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The Integrative Inquiry Curriculum Overview

  • Table A: Integrative Education Training Module (IETM) Logic Model
  • Table B: Integrative Education Training Module (IETM) Concept Map
  • Table C: Integrative Education Training Module (IETM) Randomized Control Trial Design

Principal Course Designer: Marilee J. Bresciani Ludvik, Ph.D., Professor of Administration, Rehabilitation Counseling, and Postsecondary Education, San Diego State University

Interdisciplinary Design Team: Wendy Bracken, Ed.D. Postsecondary Educational Leadership Research Associate, San Diego State University; Philippe Goldin, Ph.D., Research Scientist, Department of Psychology, Stanford University; Emily Marx, Ph.D., Director, Center for Student Involvement - Self-Authorship, University of California – San Diego; Chris Hayashi, Ed.D., Professor of Psychology/ Department Chair, Behavioral Sciences, Southwestern Community College, Nan Herron, MD, Attending Psychiatrist, Director of Adolescent Services, Associate Medical Director, Pembroke Hospital; Mark Tucker, Ph.D. Research Associate Rehabilitation Counseling, San Diego State University; Matthew Evrard, Graduate Research Assistant, San Diego State University; Hayley Ryan,  Graduate Research Assistant, San Diego State University; Angeline Yang, Graduate Research Assistant, San Diego State University;  Barbara Sandoval, Graduate Research Assistant, San Diego State University 

compassion in higher education Integrative Inquiry is designed to enhance postsecondary education students’ critical thinking dispositions while reducing their stress and possibly increasing self-compassion and compassion for others in order to increase their persistence in and completion of postsecondary education.

Definition: Integrative Inquiry is the process of integrating the knowledge gained from research, course learning, and book learning with the wisdom gained from intuition, sensing, and the mindful experiencing of emotions with the ability to embrace the unknown.  With the ability to integrate multiple sources of information through generative questions and other training methodologies, participants of integrative inquiry are able to manage stress and creatively problem solve while experiencing ambiguity.  This all leads to the promotion of peace and compassion through their conscious-choice making.  Specifically, Integrative Inquiry is designed to enhance postsecondary education students’ critical thinking dispositions while reducing their stress and possibly increasing self-compassion and compassion for others in order to increase their persistence in and completion of postsecondary education.

Description of Course: Integrative Inquiry is a 16-week, 2 hours/week, hybrid course that uses mindfulness based stress reduction practices (Kabat-Zin, 2009), self-compassion practices (Neff, 2011), and self-authorship coaching (Baxter-Magolda & King, 2004) in order to train attention and emotion regulations skills as well as enhance cognitive regulation skills, which are expected to increase educational achievement via improved critical thinking dispositions. Specifically, we are gathering data to determine whether a significant increase in seven scales of critical thinking dispositions (Truthseeking, Open-mindedness, Analyticity, Systematicity, Confidence in Reasoning, Inquisitiveness and Maturity of Judgment) can be measured using the CCTDI (Insight Assessment, 2012).  In addition, we are examining whether increased attention as measured by the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire occur as well as evaluate decreased stress as measured by the Beck Anxiety Inventory, the Perceived Stress Scale, and the Trait Meta-Mood Scale will result from participation in a course designed to enhance cognitive, emotional, and attention regulations skills.

Background on Related Research, Problem, and Significance of this Course:
There are indications that employers are not satisfied with the preparedness level of students who are entering the job market. According to the AAC&U 2009 survey of employer perceptions, employers wanted to see more evidence of graduates’ critical thinking, analytical reasoning, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, innovation, and ethical decision-making. To further complicate matters, a recent four-year longitudinal study assessing college student learning conducted by Arum and Roska (2011) made national headlines. Over 4,000 college students at 29 diverse institutions were administered the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), which assessed critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and written communication. The study found that 45% of the students in the sample made no statistically significant increases in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills during their four years of college (Arum & Roska, 2011). While concerns about the CLA methodology have been raised, specifically regarding its effectiveness, lack of questions about discipline-specific knowledge, validity, and inability to account for non-school factors, inability to produce any evidence to contradict these findings is compelling. 

Innovative giants such as Google, Intel, Cisco, and others are using 2011 research from the Center for Creative Leadership that explores characteristics required in leaders of the future when they do their hiring and their design of their own professional development programs.  Such traits required for future leaders expects for leaders to navigate complexity and ambiguity, be agile, adaptable, and boundary spanning.  They expect leaders to be creative and engage in network thinking, to be self-aware and to be co-creators.  Very little of the manner in which we are designing higher education, funding it, or holding it accountable for what it “produces” is promoting any of this kind of learning and development opportunity for its students. Nevertheless, collectively such reports suggest the need to focus on and improve our effectiveness in promoting student growth and development in college.

With a weak economy, increasing costs of higher education, and increasing demands for comparable test scores, the outlook for discovering innovative and affordable solutions to increasing access, persistence, and completion of all students at the undergraduate level is needed now more than ever. Due to an increasing demand for accountability and an emphasis on test scores, PK-12 education has been forced to focus on teaching students how to test well. One potential side effect of this emphasis appears to have led to a decrease in the students’ ability to reflect, analyze, synthesize, creatively problem solve, integrate various pieces of information that come through various senses, and engage in rich reflective inquiry. Furthermore, high stakes testing has been hypothesized to increase stress, lower self-efficacy, and provide fewer opportunities to deliver and evaluate the types of learning and development that demonstrates critical thinking and deep inquiry (Lesch, 2007; Puttwain, 2011). While evidence points to a lack of critical thinking among undergraduates, we also understand that students come to college with increased stress levels and competing demands for their attention (Orthner, Jones-Sanpei, & Williamson, 2004). Such increased stress reduces their ability to focus on subject matter and therefore demonstrate meaningful inquiry, interpretation, analysis, and synthesis. These challenges to access and success in postsecondary education are heighted in under-represented students where, due to a number of factors, including the students’ socioeconomic status, parental education, inadequate K-12 schools and teachers, and the experiences they may face if they are recent immigrants, students may fail in college, or worse, not even attempt college in the first place (Desmond & Turley, 2009). Thus, the design of the Integrative Inquiry course includes attention regulation (AR), emotion regulation (ER), and cognitive regulation (CR) components intended to reduce students’ perceived stress and increase their focus.  In addition, we add the self-authorship training tools to advance inquiry and thus expect to influence critical thinking dispositions. In essence, Integrative Inquiry is designed to enable students to more effectively deal with these sources of stress that may hinder academic achievement while practicing self-compassion and critical thinking. 

What we understand from neuroscience (Alvarez & Emory, 2006; Chan, Shum, Toulopoulou, & Chen, 2008; Chiesa, Calati, Serretti, 2011; Goldin & Gross, 2010; Hölzel, Carmody, Vangel, Congleton, Yerramsetti, Gard, & Lazar, 2011; Kozasa, Sato, Lacerda, Barreiros, Radvany, Russel, Sanches, & Mello, 2012; Lutz, Slagter, Dunne, & Davidson, 2008; Todd, Cunningham, Anderson, & Thompson, 2012) is that the consistent practice of one or more mindfulness based stress reduction training tools influences the structure and function of the brain by increasing attention and emotion regulation and in some cases, executive functions.  Thus, we have used this research to inform the foundational design for Integrative Inquiry.  With the addition of self-inquiry tools used in training self-authorship, we posit that critical thinking dispositions can be improved as well as attention and emotion regulation.  If critical thinking dispositions can be improved using these kinds of training tools, then we feel we will be able to offer the public affordable solutions to address the current lack of access and student success in postsecondary education. Table A and Table B illustrate the logic model and conceptual frameworks that inform this course design.

Rushing to Yoga Foundation: The Rushing to Yoga Foundation is delivering and evaluating the effectiveness of this course in partnership with San Diego State University’s Interwork Institute located at 3590 Camino Del Rio N, San Diego, CA 92108, where the majority of the design team is housed.

Curriculum and Assessment: Dr. Bresciani Ludvik has utilized researched attention, emotion, and cognitive regulation training tools (e.g., MBSR, Self-Compassion) along with self-authorship training tools and appropriate inventories to design and evaluate a 16-week Integrative Inquiry course. The course has been piloted once and is being piloted again this semester.  During 2013-14, 120 students (60/semester) will participate in either 16 -one-hour face-to-face course modules or 16 online course modules. In 2014-15, 60 (30/semester) students each will either be assigned to a) the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course hosted by the University of California- San Diego Center for Mindfulness b) course taught face-to face, or c) course taught on-line. In addition, there will be 30 students selected to serve as a control group, where they will be asked to take the pre-, mid-, and post-test inventories and will not participate in any intervention.

Assessment Instruments:
The pre- (prior to start of the course), mid- (8 weeks into the course), and post-test (following week 16 of the course) inventories and assessments will be competed onsite in those classrooms or online. Inventories that will be completed by participants are: Beck Anxiety Inventory, Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ), Trait Meta-Mood Scale (TMMS), and California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI).

The critical thinking construct will be operationally defined as full-scale and sub-scale score on the seven scales of the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI). Reliability coefficients for the CCTDI range between .80 -.98, demonstrating very strong internal consistency reliability. Scale score statistics demonstrate similar strength. Test retest reliability for the reported scores averages .86. The construct of perceived stress/anxiety will be operationally defined as the full-scale score on the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) and the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). The Beck Anxiety Inventory screens for clinical anxiety. Reliability is between: .92- .94 for the BAI. Each item is descriptive of a somatic symptom of anxiety. Components of IETM such as focused breathing, focused movement, loving-kindness, and self-authorship inquiry are expected to induce changes in the structure and function of the brain that are then expected to enhance cognitive and emotional regulation which in turn is expected to be associated with improved critical thinking dispositions. These same enhanced cognitive and emotional regulation skills are also expected to be associated with less perceived stress as measured by the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). The PSS measures the degree to which life situations are appraised as stressful. Items are designed to assess how unpredictable, uncontrollable, and overloaded respondents perceive their lives to be. Less perceived stress is expected to be associated with increased academic persistence and enhanced critical thinking. Reliability for the PSS is approximately .78. In addition to assessing perceived stress/anxiety, a measure of awareness of emotional experiences will be used. The Trait Meta-Mood Scale (TMMS) is considered a measure of emotional intelligence. It is comprised of three sub-scales: Attention to Feelings, Clarity of Feelings and Mood Repair. The TMMS will be used in this research, as it is one of the most widely used measures of reflective mood. Reliability scores for the measure are high, at .85; internal consistency for the measure is also high, with scores for the sub-scales ranging from .82 to .88 (Salovey, Mayer, Goldman, Turvey, & Palfai, 1995). The mindfulness construct will be operationally defined as full-scale and sub-scale scores on the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ), which is comprised of five facets: Observing, Describing, Acting with awareness, Non-judging of inner experience and Nonreactivity to inner experience. The FFMQ is often used in evaluating the effectiveness of MBSR training. Internal consistency ranges from adequate to good, with alpha values ranging from 0.75 (Nonreactivity) to 0.91 (Describing). Furthermore, between-factor correlation ranged from 0.15 to 0.34 (Bear et al. 2008). The questionnaire is designed to measure how often an individual is mindful in their daily life. The FFMQ is based on a factor analysis of questions from other commonly used mindfulness scales including the MAAS (Mindfulness Awareness Attention Scale; Brown and Ryan,
2003), Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI; Buchheld et al. 2001), Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS; Baer et al. 2004), Cognitive and affective Mindfulness Scale (CAMS; Hayes and Feldman 2004), and the Southampton Mindfulness Questionnaire (SMQ; Chadwick et al. 2008). The FFMQ has become the gold standard in measuring mindfulness. Table C illustrates the randomized control trial design for 2013-2016.

IRB Approval for the project has been obtained from San Diego State University and is available to be reviewed by all participating institutions.


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