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HOLISTIC ENGAGEMENT SKILLS MEET PEDAGOGICAL METHODS

The authors of this text have discussed a wide range of teaching methods that they have employed in their classes, with the goal of developing what we are calling holistic engagement skills as a way to support transformative social work practice. Some of these methods are group dialogue, deep listening, mindfulness meditation, psychodrama, theatrical games, outdoor team-building activities, community engagement, drawing, tai chi, emotional freedom techniques, and yoga. Making sense of these varied activities and their goals in relation to whole self-development, relationship building, and social change is challenging. However, the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society (n.d.), an organization that envisions higher education as “an opportunity to cultivate deep personal and social awareness ... [and] an exploration of meaning, purpose and values in service to our common human future,” has put forth a model reflecting many of the methods used by our authors and more. Thus, we present the Tree of Contemplative Practices (Figure 14.1) as a way to help social work educators visualize the possibilities that holistic pedagogies can offer.

The practices presented in the visual model are grounded in two key orientations: communion/connection and awareness. We believe that these key orientations resonate with the messages of this text, particularly as they relate to the holistic engagement skills to be developed—whole self presence and inquiry, empathic connection, and compassionate attention. For the purposes of a profession oriented toward social justice, and our keen concern with the radical changes needed for a world in crisis, we add to these two orientations the concept of “transformation.” For us, this concept has two basic, and necessarily interconnected, dimensions. First, the idea is concerned with the personal transformation necessary for social workers to undergo as they come to social work practice, including enhanced awareness ofpersonal strengths and a greater understanding of the role that culture and internalized oppression play in who they are. This process requires attending to the whole self and a willingness to let go of that which does not serve their highest good. Second, transformation refers equally to the social transformation that we are seeking to effect in our communities and classrooms, particularly as it relates to undoing the global socioeconomic and cultural oppression that manifests at the individual, organizational, and community levels.

The Tree of Contemplative Practices is divided into seven categories: stillness, generative, creative, activist, relational, movement, and ritual/cyclical. Examples

Figure 14.1:

Tree of Contemplative Practices

Source: Center for Contemplative Mind in Society

of stillness practices are meditation, quieting the mind, silence, and centering, many of our authors have practiced these with students. Although not previously considered through this lens, these kinds of activities have been discussed and utilized by the educators represented in this volume with the intent for students to practice gathering the full range of information from all the ways of knowing and to develop more empathic connections.

Given these categories of contemplative practices, coupled with a thorough analysis of the chapters in this text, we put forth a matrix (Table 14.1) that situates each of the chapters in relation to two key axes—namely the pedagogical (contemplative) practices and the holistic engagement skills that these practices seek to develop. Thus, the Matrix of Holistic Engagement Skills and Pedagogical Methods reveals the places where this sample of social work educators are strong in terms of both methods utilized and skills developed. Although there appears to be equal billing to all four holistic engagement skills, the educators seem to have an affinity for creative practices and relational practices. There is moderate

Table 14.1. MATRIX OF HOLISTIC ENGAGEMENT SKILLS AND CONTEMPLATIVE/PEDAGOGICAL METHODS*

Presence With the Whole Self

Whole

Self-Inquiry

Empathic

Connection

Compassionate

Attention

Stillness

Lynn et al. (11) Pettie (10)

Quinn (13) Raheim & Lu (12)

Lynn et al. (11)

Lynn et al. (11) Pettie (10)

Quinn (13) Raheim & Lu (12)

Generative

Pyles & Adam (1)

Pyles & Adam (1)

Pyles & Adam (1)

Creative

Christiansen (6) Mizrahi et al. (3) Pettie (10)

Quinn (13) Svistova et al. (9) Walter (8)

Lynn et al. (11) Pettie (10)

Quinn (13) Svistova et al. (9) Walter (8)

Christiansen (6) Mizrahi et al. (3) Pettie (10) Svistova et al. (9) Walter (8)

Mizrahi et al. (3) Quinn (13) Walter (8)

Activist

Mizrahi et al. (3)

Christiansen (6) Mizrahi et al. (3)

Christiansen (6) Mizrahi et al. (3)

Relational

Burghardt (4) Christiansen (6)

Burghardt (4) Dybicz (7) Mizrahi et al. (3) Lynn et al. (11) Pettie (10) Shepard (5) Svistova et al. (9) Walter (8)

Burghardt (4) Christiansen (6) Mizrahi et al. (3) Shepard (5)

Burghardt (4) Christiansen (6) Dybicz (7) Mizrahi et al. (3) Shepard (5)

Movement

Christiansen (6) Quinn (13) Walter (8)

Quinn (13) Raheim & Lu (12) Walter (8)

Christiansen (6) Walter (8)

Quinn (13) Walter (8)

Ritual/

Cyclical

Mizrahi et al. (3)

Mizrahi et al. (3)

Mizrahi et al. (3)

Mizrahi et al. (3)

“Numbers in parentheses refer to the chapter numbers of the respective authors in this book.

attention to stillness and movement practices, and the least focus is on generative, activist, and ritual/cyclical practices.

 
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