Integrative and transformative learning practices: engaging the whole person in educating for sustainability.




Todesco, Tara

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This thesis examines the tenets and approaches of integrative learning for sustainability, and critiques the adequacy and effectiveness of conventional, higher education practices in preparing students for what is an increasingly uncertain future. At the centre of this inquiry is the study of a fourth year, undergraduate field course from the School of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria that took an integrative, whole-person approach to sustainability in light of integral systems theory. The course provided students with an experiential and integrative learning approach to the study of sustainability that sought to engage the multiple intelligences of students, issuing from their intellectual, physical, social, and spiritual dimensions. To support this process, the course aimed at meeting the needs associated with these facets through diverse learning experiences that included contemplative exercises, the development of a learning community, a critical examination of course readings and experience in service learning activities. The evaluative research of the course’s impacts examined the learning experiences from the students’ perspective to identify which experiences and approaches were most meaningful. The enquiry also investigated which, if any, of these experiences led to enduring personal transformation and/or community action. The methodology undertaken involved a phenomenological examination of two small group interviews with six of the participating students, as well as an analysis of the six students’ written reflection assignments. The results of this research show the effectiveness and impact of some of the distinctive approaches of the course, namely the powerful effects of experiential learning, community based learning and the provision of time and space for personal and group reflection. These activities supported students in broadening and changing their view of themselves, their sense community, as well as provided opportunities for students to engage in sustainable practices.



Integrative learning, meaningful learning, transformative learning, contemplative learning, community based learning, learning community, phenomenology, small group interviews, environmental studies, sustainability