Contemplative Pedagogy

What is Contemplative Pedagogy?

We want to present material in a way that supports students in having their own agency so that the material is not simply a set of intellectual hoops for them to jump through but an active opportunity for them to find meaning and develop intellectually (Barbezat & Bush, 2013)

Contemplative pedagogy is an emerging field; however, its basic tenets go back to the very foundations of teaching and learning. It is an approach that supports student learning through the incorporation of practices that encourage reflection, attention, and deepened awareness. Although the term "contemplative pedagogy" may be relatively new, below you will notice many activities that may already be present in your teaching.

Educational Benefits of Contemplative Practices

The diagram below presents a variety of benefits to utilizing contemplative practices in your teaching. It supports the whole student, including their autonomy and individual lived experiences; it incorporates their creative self; and it brings one's heart into the learning process opening many possibilities for any discipline.

Ways to introduce a Contemplative Activity

The steps below offer suggestions for successfully integrating a contemplative activity as well as tips to keep in mind.

  • Research and familiarize yourself with the practices you want to implement and practice the activity beforehand. Here is a helpful summary of activities that you could offer.
  • Have a clear teaching-based goal for your activity and consider the way the goal will be presented to students
  • Plan the activity for the timespan allotted and allow for flexibility based on students' needs
  • Create safety around the practice and allow students to opt-out of the experience if needed
  • Allow students time after the activity to reflect on the experience through writing, discussion, etc.
  • Be present and check in with yourself throughout the experience and planning; stay connected to the ways in which the activity is complementing your learning goals.
  • Start with small practices and gradually build them up in time, number, or length.
  • Reach out to others to find community and support. CTE offers resources and workshops throughout the academic year and there are a growing number of faculty who utilize contemplative practices in their teaching.
  • Find a space for practice (it can be the simple lighting of a candle), in your home or office, where you can reflect. Your own practice will impact the practice of your students.
  • Consider joining a local community of practitioners at a studio, meditation center, etc. Regular meetings with others help to keep a practice consistent in your daily life.
  • Spending time outdoors and slowing down to observe the natural world will help order your priorities.

The Center for Contemplative Mind has an incredible array of resources, including syllabi for contemplative based courses

Columbia University and the University of Virginia both have wonderful contemplative pedagogy guides.


Recommended books

Astin, A. W., Astin, H. S., & Lindholm, J. A. (2010). Cultivating the spirit: How college can
enhance students' inner lives. John Wiley & Sons.

Barbezat, D. P., & Bush, M. (2013). Contemplative practices in higher education: Powerful
methods to transform teaching and learning. John Wiley & Sons.

Keator, M. (2017). Lectio Divina as Contemplative Pedagogy: Re-appropriating Monastic
Practice for the Humanities. Routledge.

O'Reilley, M. R. (1998). Radical presence: Teaching as contemplative practice. Portsmouth, NH:

Zajonc, A. (2009). Meditation as contemplative inquiry: When knowing becomes love.
Lindisfarne Books.