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First published online August 24, 2020

Contemplative Pedagogy: Fostering Transformative Learning in a Critical Service Learning Course


Background: Research demonstrating the positive outcomes of service learning among university students is robust and some describe the impact as transformative. Purpose: To help me better understand how I can support transformative learning in my classroom, this study explored how an intergenerational critical service learning project fostered change among student participants. Methodology/Approach: Data consisted of reflection journals collected over 6 years from 228 students who participated in a course-based intergenerational service learning project and researcher field notes. Using a qualitative design and narrative methodology analysis took place over a 2-year period and consisted of a 3-stage process: deep reading, identifying stories, and re-storying to generate findings. Findings/Conclusions: Three mechanisms were found to foster transformation among students—writing as inquiry, embodied learning, and mindfulness. The two-pronged contemplative approach used in this course informs the way in which students experience the critical service learning project. Together, they provide a deep and transformative learning opportunity. Implications: Insights into course design and pedagogical approaches that support transformative learning.

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Paula Gardner is a critical qualitative health researcher, educator, advocate and meditator. She is an associate professor of public health and gerontology at Brock University. To learn more visit her website at:

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Article first published online: August 24, 2020
Issue published: June 2021


  1. contemplative pedagogy
  2. mindfulness
  3. embodied learning
  4. writing as inquiry

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Published online: August 24, 2020
Issue published: June 2021



Paula Gardner


Paula Gardner, Associate Professor, Department of Health Sciences, Brock University, 1812 Sir Isaac Brock Way, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada L2S 3A1; Academic Fellow, Centre for Critical Qualitative Health Research, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5T 3M7. Email: [email protected]

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