Contemplative Pedagogy Symposium 2020: Being Human in Higher Education

Partnership logos: University of Essex, QMU, University of St Andrews, Cardiff Metropolitan University

Teaching and learning in higher education tends to focus on the cognitive, mental domain. The human body and the often inconvenient feelings and emotions that accompany our embodied experience are largely pushed aside in pursuit of logical, rational thought. Now that many of us have moved rapidly from inhabiting shared teaching spaces, collectively exploring ideas in close physical proximity, to ‘distance’ learning and connection through technology, cultivating the more human aspects of learning may be more challenging than ever.

This year's symposium will explore what it means to be fully human in higher education with particular interest in how we make space for exploration of our embodied experience in online learning settings. Even before COVID-19 there was growing concern about the mental health of university staff and students. Pressure on staff and students to perform, focus on outputs rather than process, and implicit and explicit competitiveness in academic life were all thought to be contributing to this decline in wellbeing. This is likely to exacerbated by the insecurity that is now facing the sector. Even though, or perhaps because, we are now occupying different spaces from our colleagues and students it is crucial that we recognise that the experiences of staff and students are not separate from each other. Both students and educators experience the full gamut of humaness, including the upheaval and insecurity of the current context.

Contemplative practice can help us to explore our humanness and sit with complexity rather than reaching for quick fix solutions to the difficult aspects of our experience. This can support our learning and that of our students and inform our motivations and intentions as professionals. The symposium will provide a platform for exploring the relevance of contemplative pedagogy to our current situation with particular emphasis on online learning. The whole event will be underpinned with contemplative activities and interactions so that your learning will be experiential, not just theoretical.

We hope that you will join us for these two days to bring to life a unique type of learning community in which we will learn together, deepening connection with ourselves, each other and our capacity for service as educators.

Schedule and commitment

As the symposium is online this year we know that people’s ability to engage will be mixed, given our different responsibilities and home situations. We know that some people will want to participate but will not be able to attend everything over the two days. However, because numbers are limited (40 participants) we ask that you don’t register unless you can commit to attending a minimum of 60% of the scheduled activities.

To help build community we will be creating small groups of participants who will explore ideas together during the workshops, helping to create meaningful connections despite our distance from each other.

Attendence at the introductions on both days is particularly important.

Due to limited places participation in only one day is not possible.

Day 1 Workshops on Contemplative Pedagogy

Day 1 Workshops will be facilitated by attendees and the titles confirmed at a later date. The workshops will start with a whole group activity, then smaller group discussion will allow depth of exploration.

10.00 - 10.45 Welcome, introductions and instructions
11.00 - 12:30 Workshop 1
14:30 - 16:00  Workshop 2
16:00 - 16:15 Closing reflection

As the titles for the workshops become available they will be listed on the Contemplative Pedagogy Network Events page.


Day 2 Open Space

Day 2 will use an adapted Open Space format allowing participants to set the agenda for the day. More information on Open Space can be found here

The overarching theme of the day will be ‘Being human in higher education’. Participants are encouraged to contribute questions and ideas about the theme and how it connects with contemplative pedagogy. These will then form the framework of the day.

Several different options of activities and discussions will be available in each time slot.

10:00 - 10:30 Introduction to Open Space
11:30 - 12:30 Open Space 1
13:30 - 14:30  Open Space 2
15:00 - 16:00 Open Space 3
16:00 - 16:30 Closing and next steps


The event will be held on a variety platforms to support the symposium activities, including Zoom and Mobilize. You will need to ensure you have appropriate facilities for doing this including an internet connection.

Payment and expenditure

We would very much appreciate financial contributions from participants. This will help make up for the loss of the deposit for the venue that we have had to cancel due to COVID-19. Next year we hope to return to a face-to-face format but need to ensure we have sufficient funds to do so.

However, we do not want cost to be an obstacle to participation. Please chose the cost that feels appropriate to you.

Thank you for your generosity.

£0 | £15 |£30 | £50 | £70 | £100 | £150

Event Details

Location Online
Date & Time Start 25 August 2020
10:00am End 26 August 2020
Cost Pay as you choose (see event details)
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