The overarching purpose of the TI project is to help you as a teacher become aware and sensitive to three questions indigenous science educator, Greg Cajete asks: How do we solve the pressing environmental issues on the planet? How do we learn to get along with each other? How do we care for our own souls? We believe that by focusing mindfully on the needs of individual learners (including yourself), your community, and Earth, we can make changes that bring out the best in who we are as learner~teacher~ researchers making the world a healthier, more enlivened place. The purpose of this book then, is to clarify and articulate the process of TI so that it becomes accessible to you as an educator. This is done with the intent to help you navigate the swampy terrain of learner~teacher~ researcher to the best of your ability.
We hope to create fertile ground for engaging in TI so that you can embed it in as many places and ways as is useful. We recognize this to be an organic, ongoing process that we fondly refer to as “scuttling towards the light.” In many ways we are creating understanding of the process as we go – it is an autopoetic or self-creating undertaking into the unknown. We encourage you to think together with us, outside the box of traditional schooling.
Our commitment to transformation runs deep in part due to our experience as mentors of TI (to date we have worked one-on-one with well over 900 students among us). We have seen be~coming teachers engage in powerful learning that breaks down binaries, deconstructs the archetype of the teacher as transmitter and addresses the role of privilege; for many the TI process has cracked open the tough exterior plaster that surrounds antiquated notions of teaching to reveal light, possibility and hope.
Through the TI process, you can become more engaged in your own learning as well as the lives of other inquirers. You might feel a stronger sense of care for each other, yourself, and the Earth as you explore implicit connected relationships in this course. We have been witness to the success of transformation in many teachers’ development in this course and we feel compelled and somewhat obligated to help ground student experiences through work by scholars and learner~teachers other than those in our immediate community.
On Transformation as it relates to this course
The mentors of TI do not expect that all of you will transform within the timeframe of this course, rather we hope that some of you will find for yourself a practice of mindfulness, a deeply attentive awareness, around ongoing changes you will experience as a learner~teacher~researcher. To help you tap into your passions, an ecological, highly inter-related view of transformative learning theory provides a valuable foundation (O’Sullivan, Morrell & O’Conner, 2002).
For some, the course involves transformation of deep, structural changes in basic premises of thought, feelings and actions (Dirx, Mezirow, & Cranton, 2006). The result is a shift of consciousness that dramatically and permanently alters ways of being in the world. This shift can include increased and more nuanced understanding of yourselves and your self-locations, as well as your relationships with other humans and with the natural world. It also involves developing awareness and understanding of the relations of power in the interlocking structures such as class, race, gender, and bodily awareness. This can extend to visions of alternative approaches to living, learning and teaching and our collective sense of possibilities for social justice, peace and joy.
As a teacher I value the idea that learning is dynamic and constantly transforming the individual. Being involved in Transformative Inquiry reminded me of the importance of keeping all doors open and never blocking off a path that may lead to another perspective. My inquiry has allowed me to follow a path with heart...My self-study collage reflects that I honour...each student [as] an individual [that] holds a unique gift... ~Former student
Our use of the term transformation may require explanation in relation to pre-service teacher education. Educational researchers suggest that learning is less about amassing facts and figures or even constructing knowledge and more about transformation of spirit and mind (Senge, Cambron-McCabe, Lucas, Smith, Dutton, & Kleiner, 2000). We agree on the need for an expansion of the traditional notions of knowledge construction as predominantly cognitive in nature. This expansion of knowledge could include emotions, feelings, habits, and thoughts (Li, 2002). We also believe educators need to attend to how schools and schooling might transform in response to the needs of learner~teachers.
Learning then becomes synonymous with the capacity for change. “Deep learning takes place when new skills and capabilities, new awareness and sensibilities, and new attitudes and beliefs reinforce each other” (Li, 2002, p. 402). According to Clark (1993) a critical feature of transformational learning is the deep change in how individuals see themselves and their world. Further, Kegan (2000) suggests that through the process of engaging in transformative learning we don’t simply add to what we already know, but we profoundly alter how we come to know. This capacity for internal change is significant as you grapple with who you are be~coming as a teacher; we hope you will feel empowered with the capacity for and belief in change as fundamental to your practice as a teacher.