Contemplative Pedagogy for Student Well-Being: Building a Community of Practice at the University of Waterloo

Research team

Grant Recipients

Christopher Bennett, Political Science

Christopher Taylor, History

Allison Elgie, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability

Caitlin Scott, George Brown College

(Project timeline: September 2019 - August 2020)


There is an urgent call for new pedagogies to navigate an unsustainable and unjust world (Eaton et al., 2017). Students often experience feelings of hopelessness, grief, anger, cynicism and apathy when learning about numerous complex and jarring global challenges (Litfin 2016; 2018). Contemplative pedagogy (CP) “draw[s] on the human capacity to know, specifically through stillness, awareness, attention, mindfulness, and reflection” (Owen-Smith, 2018, p 1). This pedagogical approach is useful across a variety of disciplines to process dark emotions and make way for feelings of hope (Owen-Smith, 2018; Eaton et al. 2017).

Contemplative pedagogy has its challenges. Questions arise on the use of emotionality in the classroom, grading interior dimensions, and the preparation and qualifications of teachers (Owen-Smith, 2018). This project seeks to build a foundation for a Community of Practice (CoP) as a way of learning and “thinking together” about the most ethical and evidence-backed ways to include CP in classrooms at the University of Waterloo (UW) (Pyrko et al. 2017).

Works Cited

Eaton, M., Davies, K., Williams, S., & MacGregor, J. (2017). Why sustainability education needs pedagogies of reflection and contemplation. In M. Eaton, H. Hughes, & J. MacGregor (Eds.), Contemplative approaches to sustainability in higher education - Theory and practice. New York and London: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.

Litfin, K. (2016) “Person/Planet Politics: Contemplative Pedagogies for a New Earth.” from New Earth Politics: Essays from the Anthropocene, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2016) Chapter 5 pp. 115 - 134.

Litfin, K. T. (2018). The Contemplative Pause: Insights for Teaching Politics in Turbulent Times. Journal of Political Science Education, 0(0), 1–10.

Owen-Smith, P. (2017). The Contemplative Mind in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press.

Pyrko, I., Dörfler, V., & Eden, C. (2017). Thinking together: What makes Communities of Practice work? Human Relations, 70(4), 389–409.

Return to browse projects