wirsching, M., & Schaarschmidt, U. (2006). Correlation between burnout syndrome and psychological and psychosomatic symptoms among teachers. International archives of occupational and environmental health, 79(3), 199-204.

Bland, H. W., Melton, B. F., Welle, P., & Bigham, L. (2012). Stress tolerance: New challenges for millennial college students. College Student Journal, 46(2), 362-375.

Brown, K. W. & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of personality and social psychology, 84(4), 822-848.

Brown, K. W., Ryan, R. M., & Creswell, J. D. (2007). Mindfulness: Theoretical foundations and evidence for its salutary effects. Psychological inquiry, 18(4), 211-237.

Chang, M. L. (2009). An appraisal perspective of teacher burnout: Examining the emotional work of teachers. Educational Psychology Review, 21(3), 193-218.

Costa, A. L. & Kallick, B. (Eds.). (2009). Leading and learning with Habits of Mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Dorman, E. (2015). Building teachers’ social-emotional competence through mindfulness practices. Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue, 17(1-2), 103-119.

Flook, L., Goldberg, S. B., Pinger, L., Bonus, K., & Davidson, R. J. (2013). Mindfulness for teachers: A pilot study to assess effects on stress, burnout, and teaching efficacy. Mind, Brain, and Education, 7(3), 182-195.

Frank, J. L., Reibel, D., Broderick, P., Cantrell, T., & Metz, S. (2013). The effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction on educator stress and well-being: Results from a pilot study. Mindfulness, 6(2), 208-216.

Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis. Journal of psychosomatic research, 57(1), 35-43.

Hargreaves, A. (1998). The emotional practice of teaching. Teaching and Teacher Education, 14(8), 835-854.

Hultell, D., Melin, B., & Gustavsson, J. P. (2013). Getting personal with teacher burnout: A longitudinal study on the development of burnout using a person-based approach. Teaching and Teacher Education, 32, 75-86.

Hyun, J. K., Quinn, B. C., Madon, T., & Lustig, S. (2006). Graduate student mental health: Needs assessment and utilization of counseling services. Journal of College Student Development, 47(3), 247-266.

Jennings, P. A. (2011). Promoting teachers’ social and emotional competencies to support performance and reduce burnout. In A. Cohan & A. Honigsfeld (Eds.), Breaking the mold of pre-service and inservice teacher education: Innovative and successful practices for the 21st century (pp. 133-143). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education.

Jennings, P. A., Frank, J. L., Snowberg, K. E., Coccia, M. A., & Greenberg, M. T. (2013). Improving classroom learning environments by Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE): Results of a randomized controlled trial. School Psychology Quarterly, 28(4), 374-390.

Jennings, P. A., & Greenberg, M. T. (2009). The prosocial classroom: Teacher social and emotional competence in relation to student and classroom outcomes. Review of educational research, 79(1), 491-525.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York: Hyperion.

Kyriacou, C. (2001). Teacher stress: Directions for future research. Educational Review, 53(1), 27-35.

Marshall, C. & Rossman, G. (2006). Designing qualitative research (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Maslach, C., & Leiter, M. P. (2016). Understanding the burnout experience: recent research and its implications for psychiatry. World Psychiatry, 15, 103–111.

Meiklejohn, J., Phillips, C., Freedman, M. L., Griffin, M. L., Biegel, G., Roach, A., ... & Isberg, R. (2012). Integrating mindfulness training into K-12 education: Fostering the resilience of teachers and students. Mindfulness, 3(4), 291-307.

Oswalt, S. B. & Riddock, C. C. (2007). What to do about being overwhelmed: Graduate students, stress and university services. College Student Affairs Journal, 27(1), 24-44.

Poulin, P. A., Mackenzie, C. S., Soloway, G., & Karayolas, E. (2008). Mindfulness training as an evidenced-based approach to reducing stress and promoting well-being among human services professionals. International Journal of Health Promotion and Education, 46(2), 72-80.

Roeser, R. W., Skinner, E., Beers, J., & Jennings, P. A. (2012). Mindfulness training and teachers' professional development: An emerging area of research and practice. Child Development Perspectives, 6(2), 167-173.

Roeser, R. W., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Jha, A., Cullen, M., Wallace, L., Wilensky, R., ... & Harrison, J. (2013). Mindfulness training and reductions in teacher stress and burnout: Results from two randomized, waitlist-control field trials. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(3), 787-804.

Schussler, D. L., Jennings, P. A., Sharp, J. E., & Frank, J. L. (2016). Improving teacher awareness and well-being through CARE: a qualitative analysis of the underlying mechanisms. Mindfulness, 7(1), 130-142.

Soloway, G. B., Poulin, P. A., & Mackenzie, C. S. (2011). Preparing new teachers for the full catastrophe of the twenty-first century classroom: Integrating mindfulness training into initial teacher education. Breaking the mold of pre-service and in-service teacher education, 219-227.

Wyatt, T. & Oswalt, S. B. (2013). Comparing mental health issues among undergraduate and graduate students. American journal of health education,44(2), 96-107.