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Gidley, JM 2008, 'Evolving education: a postformal-integral-planetary gaze at the evolution of consciousness and the educational imperatives', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright JM Gidley 2008


This conceptual dissertation is both a study of, and an enactment of, the evolution of consciousness for the purpose of evolving education. The research draws attention to and situates itself within four complex, interlinked challenges: the current planetary crisis; the epistemological crisis underpinning it; the global youth problematique; and the inadequacy of the modernist, formal education model to meet these challenges. The research aims to identify and elucidate a new movement of consciousness through integrating and cohering literature on postformal, integral and planetary consciousness in conversation with literature from a variety of postformal pedagogies. It does so through what I refer to as postformal research, which I distinguish from formal research in numerous ways. The most obvious ways in which this dissertation differs from a standard social sciences dissertation is that it interweaves three different types of text throughout the dissertation: the five main chapters; the Prologue, Metalogue and Epilogue; and the reflective narratives—Prelude, Interludes and Coda. These three types of text are each visibly distinguished by a colour-coded facing sheet.

The five main chapters are academic publications, developed and published as part of the research process. The key research focii of the dissertation are addressed in each of these five chapters. Chapter One identifies features of the youth problematique and the broad cultural pedagogical context surrounding it, through a layered analysis of causal factors. Chapter Two provides a macrohistorical context for understanding the relationships among education, evolution of consciousness and culture. Chapter Three undertakes a broadening and deepening of the evolution of consciousness discourse through incorporating integral theoretic approaches including heterodox evolutionary narratives that offer alternative interpretations to classical Darwinism. In this chapter, I engage in an integral hermeneutic analysis of the evolutionary writings of Rudolf Steiner and Ken Wilber in the light of Jean Gebser’s structures of consciousness. I weave an epic but pluralistic narrative tapestry created from an interweaving of these three alternative views of evolution. Chapter Four draws out significant features of the new consciousness and distils new understandings of evolution in a form suitable for engaging the current education discourse. Chapter Five contributes significant new perspectives to educational philosophy. This final chapter offers an aesthetic-philosophic alternative to scientism for present and future cultural pedagogical practice by identifying four core values that are seeds for evolving education in line with emerging shifts in consciousness.

In addition to the five chapters, the Prologue introduces the research, provides an overview of the dissertation and a preliminary discussion of my substantive content, the evolution of consciousness, and my pragmatic interest in futures of cultural pedagogical practice. The Metalogue discusses my integral evolutionary philosophy, my transdisciplinary epistemology, my complex methodology of theoretic bricolage and my objective-subjective role as researcher. Finally the Epilogue summarises the significance and limitations of my research, evaluates it, and offers some suggestions for further research and closing reflections. It is proposed that a more conscious evolution of cultural pedagogical practice informed by postformal-integral-planetary consciousness may be more responsive to addressing the crises and complexities of the future.