The Impact of Maharishi's Vedic Science Based
Education in Higher Education:
The Example of Maharishi International University

Christopher H. Jones

Maharishi International University
Fairfield, Iowa, U.S.A.

Part 3

III. Research on Vedic Science Based Education at the Post-Secondary Level

Research on the outcomes of Vedic Science based education can be divided into two areas: (1) research on the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program, the core educational technology derived from Maharishi's Vedic Science, and (2) research on Maharishi International University, a model of Vedic Science based higher education.

Research on Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program

At the core of Maharishi's Vedic Science based education is the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program. The TM technique itself is a simple, effortless technique which allows the conscious mind gradually to settle down while remaining completely alert, until thinking is transcended entirely and the mind experiences its own silent, unbounded nature. Maharishi's TM-Sidhi program is an advanced technology of Vedic Science which can be learned on the basis of several months' experience with Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation technique. It accelerates the unfolding of the student's mental and physiological potential in the same way as the TM technique and develops in addition a highly refined level of mind-body coordination.

Research on the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program dates back to 1969 when physiological benefits of the TM technique were first measured. Since this time over 430 studies have been undertaken at 160 independent research institutions and universities in 27 countries. A number of these have direct implications for education. The extent of the research on the TM technique relevant to education makes it one of the most widely researched educational technologies available today.

S.L. Dillbeck and M.C. Dillbeck (1987) summarized 36 studies on the TM and TM-Sidhi program relevant to education. Research has shown improvements in a number of the factors known to contribute to learning, including increases in alertness, intelligence, memory, field independence, self-concept, and emotional stability, as well as greater physiological resistance to stress.

One subset of the research on the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program particularly relevant to higher education is composed of studies on the "Students' TM-Sidhi Course." Those students who have not learned Maharishi's TM-Sidhi program before attending MIU may learn it in their first two years of study at the university. In fact, it is perhaps the single factor in the curriculum that students most strongly associate with personal growth.

Several longitudinal studies (M.C. Dillbeck, Landrith, & Orme-Johnson, 1981; Orme-Johnson, 1982; and Wallace, Mills, Orme-Johnson, M.C. Dillbeck, & Jacobe, 1983) have found increases in creativity, functional integration of the brain, and flexibility of the central nervous system among students who took the Students' TM-Sidhi course, as compared with other MIU students serving as controls who continued with their practice of the TM technique by itself over the same three-month period. These findings illustrate some of the psychological and physiological changes that develop in students through regular practice of Maharishi's TM-Sidhi program at MIU.

Research on Maharishi International University

The body of research on the TM and TM-Sidhi program represents the kinds of changes that one may expect to occur as a result of adding this technology to a college curriculum. With the establishment of MIU, however, it became possible to study the combined effect of instruction in Maharishi's Vedic Science together with its technologies - the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program - thereby supplementing the research on these technologies alone. In addition to practicing the TM and TM-Sidhi program, the subjects of these studies (MIU students) were also learning the principles of Vedic Science, which integrate the diverse areas they are studying, and also integrate the content of their studies with their experiences of the development of consciousness.

This section presents the research on MIU's system of education according to the standard categories of educational measurement (Sax, 1980): achievement and aptitude, intelligence, and values and attitudes. From the design of MIU's educational system one would predict that students would show improvements along the standard dimensions of educational measurement, together with new dimensions of change not necessarily anticipated in research on other institutions.

Achievement and aptitude. Measures of educational achievement and scholastic aptitude are quite similar. By tradition, achievement tests place more emphasis on the specific knowledge acquired during instruction, and aptitude tests emphasize the general knowledge and skills that lead to achievement in one or more fields. In practice, the two dimensions do not represent absolute categories, and a particular test usually displays a mixture of the two.

The Office of Evaluation at MIU has experimented with a number of general education and discipline-based achievement measures, including the College Outcome Measures Project exam published by the American Colleges Testing (ACT) program, the Undergraduate Placement Field tests published by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), and most recently the Academic Profile test developed by ETS. Of these, the one judged by faculty as most appropriate for the program of instruction at MIU is the Academic Profile.

MIU administered the long (three-hour) version of the Academic Profile to seniors in 1988, the first pilot year of the test (Pilot I), and the short (50-minute) version of the test (Pilot II) during the second pilot year, in the spring of 1989. Both versions cover three content areas (natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities) and four skill areas (writing, reading, critical thinking, and using mathematical data). Results from this test allow MIU to compare the performance of its seniors with those at 31 other liberal arts institutions in 1988 and 23 other schools that administered the short form in 1989.

Of the seniors who took the test at MIU, only 45% in 1988 and 60% in 1989 listed English as their native tongue, while the national average of students in four-year private colleges who are U.S. citizens is 97.9% (from the CIRP data, Astin, Kenneth, Korn, Schalit, & Berz, 1988). In previewing the test, it was suspected that familiarity with English would affect performance, due to the amount of reading required, and later statistical analysis confirmed that native language was moderately (rpb = .28) though significantly (p =.03) correlated with composite score. Consequently, the average scores were calculated for the English language group only, as this group most closely resembled the comparison group provided by ETS. Table 1 summarizes the performance of two groups of MIU seniors on the Academic Profile, showing the percent correct and the percentile rank of the English language groups on each of the seven subscales and the composite scores of the test. These ranks were computed from the aggregated data provided by ETS through a process of linear interpolation and therefore represent best estimates of MIU's standing among the other colleges in its Carnegie classification who administered the exam.

This table shows that the relative performance of the two groups on each of the seven scales varies substantially between 1988 and 1989. The 1988 group performed most strongly in critical thinking and the natural science subject field, while the 1989 group performed best in the humanities and writing. Review of the majors represented among the two groups reveals that the differences in performance reflect the relative proportions of humanities and science majors in the two groups. The significant discovery, however, is that the total or composite score each year - the most reliable score statistically - is relatively consistent over the two administrations of the test. Further, the composite score of each group (the Total Score) places the English language group at MIU among the top three or four institutions which gave the test each year.

The gain in achievement of the MIU group, relative to other colleges, is not entirely determinable from these numbers, inasmuch there has been no attempt to control for entry characteristics of students. Nevertheless, within the limits imposed by the availability of data, the level of achievement of the MIU seniors is highly respectable for a university that has a liberal acceptance policy with regard to academic preparation.

One other study in a related area looked at field independence, a psychological trait known to influence academic performance. Previous research has correlated field independence with developmental measures such as Piaget's formal operations stage (Rubinstein, 1980), Piaget's and Kohlberg's moral reasoning stages (Arbuthnot, 1971), fluid intelligence, and various measures of both verbal and performance intelligence (McKenna, 1984). One measure of field independence is the embedded figures test (Witkin, Oltman, Raskin, & Karp, 1971). The embedded figures test is not a pure measure of field independence (Arbuthnot, 1972), but detects the ability to de-embed a geometric figure from a complex surrounding and hence to maintain a stable internal reference frame amidst background distractions. It likely involves elements of perception and working memory as well as cognitive style, and performance on the test does not typically improve significantly after ages 15 to 17 (Witkin, Goodenough, & Karp, 1967).

In a longitudinal study by M.C. Dillbeck, Assimakis, Raimondi, Orme-Johnson, & Rowe, (1986), field independence as measured by the group-administered embedded figures test increased among MIU students over four years. Fifty undergraduates in the class of 1984 were measured at the beginning and end of their college career. At entry, students were significantly above the mean for the norm reference group (with an average score of 13.5 out of 18), and over four years they increased to a group average of 15.2 (F = 10.40, p = .005)

To summarize this area of research, students at Maharishi International University appear to be developing a stable cogntive style - a more efficient style of learning - at the same time that they are acquiring a high level of proficiency with the knowledge and skills of a general education. This finding supports a major objective of Maharishi International University and Vedic Science based education, which is to develop the intellectual resources of students at the same time that they are acquiring the knowledge and skills requisite for an educated person.

Intelligence. The study of intelligence through psychological tests is a complex process. No test may be said to directly measure intelligence; rather performance on any one test can be partially explained by a general factor that correlates highly with all mental tests and a number of specific factors relevant only to the one test. The general factor has been called "g" for "general intelligence," also called fluid intelligence. The specific factors have been called the "s" factors (Sax, 1980). An example of the generality of the "g" factor can be seen in a study sponsored by the Washington State Board of Higher Education. This study found that the Academic Profile, together with a similar general education test prepared by the College Board, involved one factor, called by the researchers verbal and quantitative ability, which accounted for 60% of the variance on those tests (Council of Presidents and State Board for Community College Education, 1989). This finding accentuates the importance of general or fluid intelligence in college achievement. Of five studies on MIU students that measured intellectual ability, four have focused on general or fluid intelligence, per se. We include, in addition, a study on moral reasoning which, though not traditionally viewed as a measure of intelligence, we associate with abstract reasoning in the broad practical sense.

With respect to fluid intelligence, M.C. Dillbeck et al. (1986), Cranson, Alexander, Orme-Johnson, Jones, & Gackenbach (1989), and the author have replicated an initial pilot study by Aron, Orme-Johnson, & Brubaker (1981) on the effects of Vedic Science based education on intelligence. The common measure in these studies was the Cattell Culture Fair Intelligence Test. On this test the examinee chooses from among several options a simple geometric shape or design that either completes a progression of such shapes, completes a pattern, does not belong to a set of similar shapes, or shares a common feature with other shapes. As a group-administered, non-verbal measure of general intelligence, it is particularly suited to evaluation research with populations that have a high proportion of non-native speakers, as MIU has. Previous research (Barton, 1973) has indicated that performance on this test, as with most intelligence tests (Sax, 1980), does not increase significantly after ages 15 to 17; indeed, the study by Cranson et al. included a control group of college students from another university that did not improve significantly between the time of their enrollment in college and the middle of their junior year.

With MIU students, Aron and M.C. Dillbeck found increases equivalent to nine standard IQ points in four years (Dillbeck, F(1,28) = 16.88, p < .001). Cranson et al. found in two-and-a-half years a growth of five points (t = 2.79, p < .005). Most recently, in an unpublished study, the author found an increase of seven points over the first nine months of the first year (F(1,43 )= 11.09, p < .002).

To test the generalizability of the results, Cranson et al. employed another measure of intelligence in addition to the Cattell test, the Hick's measure of choice reaction time. Choice reaction time was chosen particularly because it has been shown to be strongly associated with the "g" factor (Jensen, 1978). With three parameters on this test (two separate tasks and the standard deviation of reaction time for each individual), Cranson found significant improvements among the experimental group and not the controls over the first two-and-a-half years of undergraduate study (the multivariate F including the Cattell test = 31.20 (4,53), p < .000005).

Taken as a whole these studies of intelligence present a remarkably strong case in support of the thesis that Vedic Science based education improves one of the fundamental abilities underlying academic performance. We are not aware of any other research indicating improvement in general intelligence resulting from traditional higher education, and therefore this research in itself offers new possibilities for improving students' fundamental abilities, one aspect of the substance issue facing post-secondary educational institutions.

One other finding from a different area of research - moral studies - reflects the influence of MIU's educational system on abstract reasoning ability. Nidich has conducted several studies of moral reasoning as defined by Lawrence Kohlberg (Nidich, 1975; Nidich & Orme-Johnson, 1982; Nidich & Nidich, in press). In the initial studies with college students at a public university he found longitudinal improvement in the level of moral reasoning as a result of starting the practice of Maharishi's TM technique. In later cross-sectional studies (Nidich & Orme-Johnson, 1982) with MIU students, using the Rest Defining Issues Test, Nidich found levels of principled moral reasoning which were higher than control subjects from another small private college with similar admissions policies. Nidich also compared controls with a group who planned to start the TM technique (pre-TM group) and with a group that was practicing the TM-Sidhi program. There were no significant differences between the pre-TM and the controls. The TM-Sidhi group scored significantly above those who had only learned Maharishi's TM technique. Both SAT scores and average GPA, known from previous research to affect levels of principled moral reasoning on this measure, were not different among the four groups. In other research Nidich (1975) found that students at MIU, compared to controls, displayed significantly higher levels of moral reasoning on Kohlberg's Moral Atmosphere Interview.

We will come back shortly to moral reasoning when we discuss consciousness as a whole, but we should note here that moral reasoning, like intelligence, requires discrimination. In this sense Nidich's research supports the idea that Maharishi's Vedic Science based education significantly improves abstract reasoning ability.

Values and attitudes. The study of values and attitudes is largely the analysis of that which is held as important to an individual and therefore motivates behavior. Over an extended time, the combination of interests and habits may be viewed in educational measurement as the structure of the individual personality.

A study that focused exclusively on values of MIU students was conducted by Gelderloos (1987). He used an in-depth measure of values containing both cognitive and affective dimensions, based on a structured interview after Hermans (1976). He interviewed 15 students from MIU and compared them with 15 undergraduates from a nearby university in a nine-month cross-sectional and longitudinal study. To control for possible interviewer bias, non-meditating interviewers and raters were employed, and double-blind procedures were used in the evaluation process. In addition, subjects and interviewers were not informed of the purpose of the study until after the posttest.

At pretest MIU students, compared with controls, scored significantly higher on all five cognitive value dimensions of psychological health: unifying ability, autonomy, intrinsic spirituality, creativity, and directedness. They began higher also on the two affective dimensions, well-being and integration. Over the nine-month experimental period the MIU students grew more than the controls in five of the seven value areas: autonomy, spirituality, creativity, well-being, and integration.

This study constitutes an important addition to the prior existing body of research because it employed research methods (rated interviews) which are sensitive to the more global, subjective educational outcomes. While these outcomes are an explicit aim of Maharishi's Vedic Science based education, they are also central to all of liberal education. Gelderloos notes this when he concludes, "This [research] suggests that there is no reason for education today not to achieve its original goal of developing holistic, well-integrated individuals as well as providing professional training" (1987, p. 486).

The other major study of values and attitudes among MIU students is found in the alumni survey data collected by the University's Office of Evaluation. This research focuses directly on student satisfaction with the University.

The 1987 Alumni Survey. Another source of data on the effectiveness of educational institutions, as Pace has shown, is surveys of graduates. Findings from this research are especially important because they represent the most direct measure available of long-term satisfaction among those individuals whom the institution is designed to serve, its students. Furthermore, because satisfaction - or fulfillment - is one of the central goals of education according to Maharishi's Vedic Science, the level of students' satisfaction with their lives is an important indicator of a Vedic Science based university's success.

Four surveys (1979, 1981, 1984, 1987) have been conducted in the past using the questionnaire of the American College Testing (ACT) Program. Responses to this questionnaire allow MIU to compare its alumni with those of approximately 90 other institutions that have used the survey between 1983 and 1986 (38,000 entries total). The findings from these surveys have been consistent over the separate administrations at MIU. Yet because previous surveys combined graduates and undergraduates, we use only the figures from the most recent survey to obtain a purer measure of the effectiveness of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Two mailings of the ACT survey were sent to 500 MIU undergraduate alumni between November, 1987, and February, 1988. Of these, 268 (49%) surveys were returned and subsequently scored by the ACT Evaluation/Survey Service. The respondents were well distributed among the 12 years of MIU's graduating classes (1976 through 1987). For the MIU group the mean number of years since graduation was 4.5, compared with a mean for the ACT reference group of well over 10 years.

One striking finding in this administration, as well as previous administrations, of the survey is the high level of motivation for higher learning found among MIU graduates when compared with the national reference group. Summing the total percentages over all advanced degrees, the MIU group compared with the reference group shows 10% more alumni intending to pursue graduate degrees after their B.A. or B.S. As we can see from Table 2, the greatest distinction is found in aspirations for the Ph.D. degree. Here there is more than a 20 percentage point spread between the MIU group and the national reference group. MIU students' level of aspiration for higher degrees indicates the high value they place on knowledge for personal and professional development - on the ability of knowledge to inspire and transform their lives.

The other finding that is consistent among the several administrations of this questionnaire is that, compared with the national reference group, MIU graduates rate very highly the contribution MIU has made to their lives. When asked, "Regardless of financial benefits, has college improved the quality of your life?" 91% of MIU alumni responded "definitely yes," compared with 69.8% of the national reference group. Similarly, the number of MIU alumni who said that the university prepared them "exceptionally well" for their continuing education is 25 percentage points higher than the national reference group.

On another dimension of success after graduation, MIU alumni indicate a high degree of satisfaction with the University in the preparation it provided them for their careers. When asked how well their college prepared them for their current occupation, 89% of MIU alumni reported they were adequately prepared, compared with the national reference group's 81%. Most notable, however, is the percentage who felt their college prepared them "very well" for their current occupation. Among MIU alumni, 63% responded 'very well," compared with a national figure of 32.4% (the choices were "very well," "adequately," "poorly," or "not at all").-2-

The last finding from the alumni survey relevant to this discussion was that MIU alumni overall have a very high level of satisfaction with their alma mater. When asked whether they would choose the college again, 79.8% said "definitely yes," compared with 29.8% in the national reference group (the choices are "definitely yes," "probably yes," "uncertain," "probably no," and "definitely no"). Of transfer students asked how they would compare the quality of the education at this college with that of other colleges, 83.6% of MIU alumni responded "better," compared with 35.3% in the national reference group, and 46.0% in the sub-group composed of private colleges only. When questioned more closely on the degree to which their college contributed to 24 different aspects of personal and professional growth, MIU students were above the reference group on 23 of the 24, with an average difference of 26.5 percentage points. The two aspects where MIU alumni felt their college experience contributed most to their development were "caring for your own physical and mental health," and "understanding the interaction of man and his environment."

It seems clear from the data gathered on surveyed alumni that the level of satisfaction students express with their education at MIU greatly exceeds the level found in college alumni generally. Even more important is their high level of motivation for higher degrees and their overall satisfaction with the contribution college has made to the quality of their life. The former indicates approval for MIU as an individual institution. The latter findings demonstrate the effectiveness of the Vedic Science based system of education implemented at MIU, a system which can be incorporated into any university.


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