BECOMING MORE MINDFUL

33 professors integrate mindfulness for greater satisfaction and effectiveness in teaching, research and service.

Client: Medium Sized University

Challenge: Professors who wish to achieve tenure must balance productivity in research and service while also collaborating with colleagues and earning high teaching scores. High levels of stress associated with these demands often yield less than optimal results. They can also harm a professor's sense of enthusiasm toward the job.

Outcome: Participants generated and committed to 26 novel methods for integrating mindfulness practice with teaching, research, and service. These practices grouped into four areas, including: mindful grading and assessment, awareness of students in the classroom, practicing mindfulness in and out of the classroom, and cultivating self-awareness in teaching.

Discovery: A mixed methods analysis of transformative learning illustrated fundamental shifts in perspectives and behaviors:

 

  1. Balancing expertise with a ‘beginner’s mind’ approach for greater innovative capacity

  2. Deepening appreciation for subject matter and communion with students

  3. Supporting a genuine sense of community across academic silos

  4. Advocating for a more mindful university culture through six new university-wide initiatives

Dialogue: The central aim of bringing professors together was to help them strategically incorporate and test out mindfulness into their teaching, research, and service.  This seminar included approximately 40% mindfulness practice and 60% faculty inquiry, dialogue, planning, and project development. Each day was divided into three phases: (1) Guided mindfulness practice to create a sense of awareness relative to a professor’s usual quality of mind; (2) Critical reflection upon the benefits of greater awareness in the context and measured impact of university strategy; and (3) Dialogue and action planning in teams of professors from diverse disciplines.

Epiphany: Learners can quickly become lost in the intricacies of subject matter and rely greatly upon professors to resurface. One admission that became clear in our seminar is that professors can also lose themselves in the lesson. Course material can also be inherently dry in nature, which at times deflates momentum, sense of wonder, and appreciation that connects learners with learning. Mindfulness practice not only served as the subject matter for our seminar, but was also instrumental in demonstrating how our thoughts and feelings can be observed from a more spacious sense of awareness.

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