Critiquing Instrumentalism in Higher Education

Lessons from Teaching as Meditative Inquiry


  • Ashwani Kumar Mount Saint Vincent University University
  • Nayha Acharya Dalhousie University



higher education, teaching as meditative inquiry, teacher education, legal education, alternative dispute resolution


In this conceptual and self-reflective essay, the authors begin from the premise that the contemporary higher educational institutions in Canada and many other parts of the world have increasingly tended to focus on instrumental teaching, rooted in neoliberal and capitalist ideals of societal progress through economic development. The result is that higher education centralizes making students career ready, rather than the holistic development of the student. Critical of this, Ashwani Kumar (professor of Education) and Nayha Acharya (professor of Law), undertake a collaborative effort to discuss how Kumar’s theoretical and practical concept of teaching as meditative inquiry can be an antidote to instrumentalism in higher education. In the first part of this essay, Kumar describes his concept of teaching as meditative inquiry by unfolding its theoretical rooting and giving practical examples of how he has used this approach in his teacher education and graduate education courses as well as in his doctoral seminar in contemporary educational theory at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In the second part, Acharya narrates her experimentation with the teaching as meditative inquiry approach in her Alternative Dispute Resolution course, which she teaches at the Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Providing concrete examples from their experiences of using a meditative inquiry approach to teaching and learning, the authors describe 1) the value of giving students the space to discover their own intrinsic relationship with the subject matter being taught, 2) how passion, authenticity and creativity can be enabled in the classroom, and 3) the challenges of adopting teaching as meditative inquiry approach in the classroom.


Author Biographies

Ashwani Kumar, Mount Saint Vincent University University

Ashwani Kumar is Associate Professor at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. His research and teaching focus on understanding the relationship among meditative inquiry, human consciousness, and education. His books include Curriculum as Meditative Inquiry and Curriculum in International Contexts: Understanding Colonial, Ideological and Neoliberal Influences both published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Nayha Acharya, Dalhousie University

Nayha Acharya is Assistant Professor at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She completed her LLB at the University of Alberta, then articled and practiced at the Edmonton law firm Reynolds, Mirth, Richards and Farmer. She has been part of the Schulich School of Law community since 2011, when she arrived to pursue graduate studies, earning an LLM in 2012 and a PhD in 2017. Her research interests include alternative dispute resolution, civil procedure and procedural justice, legal theory, dispute resolution, and medical negligence.