Month: July 2022

Call for Proposals for a Special Issue of Composition Forum: “Contemplative and Mindful-Based Pedagogies for Writing Ourselves and the World”

Posted by – July 11, 2022

Guest editors: Paula Mathieu, Boston College, and Angela Muir, Boston College

Amid another academic year shaped by the pandemic, a crumbling economy, and a critical human rights movement, professors struggle to align to a pedagogy that is both supportive and rigorous. The latest Healthy Minds survey shows that mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are at a record high of 47% among students, and an outstanding number of those students are reaching out to their professors for support. In a recent roundtable at Boston College on Trauma-Informed Contemplative Pedagogies, Professor Oh Myo Kim (CDEP, LSEHD) responded, “Class time is not therapy, but can be therapeutic.” Resources on contemplative pedagogies and contemplative practices have been increasingly highlighted in higher education. 

Contemplative practices (also sometimes referred to as mindfulness or awareness practices) in the classroom are getting headlines because they help students increase focus, calm their sympathetic nervous systems, and address the sense of overwhelm experienced within the wake of an ongoing global pandemic, increased attention to escalating racial violence, shifts between online and in-person learning, and intensifying climate disasters. Certainly, writers and their instructors need to be able to cultivate a calm presence in order to work, trust, and learn together. In addition, as this special issue will argue, contemplative pedagogies represent an important intervention in this current moment, not only to help equip individuals with greater resilience, but as a vital tool to help people engage the hard work of racial reckoning, engaging political differences, and healing our planet. In other words, we see contemplative pedagogy as a way to help writing achieve the transformative potential that composition theorists (Berlin, Trimbur, Schor) have long advocated.

This special issue of Composition Forum will address the what, why, how, and why now of contemplative writing pedagogy, while tracing its long roots within the history composition and writing studies:

  • How do we define contemplation and what are the assumptions, traditions and ideas underlying its many pedagogies?
  • What do contemplative pedagogies aim for? What do they accomplish? How do they contribute to other writing pedagogies?
  • Why and how might one adopt contemplative approaches to writing? What are the theoretical, neuroscientific, and writerly reasons to explore contemplative pedagogies?
  • Why do contemplative pedagogies seem especially urgent in this historical moment? How can contemplative approaches help support anti-racist, anti-ablist, and environmental approaches to writing instruction?

This issue will build upon and extend the argument Robert Yagelski made in Writing as a Way of Being (2011), which contends that writing instruction in secondary and post-secondary schools fails to live up to its progressive promises, despite advances in pedagogical theories.  He argues that “conventional writing instruction and assessment continue to operate on the assumption that writing is a sometimes challenging but relatively straightforward conduit for meaning” (24). Even social and post-process theories, argues Yagelski, fall short of their radical potential because of a tacit embrace of Cartesian dualism, which posits the self as an autonomous being, the world as separate and knowable from the knower, and language as a relatively unproblematic conduit for thought (45).  

Contemplative pedagogies aim to help students see writing as part of how we learn to be in the world, as a tool for living, and as a collaborative means of shared inquiry toward intersubjective truth, both within educational settings and without.

The nature of contemplative practice is fluid, so we are open to creative and experimental forms. In addition to scholarly articles, we are interested in interviews, personal reflections, book reviews, and course designs. 

You are welcome to submit a proposal of 250 to 500 words, final drafts should be between 2500 to 6000 words. Send all submissions to


Proposals: September 1, 2022

Drafts: January 1, 2023

Feedback Distributed: March 2023

Final Drafts: May 1, 2023

Paula Mathieu is an Associate Professor of English at Boston College and director of the university’s First-Year Writing program. She has been speaking and publishing about mindfulness and contemplative pedagogies since 2013. She is the 2021 recipient of the Coalition for Community Writing Engaged Scholar Award.

Angela Muir holds a BA from the University of Michigan and an MFA from Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School. She is a 200 RYT in Hatha and Tantra from the Hawaii School of Yoga and has taught yoga, meditation, yoga philosophy and creative writing courses in San Francisco and Seattle. She is currently a graduate student and teaching fellow at Boston College pursuing research on contemplative pedagogies.

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