Using Mindfulness, Core Values, And Interdisciplinary Conversation To Develop Critical And Creative Thinking


  • Sharon Doetsch-Kidder George Mason University



Location: JC Room A

In our current culture of speed and obsession with the new, it is easy to lose sight of what's really important. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote of this half a century ago:

The stability of the large world house which is ours will involve a revolution of values to accompany the scientific and freedom revolutions engulfing the earth. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing"-oriented society to a "person"-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered. A civilization can flounder as readily in the face of moral and spiritual bankruptcy as it can through financial bankruptcy (in hooks, 1994, p. 27).

Dominant discourse here at Mason is quite interested in how we can profit from and contribute to technological development but too often overlooks how we can contribute to the development of an ethical culture that balances economic development with social justice and environmental sustainability. As educators, introducing the discourse of values encourages students to think critically about their own beliefs, mindsets, and actions and those of the world around them without needing to impose our own values on them. A values-based approach to critical analysis engages students in thinking about how, to use the language of Brené Brown, our "practice values" often differ from our "aspirational values," and how we might bring our individual and collective actions more in line with our sense of ethics. By engaging students in thinking about values, we move the discourse towards "a "person"-oriented society." This experiential workshop presents a values-based interdisciplinary approach to teaching critical thinking. This approach, which was developed in a composition course for international graduate students, uses mindfulness, reflection on core values, and interdisciplinary conversation to help students:

  • find the mental space that allows for creativity and insight
  • understand social and disciplinary issues from a broader perspective
  • take a critical view of scholarly conversations
  • gain confidence in their ideas
  • connect their values and experiences with course topics
  • develop more complex thinking and creative approaches to problems.

Mindfulness provides a foundational practice that encourages students to get to know their own habits of mind, find some distance from emotional reactions to different/new ideas, and connect with their natural creativity and insight. From that starting point, reflection on personal core values provides the basis for analyzing the social core values at stake in different academic and professional fields and conversations on any topic. With these tools, students can not only analyze the motivation for people participating in particular work or conversations, they can determine what it is that they want to contribute. Students can thus see how drawing on their core values can help them navigate conflicts, communicate more clearly, find direction, and contribute according to their unique experiences and gifts. Participants in this mini-workshop will practice meditation, reflect on their own core values, identify the core values of different academic disciplines, and engage with the values at stake in academic discussions. They will see how discussing values helps us respond to texts and problems more holistically and creatively and develop lesson and assignment ideas for their own classes.


Brown, B. (2015). Daring Greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York: Avery.

Hooks, Bell (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York: Routledge.

Author Biography

Sharon Doetsch-Kidder, George Mason University

Sharon Doetsch-Kidder teaches academic research and writing with INTO Mason and serves as Assistant Program Coordinator for their International Pathways Programs. She completed her PhD in English and Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), and her BA and MA at Georgetown University. Doetsch-Kidder's book, Social Change and Intersectional Activism: The Spirit of Social Movement, argues for the centrality of spirit to the work of antiracist feminist scholarship and social change. Her areas of interest include social movements, race and ethnic studies, theories of genders and sexualities, pedagogy, mindfulness education, and the globalization of liberal arts education. She also teaches meditation, mindfulness, and aikido in the local community.






1:00pm-2:30pm Workshops