Site Content

Contemplative Pedagogy at WFU

The Teaching and Learning Center Call for Applications Contemplative Pedagogy Learning Community 2016-2017

The Teaching and Learning Center is accepting applications from faculty interested in exploring the use of contemplative pedagogy in teaching. The Learning Community will be led by TLC Faculty Fellows Professors Eric Ekstrand and Elisabeth Whitehead. Membership in the Learning Community is capped at six. When considering applications, the learning community leaders will aim at selecting a cohort from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds. Fall meeting dates are the following Wednesdays from 3:30-5:00pm: October 5, October 19, November 16, and December 7, and participants should be available to attend all four meetings. Participants will also be expected to attend two events in the spring of 2017 to share practices, report on successes and challenges, and will share assignments and syllabi.  Spring meeting times and places will be determined with the group. Participants will receive a $600 stipend from the Teaching and Learning Center at the completion of the spring semester in April 2016.

Applications may be submitted by Monday, October 3 [see p. 2 for application questions] to: Kristi Verbeke and Eric Ekstrand, Elisabeth Whitehead

What is Contemplative Pedagogy

Contemplative pedagogy is defined as:

“The integration of meditative practices into higher education as a complement to critical reasoning with the goal of rebalancing liberal education to include head and heart, body and mind” (Vanderbilt University Teaching and Learning Center).

“The development of open awareness (mental relaxation and sustained attention) by the consistent application of first person and second person epistemologies” (Dr. Ulrike Wiethaus, Professor of Religion, Wake Forest University).

How Does It Work in the Classroom?

Contemplative pedagogy can fit into our work as teachers in seven stages (Weithaus, 2013):

Dr. Ulrike Weithaus presenting for the TLC on contemplative pedagogy

Dr. Ulrike Weithaus presenting for the TLC on contemplative pedagogy

  1. Instructor self-care before class: The Mindful Teacher
  2. Beginning of the Class: Centering, Focusing, Relaxing: Awareness and Breath
  3. Review of Assignments: Contemplative writing, Students as Teachers
  4. New Material: Relating with Thought and Emotions
  5. Tests and Exams: Oral Tests, Contemplative Writing, Skillful Questions
  6. Closing of Class: The Mindful Class
  7. Between Classes: Types of Contemplative Assignments, Flipped Classroom, Student Care and Self-Care

Contemplative Pedagogy Resources

If you’re interested in learning more about contemplative pedagogy, consult our list of contemplative pedagogy resources.

Why is Contemplative Pedagogy Important for Wake Forest?

Mindful Lives that Matter: Contemplative Student Development in the Classroom and Beyond by Dr. Ulrike Wiethaus, Wake Forest University

“In the place of stillness, rises potential. From the place of potential, emerges possibility. Where there is possibility, there is choice. And where there is choice, there is freedom!” —Gabrielle Goddard

The motto of Pro Humanitate invites reflection about whether we truly are who we say we want to be. Can we understand humanity if we do not nurture awareness and understanding about ourselves? Can the goal of deep well-being for all of humanity and our natural environment be achieved without an appreciation for the creativity and strength that arises through a sharing of stillness, spaciousness, and silence? How can we best prepare a student body of emerging leaders for a fast-paced and often stressful and competitive global world, in which young women and men aspire to lead by personal example and model to others the power of compassion, generosity, and acceptance?

Read more

How is the Teaching and Learning Center Supporting Contemplative Pedagogy at Wake Forest?

TLC Contemplative Pedagogy Faculty Learning Community

In the summer of 2013, the WFU Teaching and Learning Center took its initial steps in building a campus wide Contemplative Pedagogy paradigm by naming Professor Ulrike Wiethaus (Department of Religion and American Ethnic Studies) a Teaching and Learning Center Fellow, and supported her with a summer stipend of $2,000 to prepare and lead a Fall 2013-Spring 2014 Faculty Learning Community on Contemplative Pedagogies. The Learning Community comprised seven faculty participants from several disciplines (History, English, Law, and Counseling), who met regularly with Professor Wiethaus and her students to learn about different contemplative strategies that could be used in classes. Our  inaugural faculty cohort consists of:

  • Lisa Blee, History
  • Eric Ekstrand, English
  • Eric Stottlemyer, English
  • Elisabeth Whitehead, English
  • Erica Still, English
  • Shannon Warden, Counseling
  • Mark Rabil, School of Law

In the spring of 2014, five members of the inaugural faculty cohort transferred new contemplative strategies to the classroom and continued to meet to reflect on their emerging pedagogies. To conclude the year-long immersion, four of these five faculty traveled to Naropa University in May. They met with the president of Naropa and with faculty to discuss the use of these pedagogies systemically, and received additional training.

During an informal evaluation meeting about the year-long process, many group members said they felt that the pedagogical tools they were using had been very successful. The challenge they see ahead is to find ways to systemically integrate the use of contemplation into their course designs and epistemologies as opposed to simply doing activities, such as meditation, in a class. The insights they have gained through their year of studying and practicing with contemplative pedagogies are summarized here:

  • Contemplative Pedagogy (CP) invites a collaborative discovery of interiority-an inexhaustible resource.
  • CP means to be fully present: to inter-being/nature, to student motivation and resistance, to our shared humanity, to emotions, to power imbalance and curriculum demands.
  • CP activates both/and polarities: our own vulnerability and skeptical reactions by colleagues, academic knowledge and everyday life experiences, inner knowing and outer knowing, personal practices and classroom learning goals, unconscious and conscious aspects of the psyche.
  • CP results in increased compassion, greater emotional awareness, an experiential understanding of oneself in context.
  • CP “does less” and creates “more space”—spaciousness emerges.
  • CP ethics standard: clearly stated expectations and grading rubrics, concern for student and instructor safety and self-care, faculty preparation through extensive background reading and on-going personal practices.
  • CP teaching and learning processes move multi-directionally (inner/outer, self/other, body/heart/mind, nature/culture) and encourage multiple perspectives (first person/second person/singular/plural).