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Dr. Laura L. Runge
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LAE 6389 Practice Teaching Literature

Class 9: Contemplative Pedagogy

    Mary Rose O'Reilly, Radical Presence
    Excerpts from draft Handbook on Contemplative Practice (course docs)
    Howard Reingold, "Attention" from Netsmart in course docs
    Student Presentation: 2 Syllabus Check: Rachel Tanski, Megan Mandell
    Post #4 Group B / Response Group A
Class Objectives:

    Discuss the theory and practice of contemplative pedagogy
    Contemplative workshop for teachers
    Contemplative Pedagogy practice
    Discuss Attention as a digital literacy

    Student Presentation: Two Syllabus Check: Rachel Tanski, Megan Mandell

Notes and Discussion Questions:

    What is contemplative pedagogy?

    The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society is an organization that runs the The Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education or ACMHE for short. This program offers many resources of professionals interested in incorporation contemplation in the classroom. I recommend that you visit their site and take advantage of the syllabi, webinars, bibliographies, and more. I've participated in several webinars and one week-long seminar, and I've found all of their work helpful.

    The excerpts I've given you today are taken from a draft of book produced by the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, and it offers a sensible definition of contemplative pedagogy, some theory and background, and many practical applications for the classroom. We will practice one of these in class.

    Through the years, I've come to identify the following values with the contemplative class:

    • presence
    • silence
    • deep listening
    • non-judgment
    • creating space
    • wonder
    • body awareness
    • mindfulness

    Based on your readings and your experiences, which of these is important to you and why?

    Parker Palmer is a writer and teacher often associated with Contemplative Pedagogy, and while I have cut his text, The Courage to Teach from this class for a variety of reasons, I encourage you to read further to see if you have value for his offerings.

    The Courage to Teach has a companion guide called The Courage to Teach Guide for Reflection and Renewal which includes a DVD with mini lectures and suggested workshops for discussing issues raised in the book. Given time, I will select a clip or two to watch and conduct the workshop during class.

    This resource is less practical than it is a call for teachers to become more aware of the complexity of the teaching scene, which includes awareness of the inner life of the teacher and student, the spirit or vitality of the subject and the relationships among all of these in a community.

    For those of you interested in the type of work that Palmer continues to do, please view the website for his Center for Courage and Renewal. You will find further articles, links and a blog written by people in various professions, including teaching, religious service and community organization.

    Radical Presence

    Mary Rose O'Reilly's suggestive prose offers much to think about. What does it mean to say, "To Teach is to Create a Space"?

    Explain what O'Reilly means by presence as a aspect of hospitality. What does she mean by presence as a way of classroom management?

    "I think the task of our time -- and really it is a poet's task -- is to find words again that will mediate between spirit and matter," (13). What does this mean to you?

    What can you learn from her description of "An Experiment in Friendship"?

    "Still, I must return to a point I've been making all along: whether we are aware of it or not, professional life tends to be dominated by one or another set of metaphors. We have to be conscious about the metaphors we choose to describe our relationship to students, and resist those thrust upon us by the marketplace. Will you slide into the role of the friendly shopkeeper, or will you choose to situate yourself in a tradition that calls the best in you and your students to account?" (23)

    Her advice to the worried seminar leader in "Listening like a cow" is "Pay attention." How and why is this useful advice?

    How might contemplative approaches guide one-on-one teaching or mentoring?

    What sort of internal divisions (such as intuitive versus analytical) occupy you? How might you turn this into productive dissonance?

    "What are the conditions that might make it possible for us to operate at a modest level of prophetic inspiration, to bring a daily beauty to our lives, sustaining to ourselves, our students, and our communities?" (39)

    Howard Reingold's Netsmart: Attention!

    Multitasking is not simultaneous parallel processing. Discuss.

    Evaluate your "executive control" or "cognitive control" function (39). How focused can you be? Is your mind a fighter pilot or bagging groceries at Publix?

    How important is it for you to know that humans learn by imitation (40)?

    What is email apnea, and what does it suggest about the culture of digital immersion?

    What are some of the arguments behind the idea that Google is making us stupid (50-53)? Can we learn to adapt in positive ways?

    Rheingold: "My own stance toward media literacy -- the reason I wrote this book -- is based on the same conclusion Baron reached: that human agency, not just technology, is key. what you and I know, think, and do at this moment of technology-initiated yet human-centered change matters" (56).

    How does breathing and meditation form the bedrock of a solution in this moment?

    How does meditation affect the brain? (Here's where you can "drink the kool-aid" or just practice and see.)

    Compare and contrast the evocatively titled "narrative network" and "direct experience network" as attentional states (66-7).

    Evaluate the ideas in "Training the Puppy Mind." Are these suggestions you might introduce into your class?


    Active learning and discussion

    Teaching Strengths and Weaknesses

    THIS IS NOT TO BE POSTED ON CANVAS! We will conduct a workshop based on Parker Palmer's ideas. In order to prepare, please recall and narrate a moment from your teaching experience that you remember as particularly successful. Then recall and narrate a moment that was particularly bad, for whatever reasons. Be sure to pay attention to not only what happened, but how you responded and what you thought about it.

    These do not have to be long, and for the purposes of the workshop should probably be no longer than one page double spaced (each). We will share these in small groups and work on the paradoxes of teaching.

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