This summer Centre College hosted the 2015 Associated Colleges of the South Contemplative Pedagogy Workshop. The program, supported in part by the Andrew Mellon Foundation, welcomed 32 participants at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.
Assistant Professor of Psychology Aaron Godlaski, who organized the workshop, started the Contemplative Studies Initiative at Centre several years ago with a goal to see the school become a leader in contemplative pedagogy. Many such workshops occur in the northeastern U.S. where national organizations such as the Contemplative Mind in Society are located. Through a dedicated team effort including organizers Assistant Professor of Chinese Kyle Anderson, Assistant Professor of Sociology Kaelyn Wiles and Assistant Professor of Philosophy Eva Cadavid, this summer’s program offered access to Spelman College, Furman University, Centenary College, Rhodes College and many others in the south.
The popularity of yoga and meditation has skyrocketed in the last several years—the College even has its own Centre Meditation group—but contemplative pedagogy is a much broader, more inclusive discipline.
“Contemplative pedagogy can be understood as teaching methods that aim at the deepening of awareness, attention and insight,” Godlaski explained.
Those gathered, representing a variety of disciplines, had a chance to share, reflect and develop intentional teaching practices that ask students to honor their personal educational experience as much as their pursuit of skills and knowledge.
Daily activities included yoga, meditation, speakers and roundtable discussions such as “The Heart of the Discipline” led by Godlaski, which focused on the scientific data on the effects of meditation, contemplative practices and the interpersonal process of such methods. Everything had a large practice component in order to facilitate use in the classroom.
“Rather than just talking about contemplation, we wanted to stress the importance of this engaged way of teaching and learning,” Godlaski said.
He noted that Shaker Village was an important venue for the workshop, as it lends itself to quiet reflection.
“We felt that being in a space that embodied the idea of being fully present with whatever your immediate task is, whether extraordinary or mundane, results in a deeper sense of knowing both self and object,” he continued.
Most importantly, Godlaski believes that the engaged “whole being” approach to education that contemplative pedagogy offers is needed in a world where the capacity to view problems from different angles is more important than a specific set of skills.
“To educate students to face this world does not mean we should be filling them up with all the knowledge they might need,” he said, “but opening them up to different ways of knowing the self, the other and the world.”
by Elise L. Murrell
July 29, 2015
Pictured above (l to r): Professors Meghan Slining (Furman University), Katie Anne Skogsberg (Centre), Karen Newton (University of Louisville) and Robyn Cutright (Centre) participate in a contemplative exercise.