Thursday, April 24, 2014

Contemplative Practices in Higher Education, 1

For a GVSU Faculty Teaching & Learning Center retreat in June, I'm reading Contemplative Practices in Higher Education by Barbezat & Bush. Like the books on my religion & spirituality shelves, it speaks deep truths to me.

We want to teach so that students engage with information in ways that let them apply it in their own lives, feel deeply, find meaning, and feel a sense of their own agency (3). Concentrating on goals & outcomes rather than process "makes it difficult to have a mindful attitude," explore, & engage in "creative, synthetic thinking." The latter require a "holistic engagement & attention" which happens when students find themselves in the material, when they're aware of their "thoughts, beliefs, & reactions." Relating to the information, developing relationships with their classmates, & "discerning what is most meaningful to them" is more likely to happen when "students engage in these introspective exercises" -- practices which "have an inward or first-person focus that creates opportunities for greater connection & insight" and "focus on the present experience" (4-5). Contemplative introspection helps students "retain their knowledge better once they have a personal context in which to frame it, ... builds capacity, deepens understanding, generates compassion, & initiates an inquiry into their human nature" (6). Contemplative practices also help students "hone their concentration skills," ... and learn to regulate their emotions through recognizing "triggers" and decreasing their reactions (8). "Students who monitor their progress & explain to themselves what they are learning have greater learning gains & were better problem solvers." Also, if we do not or have not practiced a skill, "we have a tendency to overestimate our abilities" (9) -- we know that from surveying & questioning students in library research sessions!

Contemplative practices can mirror presentation styles--"visual information like form & color is probably best conveyed with visual examples, ... location ... might incorporate movement to help students understand" (9).

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