Postformal Pedagogies and Complex Futures [CCafe 10/30]


TAKE NOTE: this is an open invitation to morph this cafe as you see fit. Gidley can be our launching point, but bring in any readings, videos, thinkers, personal thoughts that may be related. @Douggins plans on giving a brief intro into Gidley and her ideas. Beyond this intro, the fruits of the Cafe will be guided by what the group seeds and sows.

Jennifer Gidley’s superb book Postformal Education: A Philosophy for Complex Futures “explains why the current education model, which was developed in the 19th century to meet the needs of industrial expansion, is obsolete. It points to the need for a new approach to education designed to prepare young people for global uncertainty, accelerating change and unprecedented complexity. The book offers a new educational philosophy to awaken the creative, big-picture and long-term thinking that will help equip students to face tomorrow’s challenges.”

more on the book

Inside, readers will find a dialogue between adult developmental psychology research on higher stages of reasoning and today’s most evolved education research and practice. This dialogue reveals surprising links between play and wisdom, imagination and ecology, holism and love. The overwhelming issues of global climate crisis, growing economic disparity and the youth mental health epidemic reveal how dramatically the current education model has failed students and educators. This book raises a planet-wide call to deeply question how we actually think and how we must educate. It articulates a postformal education philosophy as a foundation for educational futures.The book will appeal to educators, educational philosophers, pre-service teacher educators, educational and developmental psychologists and educational researchers, including postgraduates with an interest in transformational educational theories designed for the complexity of the 21st century.

Jennifer Gidley’s writings will be a launching point for this discussion. See below for a list of potential publications to examine. Which catch your eye? Which would you like to discuss?

Reading / Watching / Listening

You will need to sign up at to access these papers.

Perhaps we can select one to read as a group. @Douggins suggests:

Seed Questions

“What masquerades as education today must be seen for what it is—an anachronistic relic of the industrial past. Unless we resolve to rehumanise education so its core purpose becomes once again to develop whole human beings who care, who have and respect life, who exercise wisdom and who have the courage to voice their truths to those who would corrupt our futures, then we should forget about the whole idea of education altogether. Nothing less will suffice, if our young people are to become whole enough to navigate the complex futures they will ineluctably inherit.” – Gidley, Postformal Education & Complex Futures, p.269
  • What is/are the core purpose(s) of education?
  • If higher-order, more complex forms of cognition do exist, then how can we better educate children and young people so that more mature forms of reasoning appear at the appropriate life stage?

Context, Backstory, and Related topics

Agenda items

  • Introduction to Gidley, Postformal Education & notions of complex futures
  • Open Discussion

Cosmos Café is a weekly virtual dialogue series that focuses on deep questions of cosmology, consciousness, and culture. Our conversations are designed (and intended) to be open-ended, inclusive, and creative—going nowhere in particular (or seemingly everywhere) yet arriving at the heart of the matter over time. These are performative experiments in cooperative intelligence, grounded in deep reading, mutual listening, embodied experience, and speaking our minds!

Each week, members of the Café crew put their minds together (if only, to take them apart) to discuss an organically chosen topic from the frothy ideas bubbling up on the Infinite Conversations forum. Sometimes we invite special guests, or try creative experiments in sense-making and conversational practice. If you’re following our sessions and would like to offer feedback or make a suggestion, we’re open to ideas. If you’d like to join the conversation, we’d love to hear from you! Please add your thoughts on any topic here on the forum—or message the @ccafe crew to get in touch.


Interested in this topic and curious how it intersects with antioppression and spiritual (e.g. circles) pedagogies! Won’t be able to make this event, however at the date/time. But hoping to follow this thread for the video-to-come of the talk. Thanks @Douggins!


I cross-posted this on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In.


Darnitall! This is right up my alley! Of course, I have to work on that date and time. What is the duration of the ZoomCast? Is it 2 hours, as usual. And will there be future scheduled Zoom meetings to develop the discussion?

Next time, is it possible to put out a “Call for Collaborative Scheduling” of these events? That way, we could (at least) try to coalesce availability of interested participants.

Sounds very interesting. Will participate! :slight_smile:


The Cosmos Cafe is currently the only weekly Zoom discussion in which we have a set time to discuss our various interests. I expect that the discussion on Tuesday will trickle into the other conversations shared on the site. The time set for the Cafes (12-2 MDT) was a previous decision by a few individuals who could attend at this time. If you wish to put out a collaborative scheduling call to discuss a specific topic, we can attempt to arrange for this (much in the same manner as the recent doubling of the Aurobindo sessions to account for planetery accomodations). I sense that many of us are frequently biting beyond our ability to chew, but alternate sessions are always a possibility.

I have a personal interest in exploring alternate education methods. My sons are pre-school age. I personally have no direct grudge against formal education but do take note frequently of its limits, its boxes and walls; its lackluster performance when called on to change. A well-seasoned education, a natural education flowing freely from the calls of the wild mind, body and soul, a continual education (into adulthood, outside of the classroom, beyond the program) speaks of a primal truth. There must be a spreading of awareness of the various pedagogical methods before any true change can occur. My sons are entering into a steamroller of a life. They will meet eye-to-eye with a demanding world, as we are all experiencing. The projects and discussions here are a beacon of hope for future education. I will be taking what I learn here into their world.


"If you wish to put out a collaborative scheduling call to discuss a specific topic, we can attempt to arrange for this (much in the same manner as the recent doubling of the Aurobindo sessions to account for planetery accomodations). " (Douggins)

YES! I would like to put out a “collaborative scheduling” call to include an additional Cafe’ time for this topic, in order to expand the opportunity for participation to Cosmos members that are deeply vested in this particular topic. Could we add another weekly Cafe’ Day and Time, such as Thursdays (same time, even or later than 12pm - 2pm MT)?

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I’m not going to make it. I’m on deadline–to get my book ready for publication by tomorrow. Nothing for me save the coffee machine. No shave, no shower not even whiskey or beer.
Have fun!


I will bring this up during the call to see what others have in mind. @care_save and @DurwinFoster have expressed interest and may wish to participate in a tandem discussion. I have realized we have a hefty load of educators, past and present (…and future educators?), on the site (@MarcoMasi, @Mark_Jabbour, @hfester among the many others I am neglecting to name) who would be interested in a separate discussion.

In light of the heavy load above and looking towards our “futures studies” today, I wish to state again that no reading is required.

These brief videos provide an overview of…
…what is meant by complex futures (Gidley wrote “The Future” topic for Oxford’s Very Short Introduction series):

…and three domains of Conscious Evolution (Adult Developmental Psychology Research, Cultural Evolution Research and Futures of the Body):

Godspeed on your book Mark!


I am definitely interested in this topic and her work, but I may have to catch the replay based on my workload today. Either way, thanks for exploring this. I invited her to the Gebser conference this year. :slight_smile:


I am going to miss the call today, too, although I am very interested in this topic. I have had a couple very bad weeks of computer issues, which has set me sorely behind on work and other tasks, including some technical upgrades for Cosmos which should make it easier for members to schedule and host additional sessions, as Katina is requesting. I am going to do my best to catch up today. I hope with those present, you have a great call! Thanks, @Douggins, for putting this event together.


But if you want to know my vote for readings, I’m interested in these:

An Other View of Integral Futures: De/reconstructing the IF Brand

Global Knowledge Futures: Articulating the Emergence of a New Meta-level Field

Evolution of Education: From Weak Signals to Rich Imaginaries of Educational Futures

This is one I love–models a great method that has been influential for me… found it first in the Gunnlaugson and Esbjorn-Hagens volume on higher ed:
Evolving higher education integrally: Delicate mandalic theorising

Evolving Education: A Postformal-Integral-Planetary Gaze at the Evolution of Consciousness and the Educational Imperatives

Educational Imperatives of the Evolution of Consciousness: The Integral Visions of Rudolf Steiner and Ken Wilber

Would be nice to read one that is an overview of her book (which is super expensive, but I would love a copy nonetheless). I think her thesis parallels that book–from some research I did awhile back. And, that appears in the list here. I am slightly less interested in her futurist work–moreso in the process and postformal education contents. That said, I really enjoyed scrolling backwards through her work over time and seeing the evolution of how she’s expressed her “question.”

And, my preferences aside, I’ll read whichever Gidley piece gets chosen!

At some point: let’s do a cafe on Jorge Ferrar’s (formerly a CIIS professor) participatory spirituality book. There are parallels and common references with Gidley, and I have some of the chapters from his recent and expensive book (now less expensive in paperback form) with permission from him to share them in limited circulation for a book group. → I asked him to share the more theoretical chapters (instead of the practice oriented ones for pscyhotherapy), so that’s what I could share.



Your Zoom Cafe’ on Postformal Pedagogies was very well presented, as you inspired such passionate and relevant discourse among friends, Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.

I do believe that your bringing attention this issue via the IC platform may have the potential to start a movement towards, not merely “changing the system”, but rather, developing a brand new one. This conversation MUST continue, as we haven’t even scratched the surface.

I was so moved and energized by the insights of Ed, MarcoM, JohnnyD, and your references to Gidley’s book, as well as, your own personal epiphany regarding the way you and yours cultivate education as a perpetual form of communication in the familial domain. Your account reminded me of my constant declaration as an educator that teaching is a mutually beneficial endeavor, as my pupils often taught me as much as I did them.

We definitely have more to talk into action in the upcoming weeks as this discussion continues.

You ROCK, Bro! See ya’ soon.

Love Ya’ to Life!


Great idea. I am reading with great pleasure A Participatory Turn . A book length text doesn’t work well on the Cafe as it is a weekly forum. It’s good for rehearsals and reports. Could you find an article or essay of his and lead a discussion? Below is a recent video of Jorge in action. ( I think Jeffrey Mishlove, the interviewer, talks too much)

Also, I mentioned Quantum Poetics in the conversation today. There is an overlap in Gidley and your description of Cook-Greuter’s 4th person, an overlap that I would love to develop further. Perhaps we can lay down another grove, as we explore the expressive power of Voice? I believe many possibilities are unfolding.


And I was moved by yours, Katina. A lovely jazz quartet, doing riffs, solos, feeling for the off beats. Let’s keep this ball bouncing.


In that case, I wanna get credit for the “scatting”! Cuz’, in your own immortal words, “It don’t mean a thang, if it ain’t got that SCHWANG!!!”

Doo - Wop - Doo - Wop - Doo - Wop…


Yes, @johnnydavis54, to that which is unfolding! Ecstatic, isn’t it? I was inspired by Gidley’s “delicate mandalic theorizing” as I worked with Cook-Greuter on the article linked below (perhaps a bit dense and representative of my learning process more than my getting-it process). It’s from a few years ago and was supposed to be published in a book edited by Gary Hampson (Gidley’s student). My Cook-Greuter here is very rudimentary, and I would suggest (to any intrepid readers) skipping over the history of academic professionalism section unless that topic seems interesting. But, I so look forward to hearing from you what the connections you see are.

Fester_Epistemic Map Making.pdf (584.5 KB)

And, since I have separate chapter files from Jorge (and asked him for article, but wasn’t sent any), how about we just read the introductory chapter for one of the calls? (Or, here’s his page with a list of appealing titles: Jorge Ferrer | California Institute of Integral Studies -, like the "Introduction to Participatory Spirituality one.) The intro could be the equivalent of an article. It may launch some people on the journey of reading the whole book, and it also will be a relatively quick read that could lend itself to a type of closure for those who don’t want to keep going with it. He’s another weaver of the multiple integrals into one meaningful cloth.


I look forward to reading your essay. Maybe we can weave together your essay with Jorge’s intro to that book. In today’s conversation, we review Gidley’s spin on the different Integral thinkers and come up with some of our own spin. I look forward to your response. I am interested in deep dives into the subtle and then giving a voice to such experience. Finding a worldly context for sharing subtle field effects is probably not going to happen unless we want that to happen.


Hi,all just finished watching your very engaging transfusion of ideas ; its been said of poets of old,“ideas live in the blood” ,which for this wandering poet of the 21st century is so very true,I find the Brain needs to bend -bow below the Heart so as to be infuse some oxygenated blood flow so as to emanate as John expresses & draw out as Ed expresses.I enjoyed the Meal being shared.Let’s continue with the challenging ideas of What is the new Physicality for Humans!Peace & Care With U & Yours,Michael


Video and audio now posted above. I just want to say, I enjoyed this talk and the passion and insights everyone brought to the conversation. As I’ve mentioned before, my wife and I are homeschooling our daughters—for many of the reasons you discuss. In a nutshell we came to believe that the factory-model, high-stakes testing regime in contemporary schooling really wouldn’t be preparing them for the future we desire, and that if we want to actually give them the breathing room to learn, grow, and discover their true gifts, it would be best to give them a lot more experience outside of the classroom and especially to let the develop their minds and souls in their/our own time. Most of all, I didn’t want school to systematically destroy their inherent love of learning, or for the toxic social environments (of degraded digital so-called culture) to desensitize their souls. They still socialize and have friends and follow a curriculum and even take some tests (our older one)—it’s just happening in our own timeframe.

Of course there are challenges, and not everyone’s lifestyle (both Kayla and I work from home) would allow for this kind of arrangement. But the tradeoffs so far I’d say are really worth it. Our girls, I daresay, are actually happy…not addicted to tech…not caught up in the latest consumer fetishes. They love reading. They are curious about the world. They get enough sleep (which I never did when I was in school). And as young family, we still share a daily life. We are not separated and kept apart from each other all day almost every day. This might be one of the most important aspects of homeschooling for us—that we get to enjoy our lives together during this most precious time.

Lastly, I thought I’d report that while I was processing the recordings for this talk, I learned that one of the champions of homeschooling and self-directed education in the US, John Taylor Gotto, just passed away. Here is a clip you may enjoy, in which Gotto recounts the political thinking underlying the factory model, which in his view is much more about social control than it is about the development of the individual or group soul.

Some more choice Gotto quotes:

“School is a twelve-year jail sentence where bad habits are the only curriculum truly learned. I teach school and win awards doing it. I should know.”

“It is absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that compels you to sit in confinement with people of exactly the same age and social class. That system effectively cuts you off from the immense diversity of life and the synergy of variety; indeed, it cuts you off from your own past and future, sealing you in a continuous present much the same way television does. It is absurd and anti-life to move from cell to cell at the sound of a gong for every day of your natural youth in an institution that allows you no privacy and even follows you into the sanctuary of your home, demanding that you do its “homework.” “How will they learn to read?” you ask, and my answer is “Remember the lessons of Massachusetts.” When children are given whole lives instead of age-graded ones in cellblocks they learn to read, write, and do arithmetic with ease, if those things make sense in the kind of life that unfolds around them.”

“Independent study, community service, adventures and experience, large doses of privacy and solitude, a thousand different apprenticeships—the one-day variety or longer—these are all powerful, cheap, and effective ways to start a real reform of schooling. But no large-scale reform is ever going to work to repair our damaged children and our damaged society until we force open the idea of “school” to include family as the main engine of education. If we use schooling to break children away from parents—and make no mistake, that has been the central function of schools since John Cotton announced it as the purpose of the Bay Colony schools in 1650 and Horace Mann announced it as the purpose of Massachusetts schools in 1850—we’re going to continue to have the horror show we have right now.”

“Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.”

I look forward to the follow-up conversations on this topic, as it seems to be deep interest to many involved here. Thanks, @Douggins, for putting this talk together!