Transformational Learning

Since yesterday I dwelt on my reading on learning and progressed to the future challenges in this field. A panel of reputable education leaders has concluded that we have to connect education theory with the ideas of uncertainty and faith that are the pathway to creativity and innovation and all our futures. I have extracted part of their paper of interest to me.

A Future of Transformation– Difficult by Nature

History is a chronicle of humanity’s drive for progress to overcome adversity and to find meaning. New forms of learning practices have been central to the concept of shifting and transforming from one type of society to another.

The scientific method emerged as a new learning concept in the 18th century as learning needs shifted from a speculation about the metaphysics of God to observation and analysis of nature’s reality. Reducing complex reality to its most elemental parts had become the basis for learning as the secrets of nature were revealed in the new natural sciences of physics, chemistry and biology.

For two hundred years, learning has occurred through the struggle of thousands of scientists, geologists, psychologists, managers and technologists. Every story of discovery, invention and new business methods has been the result of the persistence and dedication of individuals who revealed a passion to advance knowledge and human progress. Whether it was Edison’s artificial light, Pavlov’s dog who showed how animals and humans can be conditioned, or Mendeleev’s early study of genetic characteristics of plants, all significant advancements of knowledge have not come easily.

Today is no different, even with the advent of technologies that allow us to investigate more complex realities and plumb the depth of ideas that would have been considered magic a century ago. A search for excellence and discovery of new knowledge still takes a level of commitment that only those with a passion for learning have.

Thriving on Difficulty

The Industrial Age is ending with the realization that we are in a third transformation of history, equally as important and difficult as was the shift from the Agricultural Society to that which became known as the Commercial Society.

There are three significant differences that slowly are becoming apparent that must be recognized and resolved if we are to thrive and collaborate with others to maintain a sustainable and vital society:

1) The concepts of independence, linear thinking and self- interest are transforming into organizing principles of interdependence, non-linear thinking and helping each other succeed.

2) Work has been shifting from physical to mental.

3) Western Society finds its core goals no longer centered on experimentation, risk and the joy of discovery and creative innovation, but on that of being conservative, finding identify through materialism and looking to meet individual needs in the cheapest and easiest ways.

It is this third significant difference that potentially will create the most challenging change to the future of our society. Attaining material affluence and supporting individual rights emerged as the result of people who were committed to making a better world for their grandchildren, often as a result of religious beliefs. A key value was to do whatever was necessary to give life more meaning for those who were to come after, no matter how difficult.

Today, the concept of thriving on difficulty has been lost as an undergirding idea for the future as we focus on meeting consumer needs and maximizing short-term gains. It is within this contradictory environment of self-indulgence and increasing societal complexity that the issue of facing difficulty must be readdressed.

Resurrecting Difficulty In a Knowledge Society

What is not understood in this age that searches for the easy way is that only challenge, struggle and difficulty are on the horizon. For the first time during humanity’s reign, we are watching the health of nature recede before our eyes as Greenland’s ice sheets plummet into the ocean and as global warming expects to raise the average world temperature between 1.6 C and 8.4 C over the next century. The nature of a 21st century economy and society will require new skills and new ways of thinking….and it will require commitment and struggle to learn and apply new approaches that are aligned with new institutional structures which are in the process of emerging. Only those that learn how to thrive on difficulty will be able to anticipate and respond to a constantly changing environment.

Announcing a Transformational Learning Meta-Network

A new type of learning will be required to respond to and build capacities for a new type of society . . . and it will be anything but easy. It not only will require whole new ways of thinking, it will also require an emotional rebirth that is based on immense patience, concern for others, and an ability to collaborate at a deeper level.

With this in mind, we are pleased to announce a new idea. Over the next year, we plan to recruit up to twenty cutting edge educational leaders in the U.S. and other countries who want to collaborate to help develop a network of networks ( a meta-network) composed solely of people who thrive on the emerging educational challenges of shifting from a traditional learning paradigm to that which is transformational.

The Meta network will help build extraordinary relationships through ordinary people in their communities. As leaders and thinkers we must be adept at infusing anachronistic institutions with energy and purpose as our countries reinvent education. Leaders committed to breakthrough thinking will be willing to suspend their attachment to their own ideas and open up their minds to new possibilities.

Through the Meta Network we will attempt to create and model honest identification, methodology and implications of transformative change that we believe will be necessary for any 21st century educational system to be effective in the future.

We will have three goals: 1) to work in collaboration to connect the best ideas of each into a framework of transformative learning appropriate to this difficult and constantly changing age that is presently emerging, 2) to promote an integrated approach to Transformational Learning so that it gains a “tipping point” of perception and understanding in diverse areas throughout the world, and 3) to develop and network “master capacity builders.”

As futurists we understand that any enquiry into the nature of and reasons for transformation will progress through a number of levels of complexity. We invite you to join our collaborative journey with those who thrive on the difficult so that our grandchildren may be able to live and learn utilizing new ways appropriate to a constantly changing world.


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