Last year, I attended the 2014 Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education Conference where there were a number of sessions on the use of mindfulness in higher education. This inspired me to think about how I might bring mindfulness into my teaching.
I teach in the Bachelor of Education program at the University of BC and my students are individuals who are preparing to be teachers in elementary and secondary schools. The course I teach looks at the role of knowledge in a teacher’s practice. In our short six weeks together, we explore concepts such as pedagogical content knowledge, core knowledge, embodied knowledge and “other” ways of knowing.
Given the course goals, I have recently started to incorporate mindfulness into my classroom teaching. Additional reasons that have motivated me to do so are:
- mindfulness is increasingly being used in the K-12 system (with many proven benefits) and therefore I want my students to become more familiar with it so they can decide whether or not to adopt it in their teaching
- university students are often stressed and anxious and, by learning about mindfulness and being able to do short exercises, they may start to apply these techniques in their personal lives for their own well-being
I think it is relevant to say that, prior to this, I did not have my own mindfulness practice; that is, I was not able to draw upon my own past experience and have been learning as I go.
What have I done to bring this into the classroom?
- Have created a “mindfulness” section of my course site where I suggest exercises to the students (i.e., “try this during the week”)
- Present on evidence-based benefits of mindfulness in class
- Do short mindfulness exercises in class (breathing, listen to the sounds)
- Have a classroom discussion where students share their experiences of mindfulness in their schools
- And, this week, together with Dr. Erin Graham who teaches the same course at the same time, we took the class to the Nitobe Memorial Gardens where they practiced mindfulness in this lovely setting. Before hand, we sent students “instructions” with various exercises to try out.
In the past offering of this course, I received positive feedback from students on the incorporation of mindfulness. I will continue to invite feedback from students to get a sense of how this is going for them.
Some useful resources I have discovered along the way:
- Mindfulness in the Classroom (Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching) – about mindfulness in higher Education
- Association for Mindfulness in Education
- Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education
- How to train a wild elephant by Jan Chozen Bays (book that offers several practices and is written in a clear accessible manner; good for the novice like me!)