Date of Award

Fall 10-12-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Robert Kelchen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Peter Savastano, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Candice Knight, Ph.D.


Contemplative Pedagogy, Contemplative Practices, Higher Education Pedagogy, Gestalt Therapy Theory, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Theory


Academic interest in “mindfulness” has grown exponentially since the 1980s. Along with the dissemination of mindfulness came an appropriation of contemplative sacred texts and the somatic psychologies along with a misperception of its concepts and practices as inherently religious. Contemplative pedagogy, which addresses the application of contemplative studies to the classroom and its community, is therefore equally likely to be misunderstood. Despite recent studies claiming the benefits of contemplative pedagogy on students’ mental health, test results, and personal and interpersonal relationships, contemplative pedagogy is still widely underutilized; this suggests such a misunderstanding of the field and could explain the lack of implementation in the classroom. In this study, I outline both sacred and secular origin contributors of contemplative pedagogy, with Gestalt therapy theory and cognitive behavioral therapy theory in particular as psychological contributors appropriated; at the time of writing, this study appears to be the first to distinguish the sacred and secular contributions of this field explicitly. Subsequently, through 14 semi-structured interviews of non-contemplative-identifying faculty members, I develop a grounded theory for understanding faculty perception of contemplative pedagogy. This grounded theory explains the causes for underutilization in the classroom. Namely, it is found that the breakdown in the adoption of contemplative pedagogy is not due to negative perception of the theory or any perceived religiosity associated with contemplative pedagogy. Rather, the breakdown in the adoption of contemplative pedagogy stems from a lack of institutional support. Many teachers feel that they are not provided with the time and resources to learn to be contemplative educators. Most intriguing, while it is found that faculty are cautious in incorporating religious affiliations into their professional identities, a perception of contemplative pedagogy as religious and/or spiritual does not cause a negative perception thereof. The results of this study suggest that the most effective way to bring contemplative education to faculty and students is to develop institutional policies that support, encourage, and protect teachers if they devote more time to their professional development.