Teaching & Learning Center Grants (2013-2015)

Project Background

Around 2010, the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society (CMind) began to establish relationships with Centers for Teaching and Learning (CTLs) throughout the US and Canada. Teaching and Learning Centers exist within colleges and universities and work to improve teaching by providing faculty with training and resources. CTLs may also be referred to by other names, such as "faculty development centers," "teaching and learning centers," or "centers for teaching excellence."

In the Fall of 2011, the Center sponsored an event at Amherst College with the leadership of the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education (POD) and a number of directors of CTLs. In 2012, we gave two presentations at the POD conference in Atlanta (the annual conference of CTL professionals), and an article co-written by Daniel Barbezat and Allison Pingree was released in the annual POD publication, To Improve the Academy (Jossey-Bass).

Working with Centers for Teaching and Learning on college and university campuses is a highly effective means to reach across the curriculum and work with professionals who are committed to teaching excellence. CTLs can easily reach hundreds of instructors across all disciplines and types of instruction. In addition, these centers are ideally situated to collect and assess the outcomes of the implementation of contemplative pedagogies, an area that is currently underdeveloped.

In 2013, we established the Contemplative Mind - 1440 Teaching and Learning Grants. We would like to extend our deep gratitude to the 1440 Foundation for making this grant program possible. By the end of the program in 2015, we provided $5,000 seed grants to 15 institutions plus funding to support visiting speakers on contemplative pedagogy at 12 additional institutions. These grants provided resources to CTLs so that they can support, develop, and extend the use of contemplative practices throughout their institutions and assess their impacts.

To Improve the Academy
Suggested Reading

Barbezat, Daniel & Pingree, Allison. (2012). Contemplative Pedagogy: The Special Role of Teaching and Learning Centers. In James E. Groccia and Laura Cruz (Eds.), To Improve the Academy, 31, 177-191. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Supported Activities:

  • Creation of faculty learning communities
  • A weeklong on-campus course design institute
  • Planning for and creation of Centers for Contemplative Pedagogy
  • Sub-grants to faculty for course development
  • CTL consultation with faculty in course development
  • Sub-grants to faculty who wish to participate in CMind's annual Summer Session on Contemplative Pedagogy
  • Invited speakers

The 2015 Awardees

For a third year, the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society awarded grants to Centers for Teaching and Learning. These grants are made possible by funding from the 1440 Foundation. This year's effort drew the greatest number of applications in the brief history of the program. The Center received 41 proposals from a wide variety of institutions in the US and abroad, which made for an exceptionally challenging selection process for our review committee.

In order to incorporate a more diverse set of perspectives into the grant review process, we selected a group of reviewers for the proposals. This review committee consisted of two past recipients of CTL grants, and two other individuals from our network with experience in contemplative pedagogy.

A new component of the 2015 grant program is the opportunity for current grant recipients to connect with past recipients through a mentoring program. In 2014, we held a meeting of past and current recipients at Amherst College in September, and all those who attended found it to be useful in planning or continuing their grant-funded programs. However, due to the logistical difficulties in bringing grant recipients together for an onsite meeting, we chose to instead offer mentoring opportunities via phone and video. This year's grant recipients have been paired up with past recipients who can offer guidance and support for those embarking on a new contemplative pedagogy program.

2015 Review Committee

  • Layli Maparyan

    Layli Maparyan

    Katherine Stone Kaufmann '67 Executive Director, Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College

  • Pearl Ratunil

    Kunaka Pearl Ratunil

    Associate Professor of English, Harper College

  • Resa Walch

    Resa Walch

    Chair, Dept. of Health and Human Performance, Elon University

  • Julie Lellis

    Julie Lellis

    Associate Professor of Communications, Elon University

Colorado State University - The Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT)

Coordinator: Margit Hentschel, Co-Founding Director, Center for Mindfulness & Service-Learning Director

Project Title: CSU Mindful Leaders Faculty Training: Integrating Mindfulness for Transformational Leadership

Colorado State University's (CSU) Center for Mindfulness in the Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT) proposes a Mindful Leaders Faculty Training with a Mindfulness Practices Guidebook in Higher Education as an instructional framework. Twenty CSU Faculty will participate in a pilot project designed to deepen practitioner skills and competencies in contemplative education including classroom instruction, community-based research, and committee work. A lens of social justice and gender equity will encourage cultivating kind, compassionate, and high social-emotional mature leaders who are engaged in the world in positive ways. Our project offers a unique opportunity to foster a new culture of transformational leaders who advance diversity and improve the overall climate and culture for all people at CSU and in community

Margit Hentschel and Debora Colbert

Margit Hentschel and Debora Colbert

Dr. Margit Hentschel and Dr. Debora Colbert are the co-Founding Directors for the Center for Mindfulness at The Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT) at Colorado State University (CSU). Dr. Hentschel has taught mindfulness practices for over 20 years and is a certified Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist. Dr. Colbert created the "Calm within Guided Meditation" workshops for CSU's annual Professional Development Institute four years ago. She holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Performance and Change from CSU. The Center for Mindfulness mission is to promote overall well-being in students, faculty, staff, and community members through the cultivation of mindfulness skills and practices, education, innovative research, and assessment.

How did you discover contemplative pedagogy?

Our Center for Mindfulness Leadership Team came together three years ago to create a formal network for building and sharing mindfulness practices. We identified existing CSU initiatives in contemplative education and mindfulness through related course faculty leaders, staff workshop leaders, a local community mindfulness network, and CSU's Student Peace Alliance. We cultivated a collaborative, co-share, co-voice leadership team design. This year we added Occupational Therapy and Business College faculty and staff representation.

The collective vision for our Center for Mindfulness is focused on "working intentionally and collectively to create conditions that inspire personal and community transformation leading to mindful communities and fostering socially conscious, compassionate, and mindful leaders." This is very much in tune with our leadership team's personal values and way of being in the world.

What is your core educational mission and what role does contemplative pedagogy play?

Our core Center for Mindfulness mission aligns with CSU's teaching, research and service focus through positive contributions in: Teaching: Existing and emerging, new courses and programs in mindfulness are designed to promote engaged teaching and experiential learning; Research: Research on student skills development including focus and concentration, developing emotional capacity, and improved classroom and campus climate; Service: Community partnerships through workshops, presentations, and events centered in the fields of suicide prevention, trauma healing, stress reduction and public civility.

Which needs and/or challenges in higher education do think contemplative approaches can address?

Dr. Margit Hentschel and Dr. Debora ColbertPresently our CSU Center for Mindfulness Leadership Team is focused on promoting mindfulness through a diverse and inclusive lens. We believe that through cultivating compassion throughout our communities, social justice work may be amplified in its effectiveness through non-violent approaches learned from mindfulness practices. We have found some challenges in engaging diverse campus communities. We look forward to the national conference this year to learn more about how to bridge this gap.

Northern Kentucky University - Center for Educator Excellence

Coordinator: Jennifer Stansbury Koenig, Director, Northern Kentucky Center for Educator Excellence

Project Title: Contemplative Teaching and Learning Initiative

Through the Northern Kentucky Center for Educator Excellence (NKCEE), we are creating professional learning communities to think, study and learn together; develop two courses that model contemplative pedagogy (i.e., Best Practices in College Teaching and Mindfulness & Contemplative Practices for Helping Professionals); provide project faculty with partial funding to attend the Summer session on contemplative pedagogy and sponsor a workshop for faculty on integrating contemplative practices.

Jennifer E. Sharp

Jennifer E. Sharp

Jennifer E. Sharp, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of counselor education. Her research interests include using mindfulness-based and strengths-focused approaches to reduce stress, prevent burnout, and improve well-being among educators and counselors. Northern Kentucky Center for Educator Excellence (NKCEE), housed within the College of Education and Human Services at Northern Kentucky University, offers high quality professional development, supports college and career readiness initiatives, provides evaluation services, and convenes professional learning communities. NKCEE collaborates to recruit, support, and retain educators as they prepare all children to be productive participants in the global, knowledge-based economy.

How did you discover contemplative pedagogy?

During my graduate work at Pennsylvania State University, I became involved with Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in EducationTM (CARE), a professional development program for teachers that is built primarily on contemplative practices. The CARE training provided a great model for me to see how various types of meditation (e.g., breath, walking, loving-kindness) and deep listening were gentle, yet powerful practices. It also helped me recognize that some of my personal practices could be drawn into the professional sphere to benefit others.

At Northern Kentucky UniversityWhat is your core educational mission and what role does contemplative pedagogy play?

My core educational mission is to help students realize that they have the capacity to be present wherever they are, with a curiosity and openness to experience. In moments of such mindfulness, interesting things can happen and daily interactions can be transformed. We may cultivate a new friendship when we slow down to engage more fully in a classroom learning experience. Or perhaps we will see something from a new vantage point. Furthermore, I believe that engaging in the classroom is not different than being radically engaged with life. Can we show up and be present in a class when we don't believe we have the capacity to do so? Are we open to connecting with a person with whom we assumed we'd have nothing in common? What happens when we infuse compassion and authenticity into our everyday interactions? To promote self-discovery, connection to others, and first person engagement with class material, I incorporate guided reflection activities, reflective writing assignments, deep listening exercises, mindfulness meditations, poetry, and strengths spotting (helping students identify their character strengths and those of their classmates) into my classes.

Which needs and/or challenges in higher education do think contemplative approaches can address?

Contemplative approaches provide grounding for educators who are looking to offer radical presence and exhibit dispositions connected with optimal learning (e.g., empathy, a larger sense of purpose, a focus on building high quality relationships, etc.). I think they are particularly well-suited for today's students who tend to be virtually connected, socially networked with peers constantly, and yet disconnected from their inner lives. In a culture that is in perpetual motion, many individuals tend to have a sense of identity and locus of control that is progressively external, and yet they desperately need support in developing their self-awareness and awareness of others. Contemplative approaches are an excellent vehicle for cultivating awareness and widening the lens we bring to learning and relating with oneself and others. They provide a means through which students can practice being present, authentic, compassionate, and engaged in meaningful learning that impacts both their academic and inner lives.

Syracuse University - Office of Faculty Development

Coordinator: Bronwyn E. Adam, Ph.D., Director, Faculty Development

Project Title: Assessing the Outcomes of Contemplative Pedagogy

Specifically, to further the development of our contemplative studies and practices initiatives, we will run a 2- day workshop in the fall of 2015 with an outside expert in assessing contemplative pedagogy and a follow-up session in Spring 2016 to present our work to the campus community. Our goal is to consider deeply the evaluation of educational outcomes of contemplative pedagogy, including the development of an assessment plan. We envision institute applicants to be those who currently teach courses with a contemplative component and who are interested in drawing on additional expertise to create and pilot an assessment plan that could be used broadly across multiple contemplative courses to help us understand course outcomes and explore students' perceptions of these experiences.


Bronwyn Adam

Bronwyn Adam: As Director for Faculty Development, I coordinate a variety of initiatives, programs, and services to support faculty success at Syracuse University. Rather than a central office for teaching and learning, Syracuse has embraced a consortium model that pulls together a variety of resources and subject specialists to provide support for graduate teaching assistants, new professors, faculty looking for new pedagogies and those engaged in research related to teaching practices and student success. I have been a yoga practitioner for 30 years and began working with the Contemplative Collaborative-a diverse group of faculty interested in using contemplative practices to engage students in their classes. The group sees such practices as helpful for student learning and also as a means to address the stress and anxiety students report. Ultimately, the Contemplative Collaborative seeks to engage in practices that encourage more focused attention, careful listening, and overall wellness and satisfaction among students at Syracuse University.

How did you discover contemplative pedagogy? What is your core educational mission and what role does contemplative pedagogy play? Which needs and/or challenges in higher education do think contemplative approaches can address?

Yoga at SyracuseYoga has been an important part of my life for many years. The value of focus and breathing - and paying attention - are especially important in the world our students inhabit. The constant barrage of messages, images, and sounds compete for students' attention and suggest to them that communication, learning new information, and thinking can be accomplished in quick bursts with minimal study or reflection.

The Mission/Vision of Syracuse University seeks to:

  • Foster a richly diverse and inclusive community of learning and opportunity
  • Promote a culture of innovation and discovery
  • Support faculty, staff, and student collaboration in creative activity and research that address emerging opportunities and societal needs

Contemplative practices support learning, discovery, and application of knowledge by focusing and "drilling down" rather than skimming the surface and proceeding to the next stimulus. Students need practice grappling with complexity-in thinking deeply and broadly. In short they need to "attend to" their own thoughts, experiences, and feelings -and ultimately to those of others. Reflective practices can provide insight, understanding, and a break from the din of living in a cacophonous world.

We know that students engage in substance abuse and other risky behaviors as a means to release stress and "cut loose." The consequences of such behaviors can be dire. As higher education professionals, we need to encourage healthy ways to handle stress and reflective practices that can diffuse stress. Contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and journaling can support student wellness and become valuable life skills for navigating an increasingly complex and challenging world.

University of the District of Columbia - Research Academy for Integrated Learning (RAIL)

Coordinators: Dr. Anthony Mansueto, Director, Interdisciplinary General Education Program; Dr. Michelle Chatman, Assistant Professor, Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Project Title: UDC Contemplative Faculty Learning Community

The University of the District of Columbia is the public, four-year institution in Washington, DC. In 2014, we were awarded an Invited Speakers Series grant and hosted two successful talks on Contemplative Pedagogy. This project enables us to build upon that momentum and explore Contemplative Pedagogy in greater depth through the formation of a faculty learning community. The UDC-FLC will gather in monthly circles to discuss the literature and varied approaches to Contemplative Pedagogy and will host a faculty workshop in Spring 2016. By the end of the grant period we plan to have contemplative approaches integrated into at least 12 courses in our Interdisciplinary General Education Program.

Michelle Chatman

Michelle Chatman

Michelle Chatman, PhD, Adjunct Professor, Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences, is an anthropologist and teaches undergraduate courses at the University of the District of Columbia. My research interests include African Diasporic identity, urban inequality and well-being, and urban youth development. I am the Faculty Leader of the UDC Initiative in Civic Engagement and Equity (ICE-E), which provides grants to students to allow them to accept unpaid, equity-related summer internships. Our teaching and learning center is called The Research Academy for Integrated Learning (RAIL). RAIL is a mission driven division under the University's Academic Affairs branch, created to provide support and tools that enable pedagogical innovation to improve the educational experience of students. Together, RAIL and our Interdisciplinary General Education Program (IGED), will support the intentional integration of contemplative approaches into our instruction and campus culture

How did you discover contemplative pedagogy?

events at UDCIn 2010, I attended a Spirituality and Education conference at American University in Washington, DC, where I learned about The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. A proponent to culturally relevant, and holistic education, I had always been interested in the ability of teaching and learning to cultivate the inner wisdom of individuals for the purpose of personal well-being and the transformation of an inequitable world. I maintain a contemplative practice in my religious traditional and like many others, have experienced the benefits of meditation in my daily functioning. I am particularly interested in exploring the contemplative traditions throughout the African Diaspora and translating them into viable resources for HBCUs and public universities with diverse student populations. I have shared my "Coltrane Meditation" and other contemplative strategies, in Faculty Development sessions and in my classes. My growing involvement in C-Mind, as a summer session participant and faculty member, and now, member of the 2015 Annual Conference Steering Committee, exemplify my belief in the transformative and liberatory power of contemplative approaches in education. I am convinced that contemplative pedagogy is a missing component in Western education that can transform our teaching, our learning, our doing and our being in the world.

What is your core educational mission and what role does contemplative pedagogy play?

Dr. Brad Grant at UDCI see Contemplative Pedagogy as a place where my interests can African-centered, indigenous, holistic, and liberation pedagogy, can coalesce. My core educational mission is to foster the development of individuals' inner technology to improve their grasp of critical thinking skills and content knowledge. I believe that Contemplative Pedagogy can help us begin to truly see each other, the world we have created, and develop the inner capacities for challenging injustice and promoting a common good.

Which needs and/or challenges in higher education do think contemplative approaches can address?

Higher education has become very assessment and outcome driven which causes burden and stress for student, faculty,and administrators. Contemplative approaches can restore the humanity to higher education, and redirect our focus to the true purpose of liberal arts education which is to foster freedom, inquiry, and integrity. Contemplative pedagogy, implemented thoughtfully and strategically, can help us deliver on that promise.

The 2014 Awardees

The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society is very pleased to announce the 2014 recipients of its Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) Grants and Invited Speaker Grants. We would like to thank you, our community, for your efforts in bringing contemplative methods and practices into your centers for teaching and learning, where faculty from all disciplines can convene and access training and resources to enrich their teaching. We would also like to extend our deep gratitude to the 1440 Foundation and the Mind & Life Institute for providing funding to make this grant program possible.

The grant review committee and the Center received a large number of promising proposals from teaching and learning centers at colleges and universities across the country and abroad, which made for a challenging selection process.

This year's grant awards span a variety of types of institutions, communities, and contemplative pedagogy programs at different stages of implementation, including: a collaborative program between a TLC and a community service-learning office, a mindful teaching and learning program at a community college, and a plan to integrate contemplative pedagogy into formalized learning outcomes at a 2-year college. We look forward to hearing more about the progress and outcomes of these programs.

2014 Review Committee

  • Dan Barbezat

    Daniel Barbezat

    Professor of Economics, Amherst College

  • Stephanie Briggs

    Stephanie Briggs

    Assistant Professor of English, The Community College of Baltimore County

  • Rick Chess

    Richard Chess

    Roy Carroll Professor of Honors Arts and Sciences, University of North Carolina at Asheville

  • Laura Rendon

    Laura Rendón

    Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, The University of Texas at San Antonio

2014 Teaching and Learning Center Grants

Community College of Philadelphia - Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning (FCTL)

Coordinator: Eileen Abrams, Instructor, English Department and Teacher-in-Residence, FCTL

"Mindful Learning, Compassionate Teaching" is the second year of a professional development program to introduce faculty to contemplative practices and support them as they incorporate these practices into their teaching materials and the life of the classroom (and, of course, into their own lives as well.) For 2014-2015, the program's focus is kindness as a pedagogical practice, and our guiding question is: How can the intentional and sustained practice of kindness positively affect student retention and success, strengthen and deepen collegial relationships and job satisfaction, foster greater understanding and trust between faculty and administration, and promote civility on our campus?

Eileen Abrams

Eileen Abrams

Eileen Abrams: I am an instructor in the English Department at Community College of Philadelphia and a Teacher-in-Residence in our Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning (FCTL.) My current research focus is assessing the impact of contemplative practices on student retention and academic success. The FCTL is a faculty-led and volunteer-driven endeavor, operating with a cross-disciplinary faculty advisory board, a part-time faculty facilitator, two part-time teachers-in-residence (selected each year through a peer review process), and a host of volunteers who staff the Center and offer programs. Our volunteer colleagues are the heart of our center, and we are grateful for their dedication.

How did you discover contemplative pedagogy?

I came to formal meditation practice over ten years ago through the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Initially presented in the context of health and healing, MBSR approaches and techniques were at that time beginning to be applied to other areas such as business, education, and mental health. I soon became very interested in the prospect of bringing sitting meditation and mindful movement into my English classes at Community College of Philadelphia as well as into my private practice as an academic coach and test prep tutor.

In April 2008 I attended a symposium on Developmental Issues in Contemplative Education at the Garrison Institute, and in August I returned to Garrison for a week-long seminar on mindfulness and education offered to thirty teachers as a follow-up to the April gathering. That did it - I was hooked! At these events, for the first time, I met like-minded and like-hearted colleagues and was introduced to a treasure of resources, including the Mindfulness in Education Network, the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education, and the Garrison Institute's program initiative on education and contemplative practice.

What is your core educational mission and what role does contemplative pedagogy play?

For a good part of my professional life, I have worked with students characterized as "at-risk" academically and otherwise. The students I currently teach arrive at our community college typically eager and motivated but hampered by inadequate preparation for college-level courses. Many are working and caring for children in addition to embarking on a college education. For some, their lives are further complicated by violence in their neighborhoods or by the instability of homelessness.

My core educational mission is helping my students acquire the skills of meta-cognition and self-reflection foundational to academic success. I coach them in how to sharpen attention and sustain focus, regulate emotions and control impulses, and notice and let go of self-limiting thoughts and self-defeating behaviors. Mindfulness and other contemplative practices are, not surprisingly, central to this endeavor.

Which needs and/or challenges in higher education do think contemplative approaches can address?

CCP students studyingBesides what I have just described and have come to call "Mindfulness-Based Academic Support," I believe contemplative approaches have a role to play in addressing other challenges in higher education. We and our students live in a world where people are enamored of so-called multi-tasking and are rapidly losing the interest and ability to "single-task." A tsunami of technological devices and services promises to bring efficiency and convenience to our lives and ends up delivering more and more distraction and distractibility. We seem to have less tolerance for ambiguity overall along with less patience and discernment for wrestling with complexity, whether it concerns a layered academic text or a pressing issue that has potential global consequences.

I have always believed that one of the highest purposes of higher education is the development of self-understanding and the cultivation of empathy for others. This is what a liberal arts education can provide, and, in my opinion, especially so when it is interwoven with contemplative pedagogy.

Selkirk College - Teaching and Learning Institute

Coordinator: Theresa Southam, Director, Teaching and Learning Institute

Labyrinth at SelkirkThe proposal is to host a workshop with learning assessment specialists and seasoned contemplative educators to explore how program outcomes can be taught, utilized and assessed with contemplative activities. The group will consider innovative assessments such as class projects, learning passports, badges, or e-portfolios. In an Applied Research project following the workshop 2 or 3 Selkirk College instructors will implement and study strategies generated in the workshop. The findings of the Applied Research project will be presented internally and externally.

The Teaching and Learning Institute at Selkirk was formed in 2011. By working with staff through the Learning Fellows (one for each School at the College) and community through the Learning Region, the Institute endeavors to optimize learning for students, staff and community. Its popular annual TEDx eventsbook club and Teacher Talks are viewed in the Regional teaching and learning circles as innovative and fresh. Book club selections have included Making GoodEmotional IntelligenceAlone Together and What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains -The Shallows. All of these books consider the role of emotional stability, connection and focus in education.

Theresa Southam

Theresa Southam

How did you discover contemplative pedagogy?

Theresa Southam: As a young woman attending university Tai Chi Chuan was a great stress reduction and focusing strategy.

What is your core educational mission and what role does contemplative pedagogy play?

My mission is to address each individual learner's needs in the context of their relationship with learning, our instructors and the institutional environment (both virtual and physical). Contemplative pedagogy and its related practices makes sense in terms of helping learners at Selkirk College continue to refine their lifelong goals, learning strategies and relationships.

Which needs and/or challenges in higher education do think contemplative approaches can address?

We have identified a number of program outcomes that are common to the Institution including critical and creative thinking, communication, social responsibility and person and interpersonal capacities. These program outcomes must translate to learning outcomes at the course level and then ideally be taught, utilized and assessed. By integrating contemplative practices into institutional processes I hope to change their status from "extra-curricular" to "curricular."

University of Massachusetts, Amherst - Center for Teaching & Faculty Development

Coordinator: Brian Baldi, Assistant Director

UMass Amherst open houseThe University of Massachusetts Amherst Center for Teaching & Faculty Development (CTFD), in collaboration with the Office of Civic Engagement & Service-Learning (CESL), will support the institutional visibility of contemplative pedagogy (CP) by fostering the integration of CP into course design and teaching. As part of the project, the CTFD and CESL will further develop CP practices for the CESL Faculty Fellows Program; support a cohort of faculty to attend the CP Summer Session; develop CP resources for faculty; provide CP training for CTFD and CESL teaching consultants and staff; and provide an introduction to CP for graduate teaching assistants.

John Reiff is the Director of UMass Amherst CESL. His research interests include civic learning and organizational change.

Brian Baldi is an Assistant Director of the UMass Amherst CTFD. His research interests include scholarly writing, mentoring, teaching consultations, and creative writing.

The UMass CTFD supports the professional development of faculty across all career stages and disciplines with a wide range of programs and resources focused on teaching, mentoring, scholarly writing, and leadership.

The UMass CESL helps faculty develop service-learning courses, which engage students in community service related to the learning goals of the course.

How did you discover contemplative pedagogy? What is your core educational mission and what role does contemplative pedagogy play? Which needs and/or challenges in higher education do think contemplative approaches can address?

John Reiff

John Reiff

John Reiff: I was first introduced to contemplative practice in the early 1970s, and was introduced to it as a teaching method in the late 1980s. Over the past 10 years, I have seen my friend Katja Hahn d'Errico develop contemplative pedagogy in conjunction with teaching social justice and service-learning.

My core educational mission has three parts: 1) to work directly with students to help them develop the knowledge, skills, and values they need to work collaboratively with other people to build a more just and humane world; 2) to work directly with faculty to help them also do this work with students; and 3) to work with colleagues toward the transformation of my university and others so our institutions embrace and support this vision of learning for democratic citizenship and social justice. Contemplative pedagogy offers a powerful way for students to become more centered, to bring awareness to the values that move the core of their being and to the deep connections they have with others. These are essential foundations for working for justice.

The American educational system has taught many students that education is about performing to meet someone else's standards; contemplative approaches can teach that education is about being present. Many students have been taught that education is about ingesting information; contemplative approaches can teach that education is about cultivating awareness. Many students have learned to approach educational institutions as consumers, purchasing credentials through a combination of money and effort; contemplative approaches can reveal the possibility of transformative learning, where focus shifts from getting to being.

Brian BaldiBrian Baldi: In my role as a teaching development practitioner, I regularly consult with faculty on course design, active learning, instructional presence, and meaningful formative assessment. In many of these conversations, faculty members seek methods of instruction that will help students increase their capability to think critically and focus deeply and meaningfully on course material. Some commonly-cited impediments to meaningful learning include: a culture of testing in public high schools that does not prepare students for the deep thinking required in college; diffused attention due to the mass availability and lure of Personal Electronic Devices; financial pressures that force increasing amounts of students to work while in college, thereby reducing the amount of time they can devote to their studies; and classroom content delivery strategies that do not encourage students to interact meaningfully with course material. I believe that many of these issues can be directly addressed by introducing contemplative pedagogy practices on our campus so that instructors and students alike can be more present in their own educational process.

University of Arizona - Office of Instruction and Assessment

Coordinator: Alfred W. Kaszniak, Professor (Psychology, Neurology, Psychiatry); OIA Pedagogy Fellow

The UA Office of Instruction & Assessment will develop the foundations for a center for contemplative pedagogy at UA. Over two years, Professor Alfred Kaszniak will coordinate the efforts of an interdisciplinary Faculty Learning Community that identifies core learning outcomes for UA contemplative pedagogy; creates a catalogue of instructional assessment tools; undertakes pedagogy trials across campus, organizes curriculum development workshops and a conference based upon findings; and creates a website featuring videos and a blog to engage and educate the campus community. Ultimately, this work will also contribute to a developing UA Secular Ethics Center, supporting and enhancing contemplative pedagogy.

Al Kaszniak

Al Kaszniak

Al Kaszniak is currently Director of the Neuropsychology, Emotion, and Meditation Laboratory, and a professor in the departments of Psychology, Neurology, and Psychiatry at The University of Arizona (UA). His research has focused on the neuropsychology of aging and age-related neurological disorders, consciousness, memory self-monitoring, emotion, and the psychophysiology of long-term and short-term meditation. The UA Center for Contemplative Pedagogy will identify and assess core learning outcomes for faculty engaged in contemplative pedagogy, organize curriculum development workshops and conferences, and create a website featuring videos and a blog to engage and educate the campus community.

How did you discover contemplative pedagogy? What is your core educational mission and what role does contemplative pedagogy play? Which needs and/or challenges in higher education do think contemplative approaches can address?

UA studentsIn addition to my academic, research, and administrative roles, I have been a long-time meditation practitioner and received dharma transmission, authorizing my role as a teacher (Sensei) of Zen Buddhism. I serve as teacher and spiritual director for the Upaya Sangha of Tucson, a lay Zen practice community, and also serve as President of the Board of Directors of Upaya Zen Center and Institute in Santa Fe, NM. My meditation practice and teaching initially inspired several research efforts aimed at better understanding how both longer-term and short-term meditation practices affect attention and emotion response and regulation. This research utilized various behavioral and psychophysiological approaches, and results have been published in scientific journals and book chapters.

Over time, I became increasingly interested in finding ways to bring contemplative approaches into my university teaching. In 2008, I applied for and received a Contemplative Practice Fellowship from the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, allowing me to develop, during a sabbatical leave, a new course entitled, "The Psychology of Empathy and Compassion: Contemplative and Scientific Perspectives." Since receiving the fellowship, I have taught this course three different semesters, and am now developing a new course on mindfulness practice and research, to be offered in the Spring semester of 2015. I have described my experience in contemplative pedagogy in an edited book chapter (in press), and am preparing a paper for publication submission on assessment of student outcomes in these courses. I am also an active member of the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE), have presented at ACHME annual meetings, and enjoy the support and advice of colleagues through this organization.

My teaching includes both undergraduate and undergraduate courses in psychology and neuroscience, as well as mentorship and advising. My own contemplative practice informs and supports all of my efforts as a faculty member, and a variety of contemplative practices and exercises are now integrated into all of my course teaching. In my view, among the greatest challenges in higher education are finding ways in which students can fully engage in the learning process and relate what they are learning to what is most important and meaningful in their own lives. Contemplative approaches hold the promise of both enhancing student availability to new experience, via facilitation of attentional stability and equanimity, and facilitating clarity in student examination of personal values and meaning.

Vassar College - Learning, Teaching and Research Center (LTRC)

Coordinator: Eve Dunbar, Director of LTRC

For the past three years the Learning, Teaching and Research Center at Vassar has hosted the Pedagogy in Action Summer Institute (PIA). While PIA themes vary from year to year, the common thread has been course design that foregrounds student centered pedagogy, and is driven by learning goals rather than exclusively by content (Fink 2003). The Institute has been a great success and this year the LTRC is partnering with Vassar's Exploring Transfer Program (ET) to design on a version of the PIA that brings together Community College Faculty and Vassar Faculty to explore the role of contemplative practices in learning goal centered course design and pedagogy.

Eve Dunbar

Eve Dunbar

Eve Dunbar is the Associate Dean of the Faculty, Director of the Learning, Teaching and Research Center, and an associate professor of English. Her area of research is African American literature, with specializations in black diaspora theory, black feminism, and cultural studies. She teaches African American literature and culture, as well as questions of American imperialism and race.

Vassar's LTRC is constantly changing, attempting to find the best methods for addressing the needs of our diverse student body. Our goal is to enable students to maximize their unique educational experiences at Vassar College.

How did you discover contemplative pedagogy? What is your core educational mission and what role does contemplative pedagogy play? Which needs and/or challenges in higher education do think contemplative approaches can address?

I've come to contemplative practices throughout my life in an attempt to quiet my own mind. I've failed to achieve peacefulness many times, but I continue to be engaged with contemplative practices because I do believe they offer insight into dealing with a contentious world. I believe these same issues arise in the classroom-especially one dealing with race, class, gender, and sexuality, as mine often do. I'm, thus, invested in contemplative pedagogy because I'm devoted to helping my students process issues (emotional and intellectual) in a fashion that will be transformative and productive. I continue to struggle, however, with how to better integrate these practices into the classroom in a seamless fashion.

2014 Invited Speaker Grants

Grants were awarded to the following institutions:

  1. Appalachian State University 
    Hubbard Programs for Faculty Excellence Coordinators: Jena Leake, Assistant Professor of Human Development; Elaine Gray, Assistant Professor of General Education
  2. Chestnut Hill College 
    Teaching and Learning Center Coordinator: Leslie Myers, Director of Teaching and Learning
  3. Stonehill College 
    Center for Teaching and Learning Coordinator: Stacy Grooters, Director of CTL
  4. University of the District of Columbia 
    Research Academy for Integrated Learning Coordinator: Anthony Mansueto, Director of General Education
  5. University of Massachusetts, Amherst 
    Center for Teaching and Faculty Development & College of Nursing Coordinator: Raeann LeBlanc, Clinical Assistant Professor
  6. University of West Georgia 
    Center for Teaching and Learning Coordinator: Cher C. Hendricks, Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning

The 2013 Awardees

Engaged working groups, speakers' series, and attendance at our events all have stimulated far greater depth and breadth of contemplative approaches at each of the institutions. We believe that these changes will continue to bear fruit over the next few years, producing multiplicative effects going forward.

2013 Teaching and Learning Center Grants

The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society is pleased to announce the award of the Contemplative Mind-1440 Teaching and Learning Center Grants to foster and support the use of contemplative practices throughout the curriculum, made possible by funding through the 1440 Foundation. We are delighted to offer our congratulations to the following six awardees and their institutions for submitting such fine proposals and receiving funding for their projects.

Click a name to learn more:

University of Virginia Teaching Resource Center: Dorothe Bach, Project Coordinator

Established in 1990, the Teaching Resource Center (TRC) fosters community and professional excellence for faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students at the University of Virginia and contributes to national and international conversations on learning, teaching, and professional development.

Seven faculty for UVA were selected through a proposal process by the Teaching Resource Center (TRC) to become part of the newly established Contemplative Pedagogy Program (CPP). Participants took part in the TRC's week-long Course Design Institute in Spring 2013, where they worked with facilitators to incorporate aspects of contemplative teaching and learning draft syllabi and course designs. Facilitators continued to meet with faculty members on an individual basis throughout the spring, and plan to do so in the fall semester, as well. Over the summer the group met twice, primarily to discuss assessment of student learning outcomes, and to plan for future program elements, including:  inviting guest speakers to the University, setting up peer observation opportunities, and creating a forum for sharing personal experiences with teaching and contemplative practice. The group plans to meet monthly in Fall 2013.

Dorothe Bach, TRC Associate Director and Associate Professor, directs a fellowship program for early career faculty and supports initiatives designed to advance excellence in teaching and learning. Her passions include course design, contemplative pedagogy, using social media for learning, and intercultural learning. Her articles and book chapters have appeared in The Journal on Excellence in College TeachingTo Improve the Academy and The Learning Portfolio. She frequently presents workshops nationally and internationally.

Dorothe currently teaches an undergraduate course, "Spiritual Journeys in Young Adult Fiction" and the graduate seminar, "Teaching and Learning in Higher Education." She also teaches yoga in the community.

How did you discover Contemplative Pedagogy?

As a faculty developer and humanities teacher, I encounter questions of purpose and meaning almost on a daily basis. In a consultation, a young colleague worries about being successful at work while tending to the needs of her family; during office hours a student ponders what career path to choose; and in a literature class a character's despair leads us to explore the dark side of love and passion. I have always thought that the most important tool I have at my disposal is to listen attentively and to provide a space for people to pause and reflect. If the pause is long enough, the questioners often discover the rich well of internal resources and arrive at a deeper understanding of the matters they contemplate. Sometimes, right then and there, an insight comes or another, more meaningful question arises.

Knowing how powerful pauses can be and how my own yoga and meditation practice supports me as a listener, I became curious about ways I could bring in my practice into my work in more direct ways. After all, the skills of paying attention and being fully present in the moment could potentially enrich a number of learning and teaching processes, couldn't they?

At first, I was very tentative with my experiments to integrate small meditation exercises into my life balance workshops and literature classes. When I began sharing what I was doing with friends and colleagues, I discovered that I was far from being alone in wanting to bring contemplation into the academy and that there was a wonderful group of people committed to cultivating students' hearts along with their minds. Contemplative pedagogy then became a useful umbrella term for describing our different approaches.


What is your core educational mission and what role does contemplative pedagogy play?

My mission is to cultivate my students' commitment to leading a life of meaning and purpose and to support faculty wishing to do the same. Contemplative pedagogy offers a wonderful umbrella under which to explore new ways of fostering such deep engagement with the world.

Which needs and/or challenges in higher education do you think contemplative approaches can address?

In a world of information overload and quick action, deep reflection is both a luxury and a necessity. After all, wise human action usually springs from a measured intellect and compassionate heart. Higher education has a long history of training the intellect, albeit often with methods that are not the most effective. Contemplative pedagogy can help advance the goals of the traditional intellectual training while, at the same time, also address our students and our own deep need for integrating minds and hearts.

The Center for Teaching and Learning at University of North Carolina Asheville: Richard Chess, Project Coordinator

The Center for Teaching and Learning at UNC Asheville provides faculty with a broad range of professional development opportunities. It offers learning circles, lunchtime presentations and discussion, workshops, programs for new faculty, and individual consultations.

In cooperation with the Center for Teaching and Learning and the Associate Provost, Professor Richard Chess developed a request for proposals and selected four faculty members to engage in contemplative pedagogy learning experiences. As a result of their funding, one faculty member was able to attend the Summer Session on Contemplative Pedagogy, and another will be presenting an Interactive Session at the Fifth Annual Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education Conference. One professor is currently working with two Zen teachers in Asheville to learn how to better integrate Zen practices into his course, "Zen Anthropology," and another faculty member is fully integrating contemplative pedagogy into her new course titled "Contemplative Place." To continue the growth of the contemplative movement on campus, the grant recipients will meet during the Fall semester and work to develop a learning circle on contemplative practices.

Richard Chess is Roy Carroll Professor of Honors Arts & Sciences; Professor, Literature and Language; Director, The Center for Jewish Studies at UNC Asheville.

His research Interests and projects include: Creative Writing, poetry and prose; Contemplative Pedagogy and Practice; and Jewish Culture. He is author of three books of poetry, TekiahChair in the Desert, and Third Temple and is a regular invited contributor to "Good Letters:" a blog published by Image Journal of Art, Faith, Mystery. He is working on a fourth book of poetry and a book of short non-fiction essays based on Jewish practice of working with daily psalms.

How did you discover contemplative pedagogy?

In preparation for the first of three retreats as part of the 16-month Jewish Mindfulness Teacher Training Program, I explored the website for the retreat center: The Garrison Institute. There, I first learned about the use of contemplative practices in higher education. After some reading and participating in ACMHE events, I recognized that some of the exercises I'd been using in class for many years fall under the broad heading of contemplative practices, and I began introducing other practices (including concentration practice, phrase practice, visualization, silence, and others) into my classes.


What is your core educational mission and what role does contemplative pedagogy play?

A core educational mission of mine is to help awaken in my students a sense of wonder, by which I mean both a deep sense of curiosity and a feeling of astonishment. Contemplative pedagogy plays an important role in, among other things, helping students cultivate a sense of wonder in response both to the "outer" material of the course-assigned readings, writing exercises, and films, and to the "inner" material of the course-their inner lives, their personal experiences. I also use contemplative exercises to help students widen their fields of attention to include things they might otherwise overlook as trivial or insignificant and to help them develop the courage to look at things familiar and strange, pleasant and unpleasant. Finally, I use contemplative exercises to help students look at the stories they tell themselves about themselves and others from new perspectives.

Which needs and/or challenges in higher education do you think contemplative approaches can address?

In my experience, I've seen many students in a great rush to understand or master something-such as a poem, or a feeling or idea they wish to express in their own original work of poetry or prose. I imagine there are many reasons for this behavior, one of which must surely be to relieve discomfort triggered by the experience of uncertainty. In poetry and literature, writes John Keats, one's ability to stay with "uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason" makes the difference between a literary artist of great or minor accomplishment. Keats calls this skill, this talent "Negative Capability". I think one could extend the concept of negative capability to many other, if not all, disciplines. What assumptions must we question? What assumptions are so deeply embedded in our thinking that we no longer even see them as assumptions? Contemplative approaches can help students, faculty, administrators and staff to develop the ability to dwell in uncertainty for extended periods of time. Such dwelling in uncertainty might lead to insights and discoveries that are impossible to arrive at when we jump prematurely to understanding, to conclusions. This skill, I think, would be beneficial to cultivate throughout the curriculum and all areas of university life.

The Center for the Advancement of Teaching, Xavier University of Louisiana: Bart Everson, Project Coordinator

Through its Center for Advancement in Teaching, Xavier University of Louisiana developed a "Sustaining the Dialog" initiative with the purpose of supporting faculty members who wish to "gain expertise in contemplative pedagogy." After issuing a request for proposals, the Center selected three Xavier faculty members who would receive funding to attend the Ninth Annual Summer Session on Contemplative Pedagogy in August, 2013. Grant recipients will meet as a group and share their knowledge and experience from the Summer Session with the university through future sessions and seminars at the Center for Advancement in Teaching. Each grantee will be expected to conduct a CAT workshop on the integration of contemplative practices into teaching during the 2013‐2014 academic year.

Bart Everson is Media Artist at the Center for the Advancement of Teaching, Xavier University of Louisiana. Research interests include self-care for teachers, mindfulness, creativity, and earth-centered spirituality. Current projects include: publishing a faculty development podcast, preparing faculty for online teaching, service learning collaboration on a New Orleans city wiki, making connections with contemplative practitioners and organizations in the local community, and writing a spiritual autobiography.

How did you discover contemplative pedagogy?

I stumbled into contemplative pedagogy through a series of fortuitous accidents, and no one could be more surprised than I. After my daughter was born, I experienced something of a spiritual recalibration, an openness to and renewed interest in religion, which affected not only my personal life but also my professional activities. I sought connections between this awakening and my work in faculty development. Fortunately, I work in an environment that has nourished these interests. By chance I encountered Arthur Zajonc's introduction to Meditation as Contemplative Inquiry. We interviewed him for our faculty development podcast, "Teaching, Learning & Everything Else." The podcast series was short-listed for an Innovation Award by the Professional & Organizational Developers Network, so I attended my first-ever POD Network conference in 2009. It was there that I discovered a burgeoning movement underway. People were talking about "uncovering the heart of higher education" through a variety of approaches, including contemplative pedagogy, integrative learning, transformative education and the like. The final coincidence occurred when Virginia Lee invited me to co-present at a follow-up session for POD 2010. I have long nurtured a suspicion that she had me confused with someone else, because I had absolutely no qualifications, but I jumped at the opportunity. I knew it would require me to stretch in new and interesting directions, and so it did. After ten years of technology workshops, I conducted a session on "A Moment of Silence." Since then, much of my work has been oriented toward learning more about contemplative pedagogy and sharing what I learn with faculty.


What is your core educational mission and what role does contemplative pedagogy play?

My core educational mission has evolved to support teachers in developing to their fullest potential. A well-rounded, balanced, centered, creative, sensitive, purposeful, engaged teacher is an excellent teacher. Contemplative pedagogy factors in to this in at least three ways. 1) Contemplative practices have proven to be an effective tool in faculty development sessions. 2) For many teachers, contemplative practice can be a crucial component in their personal development. 3) I encourage faculty to explore the use of contemplative practices in their teaching.

Which needs and/or challenges in higher education do you think contemplative approaches can address?

I subscribe to David Levy's analysis as articulated in his presentation, "No Time to Think." The academy has gotten away from the life of the mind. Faculty are stressed and overburdened. Students are hungry for meaningful engagement. In our highly connected technological era, I can think of no more powerful lesson than mastering one's own mind. But strengthening the executive functions of the brain is only the beginning, not the end. We are all of us whole people; the systems and schemes that fragment our lives can have a dehumanizing effect. In the academy we have a moral responsibility to educate the whole student, body, mind and spirit; to teach with our whole selves; to resist fragmentation when it is harmful. Further, we have a responsibility to attend all facets of our existence in the broadest possible social and ecological context: in ourselves, in our families, in our students, in our communities, and in our planet.

Research Academy for University Learning, Montclair State University: Cigdem Talgar, Project Coordinator

The Research Academy for University Learning (RAUL) is a faculty development teaching and learning center at MSU. Its core program is the Engaged Teaching Fellows Program, which has graduated over 90 faculty members in seven years, each of whom revised and constructed courses based on foundational research on engaged, holistic, and democratic learning experiences that foster deep learning in students.

Starting in Spring 2013, six faculty members participated as members of the Contemplative Pedagogy and Practices Faculty Fellows Program (CPP) through the Research Academy for University Learning at MSU. Meeting monthly for two‐hour discussions and workshops, the CPP group focused on course development, contemplative practices, and readings from literature on contemplative pedagogy, including The Heart of Higher Education by Arthur Zajonc, Parker Palmer, and Megan Scribner. The group hosted Dr. Jonathan Miller-Lane at the Research Academy, where gave a talk entitled "Shaping a Life of the Mind for Practice." At the 4th Annual University Teaching and Learning Showcase, the CPP Faculty Fellows conducted a panel session that resulted in an increased number of faculty becoming enrolled in the CPP program for the 2013-2014 academic year. In order to provide a resource base for all faculty members interested in contemplative pedagogy, the group has developed a "Contemplative Pedagogy and Practice Virtual Toolbox," an online collection of essays and reflections, practices, and other tools submitted by members of the CPP group.

Cigdem Penpeci Talgar is acting director of the Research Academy for University Learning at Montclair State University. After receiving here Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology and working at the Child Study Center at NYU's Medical Center, she joined the Psychology Department at MSU as a faculty member. Her research area is in attention and she has published on how our perception of the physical world is dependent on our attentional processes. She now focuses on the role of attentional dynamics in learning environments. She is devoted to contemplative pedagogy and its role in these dynamics. In addition to her research, she consults with faculty and directs faculty development programs such as the Engaged Teaching Fellows Program. Over the past year, with Dr. David Lee Keiser and Ms. Julie Dalley, she has implemented a Contemplative Pedagogy Program.

How did you discover contemplative pedagogy?

I discovered it through the intersection of my own passion for contemplative practice in my personal life and collaborations with David Keiser, who was using contemplative methods in his teaching. Over the last five years, I have been incorporating more and more contemplative practice into my personal life, but had not "stopped to think" about ways to incorporate it into my teaching-even though I knew about the potential benefits for students. This changed when David Keiser approached me to discuss his classroom practices and the possibility of creating an inter-disciplinary, university-wide Contemplative Pedagogy Program housed at the Research Academy for University Learning. After these conversations I began to integrate contemplative approaches into my own teaching and, with the help of Julie Dalley, we created a program which incorporates contemplative pedagogy into our faculty consultation services, offers workshops, book discussion groups, and now a Contemplative Pedagogy Fellows Program.


What is your core educational mission and what role does contemplative pedagogy play?

My core educational mission is to create natural critical learning environments that promote deep and engaged learning in higher education. By wearing two hats, one as a professor and one as the Acting Director of the RAUL, I believe I can advance this mission at the micro level, by directly impacting my students, and at the macro level by helping other professors create such environments. I have personally witnessed the benefits of contemplative pedagogy in my classes. Students find that the exercises help them leave what's outside the class outside, and to focus on the material they are presented with in class. Contemplative pedagogy adds to the different types of tools faculty can use in classrooms to both center and engage students in the topics of study.

Which needs and/or challenges in higher education do you think contemplative approaches can address?

In the fast paced world that both our faculty members and students live in, one of the greatest challenges to successful teaching is the ability to limit distraction and increase "presence" in the classroom. This is especially the case in higher education where there is no set period during the day when there is nothing else but school. Students run from class to class, to campus and back to other aspects of their lives, where everything can be very scattered. Contemplative approaches to teaching and learning help both teachers and students center themselves by slowing down for the period of the class, or multiple classes, becoming mindful and attending to the material that they are being presented with. While the information they are learning might not be contemplative in nature, the methodologies that such practices offer allow information to be better and more deeply processed, leading to lasting learning. Contemplative methods enhance processing of the material that is the focus of attention and reduces the processing power that is devoted to distractors.

Office of Teaching and Learning, Bridgewater State University: Roben Torosyan, Project Coordinator

The Office of Teaching and Learning initiated several different programs in order to fulfill their two primary goals: 1) to sustain contemplative practice offerings and learning community meetings, and 2) to create a set of resources on contemplative pedagogy resources and the means by which the effects of those resources may be assessed. One such program was monthly "Mindfulness Practice" meditations for all faculty and staff at the university during Spring 2013, as well as a facilitated discussion, "Mindfulness in the Scholar's Life: Beginning the Conversation," held September 28, 2013. A major outcome of the funding was the creation of the Mindfulness Faculty and Professional Learning Community, composed of 7 members who met every two weeks throughout the spring semester with the purpose of discussing and experiencing contemplative practice and pedagogy. The FLC group members presented on their experiences at the Center for Advancement of Research & Scholarship Celebration in May 2013, and they will continue to meet biweekly in the fall. The Office of Teaching and Learning has played a crucial role in conducting systemic analyses of feedback from participants in the FLC, and will continue to maintain and track the use of an online knowledge base for faculty.

Roben Torosyan is Director of the Office of Teaching and Learning at Bridgewater State University. He writes: Our many low-income, students of color, and first generation college students, face real life demands. Similarly, 1 out of 10 full-time faculty serve on a faculty development leadership group, whose four goals include "Work-life balance: holistic goal-setting and balancing teaching, research, and service with personal life." Our office provides 1-to-1 consultations, workshops and organizational development, and generous stipends for summer intensives, course development and travel to conferences. I previously facilitated a year-long learning community on mindfulness that studied Shapiro, Brown & Astin's 2011 TC Record review of meditation in higher education, and Holzel et al's 2011 conceptual and neural review of 4 mechanisms of mindfulness meditation. I also teach a philosophy course in "Human Flourishing," and have published on "teaching integratively" and on "integrating spirituality and work."

How did you discover contemplative pedagogy?

First I couldn't touch my toes. I began practicing yoga in 2000, to increase muscular flexibility while training for an Ironman Triathlon. My partner and I also attended a monthly retreat, the Mystery School Seminar in Human Potentials, an intensive experience with independent author-scholar Jean Houston. I began to practice meditation at this time, although with great resistance and only intermittently for several years. Eventually, as I felt increasing stressed in my professional career, I began to meditate more regularly. Then, joining a Jesuit university, I found myself increasingly fascinated by spiritual exploration, despite being the son of a devoutly atheist mother and an agnostic father.


What is your core educational mission and what role does contemplative pedagogy play?

My core educational mission became: to create experiences that transform what my students think and how they do things in the world. There are at least two reasons to teach for such transformation: problems and opportunities. First, real-world challenges demand that students become problem-solvers, either now or upon graduating. The problems range from personal conflicts with roommates or teammates, to professional challenges like running business operations efficiently while achieving results, diagnosing a broken tool or process and fixing it, or counseling someone going through a painful divorce. Solving problems requires acute observation, shrewd analytical thinking, informed intuition, interpersonal skill and a host of other abilities-most of them, teachable. Each skill requires changing or transforming habits.

In my teaching I have come to focus on three distinct meanings of mindfulness, to support such habit change:

  1. Consciously choosing and changing: intentionally manipulating the mind to achieve specific goals, to handle specific challenges or opportunities wisely (Langer)
  2. Discerning or making those choices wisely: making necessary value judgments, to do good rather than evil, to help rather than hinder self and others (Ignatian discernment, Wallace's Buddhist beneficial vs. unbeneficial tendencies)
  3. Simple presence or being: attend to here and now, suspend judgment, not to do anything or handle any situation but to simply be (Kabat Zinn); "An operational working definition of mindfulness is: the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment" (Kabat-Zinn, 2003, p. 145)

Which needs and/or challenges in higher education do you think contemplative approaches can address?

Across institution after institution of higher education, I hear faculty wishing they had more time. And students, faculty and staff alike wishing they could be happier, in the sense of flourishing by experiencing not only joy but meaning. I believe that if we used our collective expertise better we could not only renew our energies better, but lives of greater meaning, and address even more serious challenges facing the great numbers of the world who must live on a dollar a day. If we change the discourse in which contemplative pedagogy gets brought up, to welcome folks who hate meditation, or who would never try yoga (just like me at one time), then we might create a more inclusive culture of practice that eventually gets out the methods to ever greater numbers of folks.

Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, Elon University: Resa Walch, Project Coordinator

Elon University's Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning promotes engaging, inclusive, and effective teaching, and the scholarship of teaching and learning at Elon University.

The Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning has encouraged the development of contemplative pedagogies since its founding in 2005, sponsoring workshops by visitors including Ed Sarath (University of Michigan) and Linda Weintraub (independent artist); reading groups on books including Parker Palmer's The Courage to Teach and Palmer and Arthur Zajonc's The Heart of Higher Education; and faculty learning communities on topics like "Minding the Body." The CATL has also supported Elon faculty participation in the ACMHE's events such as the 2011 West Coast Regional Conference and the 2011 Contemplative Campus Conference at Amherst College. CATL's director, Peter Felten, participated in a 2011 Teaching and Learning Centers meeting in Amherst, and has learned from Arthur Zajonc, Paul Wapner, and others in the Fetzer Institute's Intergenerational Mentoring Program.

CATL also sponsors annual events bringing together faculty from across the region, including an August conference that typically draws more than 200 faculty from more than twenty institutions, and an annual June retreat for mid-career faculty to reflect on teaching. The 2012 June three-day retreat, co-hosted with Wake Forest University's teaching center, involved some two dozen faculty from six colleges and universities in the area, and included significant conversation about the meaning and purposes of teaching.

The primary use of grant funds was to build a strong, sustainable faculty learning community related to contemplative pedagogy at Elon University. Established through the Center for Teaching and Learning, the faculty learning community included 15 faculty members from a wide variety of disciplines. The group met for discussions regularly, and four members attended the "Creating a Mindful Campus" retreat at the University of North Carolina in Spring 2013, where a panel of students also shared their learning experiences with contemplative pedagogy. Other activities of group members include: attending the Summer Session on Contemplative Pedagogy, submitting a proposal to the 2013 ACMHE conference, and launching a research project on contemplative pedagogies. In order to keep the initiative moving forward, the group has invited more faculty members to join them and attend a fall meeting, and has discussed the possibility of hosting an annual retreat for faculty, developing an Elon Faculty Scholar in Contemplative Pedagogy program, and investigating funding for curriculum infusion grants.

This project is collaborative effort between Professor Resa Walch and Dr. Peter Felten.

Peter Felten is assistant provost, director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, and associate professor of history at Elon University. He has published widely on engaged learning and the scholarship of teaching, and he is on the editorial boards of the International Journal for Academic Development and the International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Peter is president (2010-2011) of the POD Network, an international association for teaching and learning centers in higher education. Dr. Felten frequently speaks and presents at colleges and universities worldwide on faculty development, scholarship of teaching and learning, and visual literacy. His recent research focuses on how students learn and develop in college, and on the possibilities of student-faculty partnerships in the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Resa Walch is chair of the Department of Health and Human Performance, and Faculty Fellow for Substance Education at Elon University. She teaches classes in "Contemporary Issues in Wellness," "Substance Abuse and Human Behavior" and "Perspectives in Women's Health." Most recently, she developed a new course, "Health of the Human Spirit," that incorporates contemplative pedagogy. She has 28-years of experience in higher education as a counselor, educator, director of substance education, student life administrator and faculty member. She presents at regional, national and international conferences on the effective use of clickers in an engaged classroom, applying trend data as primary prevention for first year students, and effective teaching and learning collaborations across disciplines. She is involved in an ongoing scholarship of teaching and learning project, "Avoiding Pedagogical Solitude: An Interdisciplinary Collaboration," with a faculty member in Human Service Studies at Elon University.

How did you discover contemplative pedagogy?

Resa Walch: An integral part of the mission of Elon University is to create an academic community that transforms mind, body and spirit. Integrating this part of the mission into the curriculum is not without challenges. Transformation of mind, body and spirit is difficult to define and complicated to measure. Particularly complex is defining transformation of spirit.

Five years ago, I began work on a sabbatical proposal: Mind, Body and Spirit…from Mission Statement to an Integrated, Interdisciplinary Curriculum. Needless to say, this was much too ambitious for one semester. I decided to begin my sabbatical project by focusing on an investigation of why many, if not most, college health textbooks either leave out health of the human spirit or integrate it into related chapters with no more than three to five pages devoted to the topic.

Health related disciplines often teach a widely accepted paradigm of health and wellness that includes balance in mind, body, spirit and social well-being. In this paradigm, spirituality is defined as meaning and purpose in life, a sense of hope and optimism and connectedness to self, to others and to the community, rather than participation in organized religion. While some argue that definitions of spirituality must be rooted in the study of religion, this is not the currently held view in health and health related disciplines. As I moved forward with my sabbatical project, I discovered articles on contemplative pedagogy and concluded this pedagogy fits with developing a connectedness to self, others and the community. Additionally, I had been using contemplative pedagogy, specifically mindful practices, for several years when teaching about health of the human spirit. Once I made the connection to contemplative pedagogy, I continued to read articles, attend meetings and explore other ways of using contemplative pedagogy in all my classes. This ongoing interest led to my commitment to apply for the grant so that Elon can move forward with a faculty learning community around contemplative pedagogy.


What is your core educational mission and what role does contemplative pedagogy play? Which needs and/or challenges in higher education do you think contemplative approaches can address?

My core educational mission is to create multiple, effective entry points in the curriculum for discipline specific health courses and interdisciplinary health related courses. It is impossible to meet this mission without exploring contemplative pedagogy. I believe this exploration is best accomplished through a faculty learning community where we learn from each other while investigating, creating, implementing and assessing contemplative pedagogy across disciplines.

I am fortunate to be in an academic environment that includes a core group of faculty across disciplines who want to explore and practice contemplative pedagogy. And, Elon's Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning fully supports starting this learning community. There are many articles and books about why students come to college. Most would agree that students come to college with the intent to learn more about themselves, others, and the world. Contemplative pedagogy provides an approach for students to be more present when listening to their own narratives and developing an interior learning space to explore and integrate the narratives of others, thus expanding what one knows about self, others and the world.

Highlights of 2013 TLC Grant Projects

  • 5 faculty groups (28 members total) were formed with the intention of incorporating contemplative practice and thought into curriculum and personal practice, and have continued their discussions and activities in the 2013-2014 academic year.
  • 11 faculty members were able to attend summer institutes, conferences, or retreats on contemplative pedagogy.
  • 2 online resource databases were created and made available to all staff and faculty, containing ideas for contemplative practices in the classroom, reflections on experiences, and reading lists.
  • 4 workshops, seminars, and speaker events were held in the Fall 2013 semester, with more planned for Spring 2014.
  • 8 contemplative pedagogy events were funded at 6 campuses.

2013 Invited Speaker Grants

Grants were awarded to the following institutions:

  1. Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY
    Seminar and Workshop on Contemplative Pedagogy
    with Renee Hill, Associate Professor, Philosophy, Virginia State University
    April 4-5, 2013
  2. Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
    Contemplative Practices for a Technological Society
    with David Levy, Professor, Information School, University of Washington
    April 11-13, 2013
  3. SUNY New Paltz, NY
    SUNY Contemplative Gathering
    (for SUNY faculty and staff)
    with Daniel Barbezat, Professor, Economics, Amherst College
    April 20, 2013
  4. Governors State University, IL
    2nd Symposium on Mindfulness in Higher Education
    with Michael Skelley, Associate Professor, DePaul University
    May 4, 2013
  5. University of Oregon, Eugene, OR
    Information, Contemplation, and the Roots of the American University with David Levy, Professor, Information School, University of Washington
    May 9, 2013
    Contemplative Pedagogy in the Digital Age
    with David Levy, Professor, Information School, University of Washington and Daniel Barbezat, Professor, Economics, Amherst College
    May 10, 2013
  6. Selkirk College, Castlegar, BC
    Mir Centre for Peace Summer Institute for Educators: Contemplative Pedagogy in the Classroom
    with Daniel Barbezat, Professor, Economics, Amherst College
    July 8-12, 2013