Researching Pedagogy and Curriculum for a M.Ed. Program in Contemplative Education

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Heesoon Bai, Faculty of Education

Project teamLaurie Anderson, Faculty of Education, Cristina Serverius, research assistant

Timeframe: September 2014 to August 2015                              

Funding: $5,000

Courses addressed:

  • EDUC 816 – Developing Educational Programs and Practices for Diverse Educational Settings
  • EDUC 820 – Current Issues in Curriculum and Pedagogy
  • EDUC 822 – Evaluation of Educational Programs
  • EDUC 823 – Curriculum and Instruction in an Individual Teaching Specialty
  • EDUC 830 – Implementation of Educational Programs
  • EDUC 833 – Social and Moral Philosophy in Education

Final report: View Heesoon Bai's final report (PDF) and appendix (PDF)

Description: The goal of our project is to examine and further develop the new two-year M.Ed. Program in Contemplative Education (CE) that welcomed its first cohort in September 2014.  Contemplative Education develops the students’ “contemplative capacity” in the subjective and intersubjective modalities, including mindful awareness and communication, the ethics of compassion, wisdom, and creativity. Through contemplative inquiry and approaches, the program prioritizes the self-reflection and self-cultivation process of learning. The program is designed to empower and expand human capability and agency in all dimensions of human being: somatic, energetic, perceptual, affective, cognitive, intellectual, dispositional, motivational, behavioral, etc. Through CE, participants develop their “relational and sustainable selves” to embody resilience, empathy, emotional intelligence and wellbeing, and somatic wisdom.

Though the broader field of Contemplative Studies has been growing dramatically over the past decades in departments across the world, the M.Ed. program at SFU is the only one of its kind to date.  Because CE is an emerging field with limited opportunities for teacher training beyond isolated workshops, SFU’s vanguard degree-granting program will help shape the field.  As we pave the way for other programs and anticipate an increased centralization of the contemplative work already happening in schools and universities across Canada and beyond, the development and continued growth of our M.Ed. will set the standard for the field. As such, our research will engage with the most urgent questions dominating recent interdisciplinary contemplative studies conferences such as the Mind & Life Symposium for Contemplative Studies and the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education.

Questions addressed:

  • How do we negotiate process-oriented contemplative education within a conventional outcome/product-oriented educational system?  What are the kinds of learning outcomes that contemplative education could use without compromising its philosophy?
  • How do we foster (and measure) personal development and self-cultivation in the CE educators and students in this program?
  • Our CE program is based on an “infusion model,” meaning that the contemplative ways of learning are infused throughout the program. How do we integrate contemplative knowledge and practice throughout a program with standard subject content matter?
  • How do we evaluate student learning in the domain of contemplative learning? What are the kinds of formative assessments we can use to foster our students’ learning in CE?
  • What is the current state of the field of CE and the research that supports it in neuroscience, psychology, cognitive science, and religious/cultural studies?  What is the role of our program within the broader interdisciplinary field?  What are our specific contributions to the needs of the field? Which future interdisciplinary collaborations might we anticipate?
  • All listed questions are relevant to the development and growth of the M.Ed. program itself, its Masters students and their educators, as well as the many students of the participants in the M.Ed. program.  This three-tiered approach necessitates the creation and assessment of larger-scale contemplative curricula, course design, and classroom activities.

Knowledge sharing: Because this is the first degree-granting program of its kind, our findings will be of great value to educators who have been introducing contemplative methods in their classrooms, as well as to institutions interested in creating similar programs.

Bai, H., & Cohen, A. (2014, September). Becoming holistic educators: The integrative-contemplative way. Presentation at the Holistic Education conference, School of Education at Southern Oregon University, Ashland, OR.

Bai, H., Leggo, C., & Walsh, S. (2014, October). Arts-based and contemplative practices in research and teaching; Honouring presence. Presentation at אhe 6th Annual Conference of the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education: Intention, Method and Evaluation, Seattle, WA.

Bai, H., Morgan, P. Scott, C. & Cohen, A. (2016). Prolegomena to spiritual research paradigm: Importance of attending to the embodied and the subtle. In J. Lin, O. Qargha, R. Oxford & T. Culham. (Eds.), Toward spiritual research paradigm: Exploring new ways of knowing, researching and being. (pp. 77-96). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Chang, D., Bai, H., Scott, C., Anderson, L., Kinch, C., Beeching, B., & Cooney, R. (2016, March). Much ado about contemplative education. Contemplative Inquiry and Holistic Education SIG Session at the 60th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES), March 6-10, 2016, Vancouver, BC.

Rasmussen, D., Roomy, A., Bai, H., & Cohen, A. (2014, October). Is there a role for the “heart-opening practices” in higher education? Presentation at the 6th Annual Conference of the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education: Intention, Method and Evaluation, Seattle, WA.

Keywords: contemplation; self-reflection