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A Contemplative Approach to Teaching Observation Skills

Peter G. Grossenbacher, Alexander J. Rossi

Abstract


Careful observation of one’s experience provides access to present-moment information, the foundation for mindfulness practice and contemplative education more generally. Contemplative observation comprises a set of trainable skills, including noticing, slowing, and reflecting. Skillful ways to work with observation, including distinguishing (between observation and interpretation), recalling, and describing, can also be taught, learned, practiced, and applied. Two assignments drawn from a course on the psychology of perception, sensory awareness practice and sensory description, are presented as tandem means for teaching all six observation skills. Several aspects of this contemplative observation pedagogy make it useful in higher education generally, and it is also well suited for content-specific use in or adaptation to courses across a variety of disciplines. The aim is to foster (instructor and) student engagement with discovering lived experience through the refinement and focusing of observation skills.

Keywords


contemplative pedagogy; education; mindfulness; observation skills; sensory awareness

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References


Brown, R. C. (1999). “The teacher as contemplative observer.” Educational Leadership 56(4), 70-73.

Burggraf, S. A., & Grossenbacher, P. G. (2007). “Contemplative modes of inquiry in liberal arts education.” LiberalArtsOnline 7(4), 1-9.

Krishnamurti, J. (1983). Mind Without Measure. Chennai: Krishnamurti Foundation India.

Uhl, C. & Stuchul, D. L. (2011). Teaching as if Life Matters. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.


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