Challenging plurilingual education settings with mindfulness: using meditation, attention practices, and stress management tools to foster intercultural competence

Presenter: Cristina Gámez Fernández

Affiliation: University of Córdoba, Spain

Chosen format: Presentation


This contribution is a practical-based proposal in which experiential activities will be carried out with participants to open a space for reflection on the potential that some mindfulness tools have in plurilingual and pluricultural educational environments to improve students’ self-awareness and awareness of cultural and linguistic diversity and to prevent ethnocentric attitudes and behaviors. Mindfulness practice enables individuals to face and respond, rather than to react, to what happens both within and around them with proactivity. Such attitude enhances students’ deep and transformative learning, not only of factual contents about languages or cultures but also of social and emotional dynamics. Coyle, Hood & Marsh highlight the central role of affective factors related to anxiety and motivation and warn that it is essential that the challenges posed to learners in CLIL environments do not foster anxiety or reduce motivation (2010: 88). This workshop is based on the premise that by working on the three key features of mindfulness (intention, attention and attitude), more adaptative behaviors are implicitly and explicitly addressed in the classroom, by preventing or ameliorating learners’ stress or anxiety episodes. It also argues that it is possible to establish a close identification between motivation and intention in mindfulness, based on the following statement by Coyle, Hood & Marsh (2010: 88): “considerable concentration, effort and willpower are needed to learn another language effectively. Both noticing and attention are key components of the required processes. As motivation sits on a higher affective and mental level than these components, it is a necessary prerequisite for them” (emphasis added). The authors, not necessarily familiar with mindfulness, point out the close interrelationship between attention and intention (or motivation). Likewise, those of us who teach often find ourselves wondering whether there is something we can do to be less stressed, to be more creative in our daily teaching practice or to make our students pay more attention to the activities we prepare for them. Some of us even wonder if from our academic specialties it is possible to actively accompany our students in both their personal and academic growth and to provide them with memorable learning experiences. Mindfulness provides techniques that can be implemented in the classroom and that can potentially greatly transform our lessons.
Keywords: mindfulness; intercultural competence; stress; anxiety; motivation
COYLE, D., HOOD, P. & MARSH, D. (2010). CLIL. Content and Language Integrated Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cristina M. Gámez-Fernández teaches in the Department of English and German at the University of Córdoba. Her teaching experience is twofold: cultural studies for literary analysis and intercultural education. She has also carried out methodological training of university teaching staff eager to explore bilingual university teaching practices. Her research experience today reconciles her focus on the representation of vulnerability and precarity in literature with research in her daily teaching practice, where she actively introduces mindfulness and coaching techniques as a means of improving the learning experience of her students in combination with their own life experiences.
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