Learning to Teach Mindfully: Examining the Self in the Context of Multicultural Education

Spring, 2015

Source: Teacher Education Quarterly, Vol. 42, No. 2, Spring 2015

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article describes a self-study partnership between the authors, Tom and Deb, two teacher educators from different institutions.
The partnership between the authors began with discussions about shared interests and shared dilemmas in teaching multicultural education content at their respective universities.
Over a 2-year period of time, they began to look closely at Tom’s experiences integrating mindfulness into his instruction, which resulted in self-study research.

The authors refer mindfulness, as described by Nhat Hanh (1991), which is about compassion, empathy, and deep listening.
Tom is concerned with how mindfulness influences the way he discusses diversity with his graduate students so that it will be meaningful to them, enable them to engage with the complex issues involved in teaching in diverse environments, and impact their understanding of its significance in their professional lives.

This study is a retrospective, self-reflexive analysis of the dynamics of the first author's own teaching of an online section of a graduate course in multicultural education in a school of teacher education in a university in the western United States.
The students in the graduate courses that are the focus of this study are mostly in-service teachers who are female, white, and middle class, with generally minimal diverse life experiences, in their own education or otherwise.

The data for this self-study arose from two main sources:
(a) the content and organization of the course materials (the syllabus and discussion board questions developed for this online course) and
(b) the first author's language (as course instructor) in response to students’ postings.

The first author found that the preparation of his course and his teaching have benefited from mindfulness practice.
As he has found repeatedly in his experiences as a multicultural educator of teachers, there is a decidedly visceral dimension to teaching and learning to teach in and for diversity.
For him, mindfulness in his teaching practice has been a critical part of dealing with the affective dimensions of this work.

Through mindfulness meditation, Tom finds the means to achieve a kind of harmony, peace, and acceptance of the complexities found within formidable challenges to his own preconceived notions about any number of potentially difficult issues.
Mindfulness meditation allows for a depth of personal exploration and self-reflection related to teaching in and for diversity that might not otherwise be possible.

As researchers, the authors have found that this study reveals the power of theoretically grounding teaching practice in mindfulness and in intentional consideration of language as a tool to establish an appropriate affective space for learning, even in an online setting.

Nhat Hanh, T. (1991). Peace is every step: The path of mindfulness in everyday life. New York: Bantam Books. 

Updated: Feb. 11, 2018