It's one of the themes in my current research that in order to develop the kind of cognitive, emotional and social conditions that are needed in the classroom to help all students fulfil their potential, teachers first need to develop a new set of skills and practices in themselves. Many of us teaching in today's classrooms are products of an education system that did not benefit from today's understanding of how learning happens. We've not learnt to be the kind of evaluative, reflective individuals that we are now expected to develop in our students.
Harvard psychologist Robert Kegan (1994) has developed a theory of adult development, which he sees as a lifelong, dynamic process of interaction of the individual and the environment. His Constructive-Developmental Theory is based on how adults make meaning of the world around them, in a way that becomes more and more complex. His theory is based on three main ideas
- Constructivism - we actively construct and make meaning of our experiences and create our realities in relation to cognitive, emotional, intrapersonal and interpersonal pathways of development.
- Developmentalism - the ways we construct reality and make meaning develop and change over time.
- Subject-object balance - this relates to ways in which we can take perspective on things (object) or are embedded in things (subject) and the balance changes as our ways of knowing become more complex.
Kusuma-Powell and Powell have written about this extensively in their book The OIQ Factor: raising your school's organizational intelligence. They write:
'The self-transforming stage is ideal for a world that embraces complexity, chaos and interactive and adaptive systems...Self-transforming individuals are able to see beyond the limits of their own internal systems. They understand that perceptions are selected and constructed, have powerful influences over our behaviour and decision-making, and are open to multiple and even contradictory interpretations...They are able to tolerate and appreciate uncertainty and ambiguity...and tend to see the grey instead of black or white. They are open to reconsidering and reconstructing what at first seemed clear and straight forward. They move from the known to the unknown, from certainty to uncertainty'...The self-transforming adult 'has highly-developed internal values and beliefs and is able to integrate these with a sense of purpose that is larger than the self. Autonomy and integration are seen as complimentary processes...individualism is not perceived as the opposite of collectivism; being true to oneself is not necessarily opposed to being a subordinate member of a community or group...they understand that our sense of reality is based on perceptions and assumptions, and they examine, scrutinise and reflect on these assumptions...Perhaps the most distinctive feature of self-transforming individuals is that they are motivated by the pursuit of wisdom and understanding.
Developing these skills in yourself and others is a complex task and requires time and effort. However, the more I work in education, and beyond that, the more I live, the stronger my conviction that our future (in schools and everywhere else) requires this kind of leadership. I'd even go so far as to say the world could be on the cusp of the next revolution, adding to industry and technology, the social and emotional intelligence need to keep the species going.
Kegan, R., 1994. In over our heads.: the mental demands of modern life. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press.
Kusuma-Powell and Powell, W., 2013. The OIQ Factor: raising your school's organizational intelligence. U.K. John Catt.