Past Event details

Care and Compassion in the Curriculum

Wednesday, 07 October 2020


The purpose of this event is to provide an opportunity to discuss the role of often neglected concepts in university teaching – namely ‘care’ and ‘compassion’. These concepts do not appear to have dominant roles in discourses of the neoliberal university, that can at times appear to be both uncaring and unhealthy. The presenters here will give an introduction to the ways in which care and compassion may be brought into the discussion about staff and student wellbeing particularly in relation to learning and teaching. The session will be facilitated by Dr Patrick Baughan, Dr Karen Gravett and Dr Namrata Rao, the conveners for this network, and managed by colleagues at SRHE.


10.00-10.05         Introduction and Virtual Housekeeping Points

10.10 - 10.35      Guest Paper 1 – Care as a concept in teaching    - Professor Ian Kinchin

10.40– 11.05      Guest Paper 2 –The cognitive aspects of compassion in group work    - Dr Theo Gilbert

11.05 – 11.25     Online Q&A and Discussion (Speakers and Delegates)

11.25 to 11.30    Concluding thoughts



Guest Paper 1. Care as a concept in teaching - Professor Ian Kinchin

Key objective: To offer a consideration of care and its role in developing the becoming teacher.

Overview: As a starting point for this presentation, care is considered as an essential component of the wider teaching assemblage within the context of the ‘becoming teacher’. The development of care is seen to include care-giving, care-receiving and caring for oneself. Care (for teaching and teachers) is also seen to be inextricably entangled with the pedagogic health of the institution and the sense of coherence generated by the discourses of teaching in higher education. A heuristic for supporting the development of the ‘becoming-caring-teacher’ will be presented for discussion.


Guest Paper 2.  The cognitive aspects of Compassion in group work - Dr Theo Gilbert

Key objective:   To equip colleagues to teach and assess (reward) compassion (as a cognitive skill)

                            for healthier, more just, and higher achieving group/teamwork.


Higher Education is currently looking poised to look at the past 15 years of empirical studies – in neuroscience, clinical psychology and other disciplines too – on what compassion is.  Not an emotion in itself, compassion can instead be understood, in evolutionary terms, as a  psychobiological system that can be trained, cognitively, to reorganise the human brain towards noticing, not normalising,  one’s own or others’  distress and/or disadvantaging; then acting, wisely  to reduce or prevent that  (The Compassionate Mind Foundation: ). On this basis, teaching and assessing compassion as a distinct, cognitive component in group work has been found (in mixed methods studies of around 500 students across disciplines) by Gilbert and colleagues, to have surprising implications for student and staff wellbeing and, unexpectedly too,  for the BAME achievement gap, according to independent statisticians in three UK universities. The requirement for compassion in group work – including in online group work – is now part of University of Hertfordshire’s five-year strategic plan. This presentation will explore what teaching compassion, as defined above, means in the most practical sense, with easy strategies to try. Participants will be able to consider compassionate communications for group work that are quick and effective to teach and assess.



Professor Ian Kinchin

Ian Kinchin is Professor of Higher Education at the University of Surrey. His research interests are focussed on the development of teaching quality at university and the application of the model of pedagogic health. This work has been developed through the visualisation of knowledge structures through the application of Novakian concept mapping. He has published on aspects of science education and academic development. 


Dr Theo Gilbert

An Associate Professor in Teaching and Learning, at the University of Hertfordshire, Theo Gilbert’s  research translates rich, current scholarship on the psychobiological model of compassion into evidence-based, practical micro-skills of compassion for group-work that can be taught, supported and assessed (i.e. credit-bearing) on the modern University degree. He develops HE educators from both STEM and social sciences in this approach, and is networking and supporting staff in, so far, 60 universities. He is creator of the free Compassion in HE website of practical resources for compassion-focused educators: and was recipient of the Times Higher Education’s/Advance HE’s award: Most Innovative Teacher, 2018.  His applied research is published in a number of journals and book chapters.


Related publications


Gilbert, T., Martina Doolan, N. T. F., Beka, S., Spencer, N., Crotta, M. & Davari, S. (2018). Compassion on university degree programmes at a UK university. The neuroscience of effective Group work. Special Issue.  Journal of Research in Innovative Teaching & Learning, 11 (1), 4-21.


Kinchin, I.M. (2019) Care as a threshold concept for teaching in the salutogenic university. Teaching in Higher Education.

Network: Learning, Teaching And Assessment
Date(s): Wednesday, 07 October 2020
Times: 10:00 - 11:30
Location: Online event, link will be provided
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