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Education & Learning

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Education & Learning

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UVA is developing new contemplative learning programs addressing personal, intellectual, and social forms of knowledge and wellbeing across all eleven of its schools, and across the entire developmental spectrum - Pre-K through 12, higher education, continuing adult education, and online education. 

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UVA is developing new contemplative learning addressing personal, intellectual, and social forms of knowledge and wellbeing across all eleven of its schools, as well as across the entire developmental spectrum - Pre-K through 12, higher education, continuing adult education, and online education. UVA's Curry School of Education aims to apply contemplative approaches to significantly improve Pre-K through 12 teacher education and to address other critical challenges in education. One research initiative is assessing the impact of a health curriculum for elementary schools based in contemplative practices, such as yoga and mindfulness for effects on student well-being and performance. Funded by Pure Edge, Inc., pilot work is underway in the southern California school district of Encinitas. Curry Professor Patrick Tolan, director emeritus of Youth-Nex—The U.Va. Center for Effective Youth Development, is leading this as part of his work on producing evidence-based practices to promote healthy youth. The initial work is meant to set the stage for a large randomized trial in multiple school districts. As we are accumulating a growing body of evidence supporting the effectiveness of contemplative practices for helping students self-regulate, increase their attention span, and improve their learning, these very same practices are also helping teachers perform more effectively. For example, evidence suggests that teachers using contemplative practices increase learning in classroom environments while caring for themselves in a highly stressful profession. This promising line of research and development in education has led the Curry School to recruit Patricia (Tish) Jennings, a leading contemplative researcher from the Prevention Research Center and the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State University, to join the Curry faculty and lead efforts to apply contemplative approaches in teacher education and elementary and secondary school classrooms. Jennings brings to Curry and UVa a federally-funded research study examining effects of the Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE) teacher professional development program on teacher well-being and efficacy, classroom climate, and student academic and behavioral outcomes. Curry dean Robert Pianta has secured funding from the Atlantic Philanthropies to develop supports for teachers that promote more effective interactions with diverse learners and reduce disciplinary disparities, which will draw heavily from the contemplative sciences. Meanwhile, Curry Professor Sara Rimm-Kaufman is leading a research initiative on using contemplation to facilitate collective governance in school districts using a management approach called Leading Together. Overall, UVA is pioneering the use of contemplative methods in higher education through the CSC's Contemplative Learning Initiative, which is rapidly extending through all eleven of its schools - nursing, business, architecture, humanities, sciences, engineering, leadership, law, and more. We are offering a variety of curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular programs of contemplative learning for students. Highlights include new academic courses teaching Buddhist Meditation and Indian Yoga with contemplative labs in which students try out related secular contemplative practices, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for Buddhist Meditation in the Modern World, pilot programs in mindfulness for law school students and undergraduate business school students respectively, new Ashtanga Yoga and Taiqi programs offered for everyone through Intramural and Recreational Sports, new initiatives in Compassionate Care for training health care professionals, a new January term class on contemplative entrepreneurship training, and much more. This broaderwork is further supported through the Teaching Resource Center’s faculty seminar on incorporating contemplative practices and pedagogy into coursework for undergraduates and graduate students, and its incorporation of contemplative pedagogy into its annual course design institute. We are also extending this for faculty and staff through evolving partnerships with Intramural and Recreational Sports, Human Resources, Faculty and Employee Assistance Program and Student Health Services.
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