The School of Education and Human Development



The School of Education and Human Development

UVA’s School of Education and Human Development 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. Patrick Tolan, the Charles S. Robb Professor of Education and Director Emeritus of Youth-Nex—The UVA 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 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 faculty and lead efforts to apply contemplative approaches in teacher education and elementary and secondary school classrooms. Jennings brings to the School of Education and Human Development 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.

School of Education and Human Development 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, 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.