Contemplative Pedagogy in Higher Education (Post 1 of 2)

Kai Lynn Dailey
Sep 13, 2017 · 3 min read

If you’re not familiar with the term Contemplative Pedagogy (CP) this brief post will get you quickly up to speed. It contains a working definition of CP and a list of possible benefits related to the incorporation of contemplative exercise into a college course. The primary rationale stated in the literature for the use of CP is the cultivation of student skills, sensibilities and understandings that go beyond strictly rational, objectivist approaches to learning and research. Essentially instructors who teach within the academy and who use CP wish to mend the Cartesian bifurcation of mind and heart. By teaching students to intentionally and skillfully engage with both rational thought and intuition, they seek to cultivate in their students inner resources that aid learning, deepen understanding and acceptance, and cultivate impactful scholarship.

Contemplative pedagogies are practices used in higher education courses to “quiet the mind in order to cultivate a personal capacity for deep concentration and insight. Examples of contemplative practice include not only sitting in silence but also many forms of single-minded concentration, including meditation, contemplative prayer, mindful walking, focused experiences in nature, yoga, and other contemporary physical or artistic practices.” (The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, 2007)

These exercises when used supplementally along with regular course content and pedagogies in traditional academic areas (such as mathematics, science, social sciences, writing, or the arts) may cultivate positive personal qualities, attitudes, and skills desirable for efficacious scholarship, lifelong learning, and engaged citizenship. Basic categories of student improvement areas often reported by practitioners in CP literature are:

▫︎ social and emotional competencies

▫︎ patience and focused attention

▫︎ self-awareness and self-knowledge

▫︎ awareness of the needs, concerns and experiences of others

▫︎ deep engagement with information through secularized versions of spiritual practices such as beholding and lectio divina

▫︎ familiarity and voluntary use of contemplative tools and habits for self-care during and after course completion

▫︎ competency with engaging content from multiple perspectives including moving back and forth between first person, second person, and third person viewpoints

▫︎ skillful and productive use of first, second and third person perspectives in scholarship for the purpose of intentionally fostering imagination, insight, creativity, critical topical inquiry, critical self-reflection, uncovering bias, and confidence amidst uncertainty

▫︎ co-creation and participation in a safe and accepting learning community through facilitating, experiencing and sharing contemplative exercises with classmates

▫ ︎transformative learning experiences sparked through a combination of contemplative practice and engagement with classmates and course content. For example, transformation may involve shifts in personal meaning perspectives and habits of mind toward enhanced awareness and concerns regarding inclusiveness and social justice.

The above list of reported benefits are primarily antidotal, with the exception of outcomes attributed to meditation and mindfulness, which a comprehensive literature suggests improves focus, attention, information retention, and test scores (Shapiro, Brown & Astin, 2008). Otherwise, scholarly discussions mainly attend to the advocacy of CP in higher education by explaining the rationale for using contemplative exercises in courses and advocating for contemplative practice as professional and personal development for instructors.

Most engaging are the articles by faculty-practitioners that share reflections on their personal spiritual practice and how it informs their classroom teaching (Klatt, 2017). For some faculty, CP developed as a natural and deeply personal expression of their private spiritual practice (Hammerle, 2015).

In my next post, I’ll share a brief annotated bibliography of useful research articles related to Contemplative Pedagogy.


Hammerle, M. (2015). Conceptualizing contemplative practice as pedagogy: Approaches to mindful inquiry in higher education. Retrieved from

Klatt, M. D. (2017). A Contemplative Tool: An Exposé of the Performance of Self. Journal of Transformative Education, 15(2), 122–136.

Shapiro, S. L., Brown, K. W., & Astin, J. A. (2008). Toward the integration of meditation into higher education: A review of research. The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. Retrieved from http://www. contemplativemind. org/admin/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/MedandHigherEd. pdf.

The Center for Mind-Body Medicine, 2015. Retrieved from

Kai Lynn Dailey

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Learning Consultant. Coursera Mentor & Beta-tester. Scholar-practitioner. Mystic. MOOC Junkie. Always doing sociology.