Supporting and developing the curriculum by putting contemplation back into HE: enhancing students’ attention and effectiveness

Contemporary Higher Education is under increasing pressure to justify its existence, be cost effective and produce better graduates. One attempt to achieve this has been the formulation of graduate attributes (GAs). These are attributes that graduates are expected to develop during their studies, in addition to the knowledge and skills relevant to their discipline. For example, the QMU GAs include confidence, creativity and lifelong learning (QMU 2005).

Over the last 10 years, there has been a rapid increase in interest in the use of CPs in HE to enhance learning and teaching, especially in the USA. Regular use of CPs enhances attention, information processing and academic achievement (see the recent review by Shapiro et al 2008). Additionally, they have been shown to have (mental) health benefits (e.g. stress-reduction; Williams et al 2007).

The focus of this event is the application of CPs to enhance students’ ability to learn in any subject (for example, in Drama, through ‘productive reflection’; Collier 2006). We will explore the evidence and potential of such practices to help students develop their ability to focus (hold attention) and through this, to increase their effectiveness as learners. This implies integrating such practices in the curriculum. This seminar will explore how CPs may be used to create high-impact curricula by deepening the learning experienced by students through enhanced attention.

Thus the main goals of the seminar are to:

  1. engage participants with the available evidence
  2. provide experiences of CPs
  3. facilitate application within individual contexts


Keynote speaker:

David Kahane is Professor and Vargo Distinguished Teaching Chair in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta (Canada) and holds a 3M Teaching Fellowship (Canada's highest award for excellence and leadership in teaching and learning). He teaches and publishes on theories and practices of democratic dialogue and deliberation and is especially interested in innovations that make public consultation and involvement processes transformative for participants as well as politically influential. He held a Contemplative Practice Fellowship from the Centre for the Contemplative Mind in Society (2009) that supported his explorations of mindfulness and stillness practice in both teaching and democratic process design. His articles on teaching include:

He is online at and @davidkahane on Twitter

Participants could apply to HEA UK Travel Fund, if they belong to a subscribing HEI. The form is not too onerous but they will need to address the criteria for funding (HEA priority area: Retention and Success).

Provisional programme:

9:00-9:30 Registration

9:30-9:45 Formal welcome by VP Academic

9:45-10:45  Keynote (to be confirmed) and discussion

10:45-11:10 Refreshment break & networking

11:15-11:40 CP in Action: 20 min taster session 1

11:45-12:10 CP in Action: 20 min taster session 2

12:15-13:10 Lunch

13:15-13:45 Exploring evidence, experience and application (parallel) workshops

13:50-14:15 Summary, next steps and close.



Collier, K. (2006) Re-imagining reflection: creating a theatrical space for the imagination in productive reflection. Paper presented at Professional Lifelong Learning: beyond reflective practice, University of Leeds. Available at 14/4/2012)

QMU (2005) Future focus – what are your graduate attributes? Available at 14/4/2012).

Shapiro, S.L., Brown, K.W. & Astin, J.A. (2008) Toward the Integration of Meditation into Higher Education: A Review of Research, Northampton MA: Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, available (accessed 14/4/2012)

Williams J.M.G., Segal Z.V., Teasdale J.D. & Kabat-Zinn J., 2007, The Mindful Way through Depression. Guilford Press.

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May 25, 2012 10:00 - 15:15 (GMT +00:00 Edinburgh)

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