So, what is our educational philosophy at Worldview Journeys? Why would we ‘journey into our worldviews’?

Why worldviews?

Learning about worldviews is a great way to support people to grow, because it helps people take perspective on their perspective. Rather than being fully embedded in our worldview, we can learn to look at it.

In fact, in developmental psychology, the capacity to take different perspectives is often seen as the hallmark of psychological growth. When we explore our own and others’ worldviews, we practice this perspective taking capacity, and thus foster growth.

Exploring worldviews broadens one’s perspective, appreciating one to be part of a bigger and more complex world. It can give people the real experience of being assisted by the perspectives of others, instead of being ‘locked up’ in one’s own.

Exploring worldviews helps people question engrained assumptions and author key ideas for themselves. It can give people the real sense that they can create their own context and reactions, rather than just having them.

Exploring worldviews enables people to see that any single perspective is necessarily limited. It helps people understand that including multiple perspectives opens up new possibilities and creativity, and may help them respond better to complex problems.

So rather than necessarily aiming for a change in worldview, we believe worldviews offer great doorways to foster growth. This kind of growth is often referred to as transformation.

Wait – what is transformation?

The Cambridge dictionary describes transformation as “a complete change in the appearance or character of something or someone, especially so that that thing or person is improved.”

A universal symbol for transformation is the fascinating process of metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly ~ a process in which the earthbound, short-legged, leaf-devouring ‘worm’ transforms itself into a colourful, tender, sky-exploring, flower-pollinating creature.

The change is radical. Not in a quantitive but in a qualitative way. The butterfly doesn’t have more or less of what the caterpillar had, but instead changed into a completely different creature, with entirely different qualities. Incomparable, in many ways.

The change also follows a developmental process. That is, while ‘change’ may move into all kind of directions (including positive and negative), transformation seems to occur in patterned ways, according to a developmental logic and sequence.

That is, the change occurs from caterpillar to butterfly, and not, never, the other way around. Most people would agree the caterpillar to be rather limited in its possibilities compared to the butterfly, thus understanding the change as improvement.

Thus: transformation can be said to be deep or qualitative change in a developmental direction, gradually surrendering old limitations for new, more expansive possibilities and perspectives.

This understanding resonates with how developmental psychologists tend to look at transformation.

Developmental psychology & transformation

The field of developmental psychology has been studying the ways humans understand and construct reality for more than a hundred years now. Although everyone makes meaning in unique ways, researchers have found striking patterns to the transformations the human mind goes through over the life-span.

These researchers observed how meaning-making can become more expansive and complex, as well as less distorted, egocentric, and reactive over time.

Thus, as people mature, they become more able to take the perspectives of others, while, at the same time, becoming more aware of their responsibility for their emotions and life events.

Educational efforts aiming to make this kind of growth possible are therefore about transformation, rather than information. They are about a change in quality, rather than in quantity:

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).

Transformation is highly relevant in today’s society, as we are becoming increasingly aware that we cannot address our contemporary challenges without it.

The call for transformation

The call for transformation is heard in many different contexts these days. Let’s look at some important ones.

A need for leadership and professional development

Sweeping changes in the economy create new demands in the workplace, such as the ability to self-manage, take feedback, take multiple perspectives, communicate, and collaborate. According to Harvard professors Kegan and Lahey, organizations now call on workers to operate at a higher level of mental complexity than ever before. Such complexity makes a complex world more manageable. Therefore, without personal growth most people are simply not able to deliver on the increasingly complex tasks required of them.

A need for cultures of collaboration

While we increasingly live in a global village with a great variety of cultures and worldviews, we often hang out in ‘bubbles’ of like-minded others. Intense polarization characterizes our political debates, and ‘culture wars’ seduce us to perceive those who think differently as enemies. Overcoming this polarization is not only essential for a healthy culture and democracy, but also for fostering the collaboration needed to deal with our contemporary challenges. Although divergence in perspectives can lead to conflict, it also holds great value as it has the potential to bring forth a more diverse range of creative solutions and strategies. Fostering perspective-taking and communication across worldviews is therefore a powerful way to enhance our capacity for transformation.

A need for sustainable systems transformation

With ecological, societal, and economic issues intensifying, a growing sentiment is that we need a “whole-systems” change, a transformation towards more sustainable and life-enhancing ways of being on this planet. System thinkers and philosophers have long argued that a change in systems’ paradigm and purpose is the most effective lever for creating systemic change. This is Donella Meadows’ well-known idea of ‘deep leverage points’. By addressing paradigm and purpose, the ‘heart’ of the system is touched and systems transformation becomes a possibility. Exploring worldviews supports that process, and empowers people to understand how our (external) systems tend to be interconnected with our (inner) systems of meaning-making.

A need for thriving individuals and communities

Due to a range of complex factors, people’s overall sense of well-being is under pressure. Mental health disorders are on the rise in every country in the world. The ‘loneliness epidemic’ is considered a dire public health threat. Stress, depression, and chronic anxiety are commonplace. At the same time, research shows that simple practices like mindfulness, reflection, and value-clarification can empower more intrinsically motivated lifestyles, which are found to be associated with increased health, vitality, and well-being, as well as more pro-social and sustainable behaviors. Supporting individuals to grow into such more satisfying lifestyles does not only only help them to thrive, but the larger community as well.

These calls for transformation give good reasons for why exploring worldviews may be useful and important. The next question then is, how? And why do we speak of a journey into our worldviews?

Why journeys?

Developmental psychology does not only study how and why people grow, but also offers pedagogical suggestions on how to foster such growth.

A centrally important insight from this field is that although we are built to learn, we need interaction with the environment ~ and in particular the social environment ~ to enable learning to happen. In a fundamental sense, we learn who we are through interaction with others. We learn how to think through conversation with others.

Therefore, rather than trying to force information in someone’s head, we structure communicative situations where people dynamically engage with each other: they dialogue, ask new questions, collaborate, and solve problems that matter to them ~ together.

This is in sharp contrast with classic didactic instruction in which one person owns the knowledge and shares that with a passively listening audience.

So next to creating opportunities for individual reflection, introspection, and exploration, our learning tools and programs are designed to support the social interaction and engagement that empowers learning.

Theoretical ideas and didactic instruction are used as input for reflection and conversation, allowing students or participants to distill how these ideas or scientific findings are relevant to one’s own life and world(view).

We therefore refer to the educational process as a journey. It’s a process that people dynamically engage in and co-shape, rather than them simply digesting content designed by others. The travellers interact with their environment and each other, and learn while they go, while they communicate, experiment, and walk the path.