So, what is our educational philosophy at Worldview Journeys? Why would we ‘journey into our worldviews’ ? What principles underly our tools and programs? And what’s the deeper purpose of education?

The purpose of education

In our view, education is about much more than ‘job training’ and delivering good workers for the economy (what educational philosopher Zachary Stein refers to as the ‘reductive theory of human capital’). It’s also about more than classic didactic instruction, where a teacher delivers knowledge to a passively listening audience, often in the context of a fairly one-sided relationship.

To us, education is about transformation. It’s about supporting people to widen their perspectives and expand their minds, hearts, and beings. It’s about liberating and democratizing the innate human potential for learning and growth.

The drive and ability to learn and grow is innate

Interestingly, the etymological roots of the word education lie in the term e-ducare, meaning drawing (ducare) out (e). This ‘drawing out’ appears to refer to activating something innate. That makes sense as learning is a natural phenomenon.

The drive to learn is inborn, and anyone who has spent time with young kids has observed this. Their curiosity and desire to explore, experiment, and learn is mind-blowing! They’re also relentless – often not even shied away by a little bit of pain (i.e., think of how painful it is to learn to walk, and yet every child keeps trying till they can). So we’re all born as curious little researchers and courageous explorers! Perhaps that’s what e-ducare originally pointed to: a ‘drawing out’ of this innate inclination and ability for learning and growth.

Transformation refers to psychological growth or a ‘maturation of mind’

From the perspective of developmental psychology, transformation means psychological growth or a ‘maturation of the mind’, a gradual expansion of one’s frameworks of understanding and meaning-making.

The field of developmental psychology has been studying the ways humans understand and construct reality for over a century now. Although everyone makes meaning in unique ways, researchers have found striking patterns to the phases the human mind can go through over the life span. They observed how meaning making can become more expansive and complex, as well as less distorted, egocentric, and reactive over time (Kegan and Lahey, 2016). This means that, as people mature, they become better able to take the perspectives of others, while, at the same time, becoming more aware of their responsibility for their emotions and life events.

From a developmental perspective, real growth requires some qualitative shift, not just in knowledge, but in perspective or way of thinking. Growing is when the form of our understanding changes; we often call this “transformation.” Learning might be about increasing our stores of knowledge in the form of our thinking that already exists (in-form-ation), but growing means we need to actually change the form itself (trans-form-ation). Each moment of our development, then, is a potentially temporary form of mind that, with the right support, can become more expansive, leaving traces of the less-mature form behind like rings in a tree trunk (Berger, 2012, p.17).

Educational efforts aiming to enable this kind of psychological growth are thus about transformation, rather than about information.

Scientific insight into human development and learning

Building on these psychological-developmental insights, our notion of transformation is based in a scientific understanding of human development and learning.

This entails recognizing qualitatively different levels of development in the growth of human capacities. Consider concrete skills like learning to play the violin or ride a bike. In the learning process we move through levels or phases in a sequential and hierarchical way, meaning that the acquisition of more complex capabilities builds forth on, and includes, more simple ones. These same levels or phases of development are observed in the realm of human judgment and meaning making. This is most easily explained in the domain of morality:

Here Kohlberg demonstrated that moral judgments develop through a series of levels, where each level brings about an increase in complexity, depth, and integration. Using broad brush strokes, in the moral domain we begin as egocentric, only concerned about ourselves. Then we come to identify with our family or tribe at ethnocentric levels. Our circle of compassion and care expands once again as we reach world-centric levels, where we come to embrace all humanity in our moral considerations. Finally, at the cosmo-centric levels … , we identify with all sentient beings that have ever been or will be (Stein, 2019, p. 42).

These levels thus imply increasing inclusiveness, complexity, and capacity for action. This however does not mean that later stages or phases are univocally ‘better’, as new levels of complexity tend to introduce new problems and pathologies. Understanding these levels is important, so we can make sure our educational programs are ‘developmentally appropriate’ as well as genuinely supportive of development.

Principles for transformative learning

So if the aim or purpose of education is transformation, in the sense of a gradual widening of perspectives and an expansion of meaning making, how can we support and facilitate this? Here we’ll describe the central principles our tools and programs are built with.

Worldviews as doorways or entrance-points

Exploring worldviews is a great way to support people to grow and mature, as it helps people take perspective on their perspective. Rather than being fully identified with and embedded in our worldview, we learn to look at it, exploring our frames of understanding and meaning making with some curiosity and spaciousness. Or as professor in developmental psychology Robert Kegan (1982) calls it, ‘we ‘make object what was subject.’

Exploring worldviews broadens one’s perspective, as it confronts one with the fact that there are fundamentally different views out there. This can help one appreciate to be part of a bigger and more complex world, and have the experience of being assisted by the perspectives of others, instead of ‘locked up’ in one’s own.

Exploring worldviews also supports people to become aware of the beliefs they’re operating from, question engrained assumptions, and author key ideas for themselves. This can empower people in their agency, giving them the sense they can create their own context and reactions, rather than just having them.

Exploring worldviews also enables people to see that any single perspective is limited, and that including multiple perspectives can open up new possibilities and creativity. This may help people respond better to complex problems. The capacity to take different perspectives is often seen as central hallmark of psychological growth. When we explore our own and others’ worldviews, we practice this capacity, and thus foster growth.

Including different ways of knowing & methods of learning

Objective + subjective + intersubjective = transformative?

The modern sciences of learning tell us that learning is much more effective when we engage different modes of experience and knowing, and include relational and experiential learning next to more cognitive or theoretical forms of learning. Put plainly, we need to use head, heart, and hands.

Our programs combine at least three different ways of knowing: objective, subjective, and intersubjective. We often start with introducing powerful content, knowledge and ideas (objective), then offer possibilities to explore the value of this content for one’s own life and context (subjective), to then dynamically engage with, and dialogue about it with others (intersubjective). We use a range of different transformative practices and exercises to support this, from journaling and inquiry to ‘stream of consciousness duets’ and mindfulness.

Including different domains of reality

We also aim for a comprehensive approach that includes the major domains of reality. From as early on as Aristotle, there has been a philosophical attempt to classify objects and forms of knowledge in terms of basic categories. Think of the Beautiful, the Good, and the True. Or Art, Morals, and Science. Self, Culture, and Nature. Subjective, Intersubjective, and Objective. I, We, and It. First Person, Second Person, and Third Person.

Ken Wilber’s Four Quadrant Model builds forth on this effort and represents an elegant way to organize these general categories, by distinguishing between the interiors and exteriors of individuals and collectives (see the figure below). The realities disclosed in each of these Quadrants are inextricably intertwined and co-evolving.

Since all events can be looked at in terms of all four Quadrants, leaving out any of them will result in a partial perspective that lacks essential insight. We therefore use this model as a way to ensure a comprehensive approach; it’s like a basic mechanism for quality control. For example, when exploring worldviews we include a focus on self and awareness, on others and culture, on systems and nature, as well as on bodies and behaviors.

Use of technology as scaffolding and enabler

The technological and online learning revolution in education offers great benefits and new opportunities. Consider, for example, the development of Massive Open Online Courses, enabling people all over the world to receive education at prestigious universities or learn from their favorite experts. This revolution has dramatically improved the accessibility and affordability of high-quality education, which has consequences that are hard to overestimate in terms of its emancipatory, innovative, and transformative potential. At the same time, it’s clear that learning “through screens” entails certain disadvantages and limitations:

“The modern sciences of learning, which are ignored in the design of most educational technologies, tell us that learning is optimized when it involves sustained interpersonal relationships, emotional connection, embodiment, and dynamically interactive hands-on experiences. … Technologies ought to help us customize learning and provide universal access to information through useful, well organized, and curated content. They should not be the primary locus of attention or main source of interaction and instruction” (Stein, 2019, p. 75).

We develop our programs with these considerations in mind. On the one hand, we focus on developing high-quality educational materials that can be used in, and scaled up to, a wide range of contexts. At the same time, we focus on interactive live sessions (which can take place both online and on site), in which participants dynamically engage with each other, having conversations, doing exercises, exploring practices, and going through a learning and transformation process together. We’re thus aiming to use educational technologies as a scaffold and enabler for group participation and transformative learning.

References

Jennifer Garvey Berger, 2012. Changing on the Job. Developing Leaders for a Complex World. Stanford University Press.

Robert Kegan, 1982. The Evolving Self. Problem and Process in Human Development. Harvard University Press.

Robert Kegan & Lisa Laskow Lahey, 2016. An Everyone Culture. Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization. Harvard Business Review Press.

Zachary Stein, 2019. Education in a Time Between Worlds. Essays on the Future of Schools, Technology, and Society. Bright Alliance.