Integral Education

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Jennifer Gidley:

"There are two major approaches that are identified as "integral education" in North America

— integral education based on Sri Aurobindo's early 20th century philosophy (for example, as reflected in the California Institute of Integral Studies) and

- integral education based on Ken Wilber's AQAL framework.

There was a double special issue of ReVision: The Journal of Consciousness and Change on "integral education" in 2005 and 2006, which was quite strongly influenced by Sri Aurobindo's approach to integral (with some exceptions). It is worth following up for those interested. The following year, 2007,there was a special issue of Wilber's AQAL: Journal of Integral Theory and Practice on "integral education," which was primarily based on Wilber's theories. Although Wilber's theory espouses to “transcend and include” other approaches, I was disappointed in some of these articles for their lack of scholarly research on other neighbouring pedagogies, even other integral approaches (Crittendon, 2007; Zeitler, 2007). Such a technicist and uncritical approach to applying the AQAL model does not, in my opinion, reflect a fully integral approach nor does it forward the academic reception of integral education theory. One of my concerns is that integral theory creation to date has been seriously hampered by internal rivalry, factionalism and, ironically, lack of integration of neighbouring perspectives. This also applies so far to the two major “integral education” approaches in North America: Sri Aurobindo's and Wilber's. In my research I identify a third major integral education approach: Steiner/Waldorf education. As part of my integration of integrals, I undertook an AQAL analysis of Steiner education and found that it fulfilled all the criteria of Wilber’s Integral Operating System (quadrants, level, lines, states and types). This analysis can be found in Educational Imperatives of the Evolution of Consciousness: The Integral Visions of Rudolf Steiner and Ken Wilber (Gidley, 2007a). In the light of this analysis it is clearly important that Steiner pedagogy be given more serious consideration by AQAL-oriented integral education theorists, whoso far have had little to say on school education. Furthermore, the emphasis in Steiner pedagogy on integrating thinking/head, feeling/heart and willing/hands is significantly aligned to Sri Aurobindo's integration of the three yogas of knowledge, love and action.

It is important that integrally-minded educators give serious consideration to these and other existing approaches. In my view, an authentically integral education would embrace the rich diversity of postformal and planetary pedagogical approaches that are out there, globally, in these urgent planetary times. It would also learn from pioneering integral approaches to education, such as Steiner pedagogy that has been operating globally, with a conscious intention towards the evolution of consciousness and higher order thinking for almost eighty years. It is ironic that integral educators such as Robert McDermott (2005) and Alfonso Montuori (1997, 2006), and holistic educators such as Ron Miller (2000, 2005,2006) and Tobin Hart (2001a, 2001b) appear to have done more thorough research on the alternative approaches than have most of the educational writers in the AQAL Journal. Ron Miller's holistic educational philosophy seems the broadest and includes Steiner's, Montessori's and Sri Aurobindo's pedagogies as well as Wilber's integral as significant integrative approaches to be considered (Miller, 1990, 1999). Current research is also underway to extend integral education theory through considering indigenous perspectives, the history of the university, the development of different sciences, and “integral education” in nineteenth century Europe (Hampson, Forthcoming).To me the call for integral education theory is to contextualise itself academically in the long history of integral philosophies, east and west, and to contextualise itself geographically within transnational, transcultural, planetary discourses that go beyond the Anglo-American integral discourse.


In addition, I have identified over a dozen emerging pedagogical approaches that in some way, either directly or indirectly, facilitate the evolution of postformal-integral- planetary consciousness. I have begun the process of hermeneutic dialogue among them, but of course much more research needs to be done. These include: aesthetic and artistic education; complexity in education; critical and postcolonial pedagogies; environmental/ecological education; futures education; holistic education; imagination and creativity in education; integral education; planetary/global education; post-formality in education; postmodern and poststructuralist pedagogies; spirituality in education;

transformative education; wisdom in education. These are all part of what I am calling the third wave of educational evolution. It is too much detail for this interview to list all the many references that relate to these approaches, but I have explored this literature in detail elsewhere, including how these new pedagogies intersect with four themes that I identified in the evolution of consciousness discourse (Gidley, submitted). As you can see this is a complex area and it is certainly not a simple matter of applying one brand of integral theory to education as some kind of "universal fix-it all.""


More information

Bibiography of Jennifer Gidley

Gidley, J. (1998). Prospective youth visions through imaginative education. Futures, 30 (5), 395-408.

Gidley, J. (2001a). 'Education for all' or education for wisdom? In M. Jain (Ed.), Unfolding learning societies: Deepening the dialogues. Udaipur: Shikshantar.

Gidley, J. (2001b). Globalization and its impact on youth. Journal of Futures Studies, 6 (1), 89-106.

Gidley, J. (2004). The metaphors of globalisation: A multi-layered analysis of global youth culture. In S. Inayatullah (Ed.), The causal layered analysis (CLA) reader: Theory and case studies of an integrative and transformative methodology. Taipei: Tamkang University.

Gidley, J. (2005). The evolution of consciousness: Honouring the inner dimensions of future education. Paper presented at the Global Soul, Global Mind and Global Action--Futuring from Survival to Thrival, Tamsui, Taipei, Taiwan

Gidley, J. (2006). Spiritual epistemologies and integral cosmologies: Transforming thinking andculture. In S. Awbrey, D. Dana, V. Miller, P. Robinson, M. M. Ryan & D. K. Scott (Eds.), Integrative learning and action: A call to wholeness , (Vol. 3, pp. 29-55). New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Gidley, J. (2007a). Educational imperatives of the evolution of consciousness: The integral visions of Rudolf Steiner and Ken Wilber. International Journal of Children's Spirituality, 12 (2), 117-135.

Gidley, J. (2007b). The evolution of consciousness as a planetary imperative: An integration of integral views. Integral Review: A Transdisciplinary and Transcultural Journal for NewThought, Research and Praxis, 5 , 4-226.

Gidley, J. (2008a). Beyond homogenisation: Do alternative pedagogies such as Steiner Educationhave anything to offer an emergent global/ising world? In S. Inayatullah, M. Bussey & I. Milojevic (Eds.), Alternative educational futures: Pedagogies for emergent worlds. Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

Gidley, J. (2008b). Evolving education: A postformal-integral-planetary gaze at the evolution of consciousness and the educational imperatives. Unpublished PhD Dissertation SouthernCross University, Lismore.

Gidley, J. (in press). Educating for evolving consciousness: Voicing the emergenc-y for love, lifeand wisdom. In The international handbook of education for spirituality, care and wellbeing. New York: Springer.

Gidley, J., & Hampson, G. (2008). Integral perspectives on school educational futures. In S.Inayatullah, M. Bussey & I. Milojevic (Eds.), Alternative educational futures: Pedagogies for emergent worlds. Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

Gidley, J., & Inayatullah, S. (2002). Youth futures: Comparative research and transformative visions . Westport, CT: Praeger