A Contemplative Pedagogy

A Practice of Presence When the Present is Overwhelming


  • Carla Nikol Wilson Texas Woman’s University


Through the use of contemplative practices in higher education, contemplative pedagogy is a vastly growing movement and more than capable of fostering transformative learning in a social justice curriculum. My current research is on the implementation of contemplative practices in a Women’s and Gender Studies classroom and includes acknowledging the subversive work a contemplative pedagogy does in higher education. As a social justice educator, I feel it is vital to share tools with my students that not only validate their voices and lived experiences but provide them opportunities to practice self-care in connection with community care. Teaching and learning about privilege and oppression is mentally, physically, and emotionally challenging. Learning sustainable and healing ways to navigate social justice education as both a teacher and a student is nonlinear and never complete. During the spring semester of 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic required that my Gender and Social Change class transition from a face-to-face classroom to a virtual space eight weeks into the semester. I knew the benefits of implementing contemplative practices during “normal” semesters; however, I was uncertain of how best to support my students during a global pandemic. Each student had unique circumstances they were trying to navigate such as access to technology, access to healthcare, access to time and space to work from home, access to income on top of the additional responsibilities that come with living inside of a pandemic. It was my intent to meet my students where they were and offer tools for their wellbeing while teaching about internalized and systemic oppression.

Keywords: transformative learning, contemplative practices, compassionate listening, uncomfortable feelings, difficult conversations, social justice, pedagogy


Author Biography

Carla Nikol Wilson, Texas Woman’s University

PhD candidate in the Multicultural Women's & Gender Studies department. Graduate Teaching Assistant/Instructor.