Mindful Pedagogy Book Club

drawing of a brain with descriptive words such as feeling, memory, habit, thought

During the summer of 2019, a group of faculty, librarians, artists, and staff held a monthly book club to explore how to create classrooms that support mindfulness. The main question asked was, “How can we encourage students to notice themselves, their thoughts, their colleagues, and the here and now?” The goal was not to lead meditation, but to encourage metacognition of growth, conflict, and self.

To set the intention of the book club, the group settled on several ground rules to encourage active listening and self-reflection. First, participants should practice radical listening. In this practice, the listener should suspend judgment of what they hear and presume positive intention on behalf of the speaker. Second, book club members should acknowledge that they can only speak from their own position and use “I” statements when offering opinions. Finally, the participants were encouraged to write self-reflections about their participation in the club and what they heard. All of these practices were meant to be practical steps that could also be taken in a classroom.

The first meeting centered on two texts: The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotion by Sarah Rose Cavanagh and How Humans Learn: The Science and Stories behind Effective College Teaching by Joshua Eyler. The authors offered both a research-based overview of the processes of learning and practical strategies for harnessing the power of emotion and human communication in pedagogical practices.

The topic of the second meeting addressed difference and inequality in the classroom. The seminal texts, Teaching to Transgress: Education as a Process of Freedom by bell hooks and Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. These works examined how white supremacy and notions of race, gender, and class impact the classroom and teaching, and more specifically how students and instructors can challenge oppression.

In August, the main text was Integrating Mindfulness into Anti-Oppression Pedagogy by Beth Berila. The author addresses how difficult conversations about race, gender, and sexuality are. Specifically, Berila encourages teachers to give students the tools to confront their long-held beliefs and oppression with compassion for themselves and others. Berlia suggests ways to encourage students to recognize that conflict is stored in their bodies and not just an intellectural exercise.

If you are interested in joining the Mindful Pedagogy Book Club, please contact Amanda Starling Gould amanda.gould@duke.edu to be included in the email list.

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Elise Mueller, Ph.D.

Author: Elise Mueller, Ph.D.

Elise Mueller is the consultant for the language departments at Duke. Her goal is to support their teaching through sound pedagogy and educational technologies. She leads fellowships and workshops on blended teaching, student reflection, portfolios and course design. She is currently grappling with the meaning of a liberal arts education in the 21st century.