Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Nicole Zarrett


Teachers are exposed to a variety of chronic stressors in their work environments that lead to stress, burnout, and the deterioration of physiological systems that promote adaptive responses to stress. The downstream effects of chronic stress and burnout incur substantial costs associated with attrition and stress-related health concerns. Research demonstrates that mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) have potential to improve teachers’ capacity to manage stress and mitigate its detrimental effects. However, many MBI studies to date have failed to incorporate key elements of methodological rigor and included large dosages despite research suggesting that such dosages are iatrogenic. Furthermore, these studies have not considered what mechanisms account for positive changes seen in teacher outcomes. The current study examined the efficacy of a randomized waitlist-controlled brief MBI (bMBI) in a sample of secondary school teachers (N = 23; four sessions and six hours) utilizing both self-reported and physiological measures of stress (i.e., cortisol awakening response [CAR]). Results indicate that teachers receiving the bMBI demonstrated reductions in self-reported stress, burnout, and depression from pre- to post-intervention despite having a small sample size, which indicates that the impact of the intervention for these outcomes was particularly robust. There were no observed changes in the waitlist-control group. A qualitative assessment of CAR values suggests that teachers in the intervention group were more likely to experience an adaptive shift in physiological functioning while teachers in the control group were more likely to experience a maladaptive shift. Analyses to identify mechanisms of change indicate there were medium effects for total mindfulness and the describe and act with awareness dimensions of mindfulness in the intervention group but not the waitlist-control group. Furthermore, the moderate correlations observed across several dimensions of mindfulness on teacher outcome variables provides insight into dimensions of mindfulness that were most impactful in producing these positive outcomes and are discussed in the context of designing cost-effective MBIs that can be tailored to meet the specific needs of various subgroups of teachers. The study highlights the need for future MBIs to reduce intervention dosages to maximize cost-effectiveness and provides directions to continue building on this critical research avenue.