Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Emily Isaacs

Committee Member

David Keiser

Committee Member

Jessica Restaino


This thesis suggests that the emergent field of mindfulness and contemplative pedagogy can be a uniquely effective tool for use in the English classroom for learning disabled (LD) high school students. By first exploring definitions of difference and initiating a conversation about how we, as a society, conceptualize difference and how we provide literacy instruction for students who learn differently, this thesis advocates for a more complex and meaningful understanding of the difficult issues surrounding teaching literature and writing to LD high school students. The discussion then introduces some of the central tenets of mindfulness and contemplative practice and explores, first, some of its historical underpinnings and then, secondly, looks to some of its current applications in educational settings. An argument is made that the specific benefits of this type of approach—improved attention, awareness and empathy—are exactly the issues that seem to be most problematic for LD high school students. Because of this, mindulness and contemplative pedagogy has unique potential as an effective strategy with LD students. Finally, this thesis explores how the high school English classroom, in its attention to both literature and student writing is an ideal site for such an endeavor. By teaching LD students to use reflection and other contemplative strategies while reading literary texts and doing writing assignments, educators can help students make meaningful connections between themselves and what they learn. Ultimately, this kind of attention and awareness fosters confidence and curiosity in students and helps them to engage more meaningfully not only with what they read and write, but also with the world they live in.

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