Learning Mindful Leadership in Virtual Spaces


  • Wendy Griswold University of Memphis


mindfulness, leadership, online learning, community of inquiry


This research examines the processes and outcomes of learning mindful leadership in virtual spaces. The development of best practices for teaching mindfulness in online courses is hindered by a lack of research. Additionally, there is a lack of research on contemplative education practices concerned with the development of the whole person, particularly developing emotional intelligence capacities for leadership. This paper reports on a grounded theory study on an online educational leadership course involving nine graduate students. Data includes course artifacts and an electronic survey. Key findings include that learners experienced a shift in their attitude toward mindful leadership and they identified several impactful practices which aided their exploration of leadership. The impacts of mindfulness practices on learners included uncovering their personal barriers to developing leadership potential and the role of self-care and management for leaders. Peer-to-peer learning was a key process in learning mindful leadership.

Author Biography

Wendy Griswold, University of Memphis

Wendy Griswold is an assistant professor of higher and adult education in the Department of Leadership at the University of Memphis.


Barbezat, D. P. & Bush, M. (2014). Contemplative practices in higher education: Powerful methods to transform teaching and learning. Jossey-Bass.

Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructing grounded theory, 2nd ed. Sage Publications.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2, 87-105.

Garrison, D. R., & Arbaugh, J. (2007). Researching the community of inquiry framework: Review, issues, and future directions. Internet and Higher Education, 10, 157-172. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2007.04.001

Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence. Bantam.

Kuh, G. D. (2009). What student affairs professionals need to know about student engagement. Journal of College Student Development, 50, 683-706. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/csd.0.0099

Lohr, K. D. & Haley, K. J. (2018). Using biographical prompts to build community in an online graduate course: An adult learning perspective. Adult Learning (29)1, 11-19. https://doi.org/10.1177/1045159517735597

Majeski, R. A., Stover, M., Valais, T., & Ronch, J. (2017). Fostering emotional intelligence in online higher education courses. Adult Learning (28)4, 135-143. https://doi.org/10.1177/1045159517726873

Marturano, J. (2015) Finding the space to lead: A practical guide to mindful leadership. Bloomsbury Press.

Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice. Sage Publications.

Rovai, A. (2000). Building sense of community at a distance. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 3, 1-16. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v3i1.79

Rovai, A. (2004). A constructivist approach to online college learning. Internet and Higher Education, 7, 79-93. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2003.10.002

Salvo, S., Shelton, K., & Welch, B. (2017). African American Males and Online Education: A Review of the Literature. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 20(4). Retrieved from https://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/winter204/salvo_shelton_welch204.html

Shapiro, S. L., Brown, K. W., & Astin, J. A. (2011). Toward the integration of meditation into higher education: A review of research evidence. Teachers College Record, 113, 493-528.

Simmons, G. & Redman, J. C. S. (2018). Teaching mindfulness online. Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association, (26)1,1-14. https://doi.org.10.30688/janzssa.2018.07

Spadaro, K. C. & Hunker, D. F. (2016). Exploring the effect of an online asynchronous mindfulness meditation intervention with nursing students on stress, mood, and cognition: A descriptive study. Nurse Education Today, 39, 163-169. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2016.02.006

Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition, 2nd ed. The University of Chicago Press.

Tomei, L. (2004). The impact of online teaching on faculty load: Computing the ideal class size for online courses. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 1(1), 39-50.

West, J. A. & West, M. L. (2009). Using wikis for online collaboration: The power of the read-write web. Jossey-Bass.

Wheeler, M. S., Arnkoff, D. B., & Glass, C. R. (2017). The neuroscience of mindfulness: How mindfulness alters the brain and facilitates emotion regulation. Mindfulness, 8, 1471-1487. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0742-x