The Contemplative Pause: Insights for Teaching Politics in Turbulent Times

Karen Litfin. "The Contemplative Pause: Insights for Teaching Politics in Turbulent Times." Journal of Political Science Education (2018): DOI: 10.1080/15512169.2018.1512869.

A quiet revolution is unfolding throughout higher education in the form of contemplative pedagogical practices. The mind’s ability to adopt a metaposition relative to its own contents, thereby consciously integrating somatic, emotional, and mental experience, has
profound implications for learning. According to its proponents, contemplative pedagogies can enhance student attention, cognition, emotional wellbeing, and creativity, as well as reduce stress. These capacities are increasingly vital in the face of escalating world tensions, political polarization, and electronic distractibility, yet political scientists are surprisingly invisible in this quiet revolution. This essay offers a general description of and rationale for contemplative education, making the case that these practices are particularly valuable in the political science classroom and for subjects like climate change that will profoundly affect our students’ future.
Attending to the “inner curriculum” can foster new skills for selfawareness, tolerating intellectual and emotional ambiguity, embracing diversity, civic discourse, and collaborative action. Some specific practices are offered, along with general guidelines for educators who might wish to experiment with contemplative practices. Finally, survey data from students in several courses suggest that they clearly find value in these practices. While these preliminary data are encouraging, they also raise many questions for a larger research agenda for assessing the value of contemplative practices in the political education.

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