Contemplative education cultivating ethical development through mindfulness training

Robert W. Roeser, David R. Vago, Cristi Pinela, Laurel S. Morris, Cynthia Taylor, Jessica Harrison

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

10 Scopus citations


DEFINING CONTEMPLATIVE EDUCATION The purpose of this chapter is to introduce Contemplative Education-an emerging, practical, and applied scientific approach to the cultivation of positive mental skills and social-emotional dispositions that we hypothesize are relevant to individuals’ ethical development. (Mind and Life Educational Research Network [MLERN], 2012; Roeser & Peck, 2009). The key question of this chapter is how might developmentally appropriate secular mindfulness training contribute to the ethical development of young people and their parents and teachers? Contemplative, from the Latin root contemplatio, refers to the marking out of a space for the cultivation of attentiveness to the fullness of life-including oneself, other people, and the sociocultural and natural worlds (Zajonc, in press). Education, from the Latin root educare, can be defined as the “drawing forth” of children’s intrinsic potentialssomatic, emotional, imaginative, cognitive, and attentional in nature-and the guiding of these qualities towards fruitful personal and societal ends (Dewey, 1900). Given these etymologies, we can say that as an applied, practical approach, Contemplative Education (CE) aims to draw forth and cultivate children’s intrinsic self-regulatory skills and social-emotional dispositions in the directions of focused attention, mindful awareness, and altruistic motivation and action through joint activity, mentorship, and sustained practice. At the heart of Contemplative Education as a practical approach is mindfulness training (MT). MT refers to secularized teaching approaches and practices aimed at cultivating focused attention and a calm, clear, and non-reactive/non-judgmental awareness of what is occurring moment by moment (Kabat-Zinn, 2003). By cultivating a healthy mind, MT is hypothesized to have implications for ethical development, leading to the development, for instance, of individuals who “know what is good and spontaneously do it” in their daily lives (Varela, 1999, p. 4). How is this so? As an applied scientific discipline, CE aims to answer these questions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Moral and Character Education
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781136293122
ISBN (Print)9780415532334
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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