MLERN Core Members
The Mind and Life Education Research Network (MLERN) was formed in 2006 to create a multidisciplinary intellectual forum dedicated to exploring issues at the intersection of mind, brain, education and contemplative practice. The network, directed by Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin, includes a core group of contemplatives and contemplative scholars; neuroscientists; cognitive, developmental and educational scientists; and educational activists.
Collectively, MLERN members and the broader intellectual and contemplative communities that have informed the work of the network have been exploring questions such as: How can contemplative practices enrich child and adolescent development and the current goals of education? What are the social-emotional and attentional skills that young people need to be successful not only in school, but in life, in society, and as a citizen of the world? What are the values and virtues that promote a successful, meaningful, productive and happy life that also enhances the well being of others? How can we design learning environments in schools, community- and afterschool-settings that cultivate and support the development of these skills, values, and virtues in children and adolescents? How can we achieve these aims directly with programs for young people, and indirectly by nurturing them in the adults who figure so centrally in a child’s life and development – parents and extended family members, child-care and early education professionals, nurses and doctors, teachers and school leaders, and so on. That is, how do we create contemplative communities where the older members role model healthy and virtuous habits and dispositions for the younger?
The specific goals of the network during its first three years of existence have included:
- The identification of promising current educational programs that bring contemplative practices into the educational arena in a developmentally appropriate, secular way;
- The identification of promising lines of research on the mind, brain and body, and social worlds of children and adolescents that is relevant to the study of contemplative practices with young people;
- The funding of pilot research on some promising programs;
- The creation of a short scientific white paper that defines the scope of the study of contemplative practices in education with children, adolescents, and the significant adults in their lives that sets out a research agenda for examining basic and applied issues in this regard;
- The creation of a multisite study examining the affect of contemplative practices on teachers and their students;
- The planning of the public meeting in Washington D.C. with the Dalai Lama on education entitled “Educating World Citizens for the 21st Century: Educators, Scientists and Contemplatives Dialogue on Cultivating a Healthy Mind, Brain and Heart.”
With the initial 3 year project culminating in the October 2009 Conference in Washington D.C., the next phase and scope of work for MLERN 2 is currently being planned. Central ideas under consideration for MLERN 2 are:
- Collaborative research in applied settings like schools and parenting classes;
- Dialogue among contemplatives, educators and scientists on how to design and evaluate “developmentally appropriate” contemplative practices across the life course;
- Exploration of what is the potential value added of contemplative practice over and above that associated with related interventions such as social-emotional learning;
- The extension and expansion of this work to a wider circle of educators, scientists, and contemplatives.
Please look for updates on MLERN 2 on the Mind and Life web site in the near future.