Teaching and Learning Center Grants

Funded by the 1440 Foundation and Mind & Life Institute, the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society is pleased to announce the Contemplative Mind Teaching and Learning Center Grants to foster and support the use of contemplative practices throughout the curriculum.

Within this initiative, we are offering two grant programs: Contemplative Pedagogy and Teaching and Learning Grants and Invited Speaker Grants.

View/Download the RFP

The grant proposal deadline (4/11/14) has now passed. Thank you for your interest in the 2014 CMTLC grants.

Background and Vision

Over the past few years, the Center has established strong relationships with Teaching and Learning Centers (TLCs) throughout the country. Teaching and Learning Centers exist within colleges and universities and work to improve teaching by providing faculty with training and resources. TLCs may also be referred to by other names, such as “faculty development centers,” “centers for teaching and learning,” or “centers for teaching excellence.”

Working with Teaching and Learning Centers is a highly effective means to reach right across the curriculum and work with professionals who are committed to teaching excellence. TLCs have legitimacy on campuses and can easily reach hundreds of instructors across all types of instruction and disciplines. 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 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 TLCs. It was a very successful and exciting meeting, and we realized the powerful potential of working more closely with TLCs. In 2012, we gave two presentations at the POD conference in Atlanta–the annual conference of TLC 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).

In 2013, we established our Contemplative Mind – 1440 Teaching and Learning Grants, which provided $5,000 seed grants to six institutions (Elon University, University of Virginia, Xavier University of Louisiana, Bridgewater State University, University of North Carolina at Asheville, and Montclair State University) and funding to support visiting speakers on contemplative pedagogy.

Our intention is that these grants will provide resources to TLCs to support and develop groups and courses to extend the use of contemplative practices throughout their institutions and assess their impacts.

Recommended Reading:

To Improve The Academy 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.


2014 Grant Information

The Center has funding for two types of support:

  • Five (5) $5,000 Contemplative Pedagogy and Teaching and Learning Grants
  • Small Invited Speaker Grants to subsidize the cost of hosting speakers on contemplative pedagogy

1. Contemplative Pedagogy and Teaching and Learning Grants

The Contemplative Pedagogy and Teaching and Learning Grants are open to Teaching and Learning Centers that 1) have Directors and/or staff who are members of the ACMHE and 2) who have attended an event organized by the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society (such as a Summer Session on Contemplative Pedagogy, ACMHE Conference or Retreat for Educators) or have already invited speakers to address them and faculty on contemplative pedagogy. Grants of up to $5,000 will be awarded through a competitive application, review and selection process by a review committee.

Applications that satisfy the requirement above are reviewed and selected based on four criteria: 1) potential for current and future impact, 2) feasibility, 3) innovation/originality, and 4) the strength of the assessment plan.

The program plan provided with the grant application should include a rationale for use of the grant, a proposed budget, an assessment plan, and expected outcomes, including a plan for ensuring sustainability of the recipient’s commitment to advancing contemplative pedagogy.

Examples of activities that could be supported by the Contemplative Pedagogy and Teaching and Learning Grants:

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

To apply for a Contemplative Pedagogy and Teaching and Learning grant, please email the following materials as a .doc, .docx, or .pdf document to grants@contemplativemind.org:

  • Proposal cover sheet (download it here)
  • Proposal, including plan, rationale, and expected outcomes for TLC’s development of contemplative pedagogy. Proposals must include strategies for evaluating the effects of contemplative practice on educational outcomes, e.g., attention, understanding, connection and well-being, as well as how this will sustain the use of contemplative pedagogy after the grant period (1200 words maximum).
  • A list of the TLC’s recent and scheduled programs (for the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 academic years).
  • Detailed budget (awards may not be used for salary, personnel, or general overhead).
PLEASE NOTE: Awardees should plan for a representative to attend a meeting of TLC Leaders at Amherst College, September 18-20, 2014. The Center will cover costs for travel and lodging to attend the meeting. You need not build these expenses into the proposed grant budget.

All materials are due by April 11, 2014. Awards will be made by mid – May and the proposed programs should be initiated in the fall of 2014. An assessment report will be due to the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society in early 2015. More info on assessment reports will be forthcoming.

2. Invited Speaker Grants

The Invited Speaker Grants offer funds to subsidize the costs of Center approved invited speakers on contemplative pedagogy. This program may be of particular benefit to TLCs which do not qualify for the Contemplative Pedagogy and Teaching and Learning Grants.

The intent of these grants is to provide funds for institutions that have very limited budgets and could not otherwise afford to bring in speakers. Proposals should make a clear case for financial need and present a proposed budget as well as a vision for how a presentation on contemplative pedagogy at your Teaching and Learning Center might initiate further development at your institution. Please note that these grants should not be used to cover catering costs.

To apply for an Invited Speaker grant, email the completed proposal cover sheet (download it here) with your proposal as a .doc, .docx or .pdf document to speakers@contemplativemind.org. Awards will be granted on a rolling basis. For more information, please contact us at speakers@contemplativemind.org. All materials are due by April 11, 2014.

2014 Review Committee

Daniel Barbezat

Daniel Barbezat

Professor of Economics, Amherst College

Stephanie Briggs

Stephanie Briggs

Assistant Professor of English, The Community College of Baltimore County

Richard 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


Questions about the Contemplative Pedagogy and Teaching and Learning grants may be directed to grants@contemplativemind.org.

We hope through these modest efforts that education can become a transformation process for ourselves and our students. May you be well and thrive in all your undertakings.


The 2013 Awardees

With the support of the 1440 Foundation, the Center was able to further the development of contemplative pedagogy through a new program of grants to Teaching and Learning Centers at colleges and universities nationwide. Teaching and Learning Centers (TLCs) work with professionals from all academic disciplines who are dedicated to fostering excellent and innovative teaching. These centers are ideally placed to collect and assess the outcomes of contemplative pedagogies, an area that is currently underdeveloped. They can also serve as venues for establishing connections between faculty and sustaining the development of this work.

The first grants were awarded in January 2013, providing resources to centers for teaching and learning to help them support and develop groups and courses to extend the use of contemplative practices throughout their institutions and assess their impacts. We were also able to provide six additional grants to colleges and universities interested in bringing a speaker on contemplative pedagogy to their campus.

Engaged working groups, speakers’ series, and attendance at our events all have stimulated far greater depth and breath 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:

Teaching Resource Center, University of Virginia: 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 BachDorothe 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 Teaching, To 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.

UVA students

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 ChessRichard 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, Tekiah, Chair 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.

UNCA students

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 EversonBart 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.

Xavier students

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 TalgarCigdem 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.

Montclair campus

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 TorosyanRoben 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.

Bridgewater students

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 FeltenPeter 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 WalchResa 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.

Elon campus

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.

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, 2013Contemplative 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. Mir Center for Peace at 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

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.