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 is to build a strong, sustainable faculty learning community related to contemplative pedagogy at Elon University. On campus, the faculty learning community will focus its attention not only on classroom practice, but also on assessment of student learning and development resulting from those practices. Elon currently has a dozen faculty members from across disciplines currently using contemplative pedagogy. Eventually, all university faculty interested in contemplative pedagogy will be invited to join a learning community.
To deepen knowledge of contemplative pedagogies within this group, grant funds will be used to support travel by members to the March 2013 “Creating a Mindful Campus” retreat at the University of North Carolina–Asheville and the 2013 Summer Session on Contemplative Pedagogy or ACMHE Conference.
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.