Building Community through Shared Spaces and Intention


  • Maureen P. Hall University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
  • Christine M. Panarese Boston Public Schools


Social Emotional Learning (SEL), democratic professionalism, mindfulness, literacy, social justice


Present-day educational approaches in higher education and K-12 privilege only cognitive gains from students, who are sometimes only seen as test scores, while neglecting the development of the whole human being. This article documents three unique Building Community events at a public university in the northeast, which were designed to embrace the full development of human potential. These events were created to offer novel approaches to education, highlighting and operationalizing Social Emotional Learning (SEL) through mindfulness, literacy, and social justice. The documentation is two-fold: 1) to provide descriptions of each of the three events and the connections between and among Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and mindfulness, literacy and diversity, and 2) to provide an analysis of feedback data and a descriptive framework that makes clear the processes and theories underpinning the events, all of which may provide a beginning roadmap for others to replicate this important work. Qualitative findings suggest that the integration of SEL into classroom theory and practice may be one route to improving and humanizing education.

Author Biographies

Maureen P. Hall, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Dr. Maureen P. Hall is a Professor of Education at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. As a teacher educator, her work bridges literacy, mindfulness, and service learning. Her most recent work involves mindful literacy, which combines literacy with mindfulness and with Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Her first book, Transforming Literacy (2011) was written with Dr. Robert P. Waxler. She also has a forthcoming book, Writing from the Inside (Equinox), which will be published in 2017.

Christine M. Panarese, Boston Public Schools

Dr. Christine Panarese is the Assistant Director for Special Education for Boston Public Schools and an adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Dr. Panarese is an active practitioner and researcher in the field of Social Emotional Learning. She has received several grants for urban teacher professional development in the area of SEL. She has also developed curriculum that embeds the concepts of SEL for improving the teaching and learning of students with disabilities.


Barbezat, D. P. & Bush, M. (2014). Contemplative practices in higher education:

Powerful methods to transform teaching and learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Brackett, M.A. & Rivers, S.E. (2014). Transforming students’ lives with social emotional learning. In R. Pekrung & L. Linnebrink-Garcia (Eds.), International handbook of emotions in education (pp.368-388). New York, NY: Taylor and Francis.

Bugg, E. G., & Dewey, J. (1934). How we think: A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process. The American Journal of Psychology, 46(3), 528.

Clonan, S. M., Chafouleas, S. M., McDougal, J. L., & Riley-Tillman, T. C. (2004). Positive psychology goes to school: are we there yet? Psychology in the Schools, 4, 101–110.

Creswell, J. W. (1994). Research design: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Davidson, R., Dunne, J., Eccles, J. S., Engle, A., Greenberg, M., Jennings, P., & Vago, D. (2012). Contemplative practices and mental training: prospects for American education. Child Development Perspectives, 6(2), 146-153.

Dedoose Version 6.1.18. (2015). Web application for managing, analyzing, and presenting qualitative and mixed method research data. Los Angeles, CA: Sociocultural Research Consultants, LLC. Retrieved from

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: MacMillan.

Dorman, E. (2015). Building teachers’ social-emotional competence through mindful practices. Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue, 17(1-2), 103-119.

Durlak, J.A., Weissberg, R.P., & Pachan, M. (2010). A meta-analysis of after-school programs that seek to promote personal and social skills in children and adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 45, 294-309.

Dzur, A. W. (2010). Democratic professionalism: Citizen participation and the reconstruction of professional ethics, identity, and practice. State Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press.

Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Herter and Herter.

Freire, P. and Macedo, D. (1987) Reading the word and the world. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.

Gay, G. (2002). Preparing for culturally responsive teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 53(2), 106-116.

Goleman, D. (2013). Focus: The hidden driver of excellence. New York: Harper.

Greenberg, M.T., Weissberg, R.P., O’Brien, M.U., Zins, J.E., Fredericks, L., Resnik, H., and Elias, M.J. (2003). Enhancing school-based prevention and youth development through coordinated social, emotional, and academic learning. American Psychologist, 58(6-7), 466-474.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2006). Wherever you go, there you are: Living your life as if it really

matters. In Awbrey, S., Dana, D., Miller, V., Robinson, P., Ryan, M. & Scott, D. (Eds.), Integrative learning and action: A call to wholeness (pp. 129-141). New York: Peter Lang.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African American

children. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005a). The benefits of positive affect: does

happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 6, 803–855.

Noguera, P. (2000). Listen first: How student perspectives on violence can be used to create safer schools. In V. Polakow (Ed.), The public assault on America’s children: Poverty, violence, and juvenile injustice. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Rodgers, C. (2002). Defining reflection: Another look at John Dewey and reflective thinking. Teachers College Record, 104(4), 842-866.

Roeser, R. W., Skinner, E., Beers, J., & Jennings, P. A. (2012). Mindfulness training and

teachers’ professional development: An emerging area of research and practice. Child Development Perspective.

Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and

Personality, 9(3), 185-211.

Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Oberle, E., Lawlor, M. S., Abbott, D., Thomson, K., Oberlander,

T. F., and Diamond, A. (2015). Enhancing cognitive and social–emotional development through a simple-to-administer mindfulness-based school program for elementary school children: a randomized controlled trial. Developmental Psychology, 51(1), 52–66.

Watson, V. (2016). Literacy is a civil write: the art, science, and soul of transformative

classrooms. In R. Papa, & D. Eadens (Eds.), Social justice instruction: Empowerment on the chalkboard. New York: Springer Publishing Company. Series on Education, Equity, and Economy.

Waxler, R.P. & Hall, M.P. (2011) Transforming literacy: changing lives through reading and writing. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.