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Integral Education and the Brain; A very very brief introduction
A Brief Introduction
“In fact, at this point in history, the most radical, pervasive, and
earth-shaking transformation would occur simply if everybody
truly evolved to a mature, rational, and responsible ego, capable of
freely participating in the open exchange of mutual self-esteem.
There is the "edge of history." There would be a real New Age.”
-Up From Eden (1981)
“But every approach, I honestly
believe, is essentially true but
partial, true but partial, true but
partial. And on my own tombstone, I
dearly hope that someday they will
write: He was true but partial...”
- Introduction, Collected Works of Ken
Wilber, vol. VIII (2000)
Draws from a broad array of mainstream, alternative
and trans-disciplinary sources of knowledge
Explores multiple perspectives and avoids splitting
issues into simple binaries
Invites an awareness of paradoxes and the truths and
insights that come from each of these perspectives.
Integral education acknowledges that each perspective
has something to offer to the greater tapestry of any
subject of knowledge
Includes first, second and third person methodologies
of learning, teaching and expression.
Includes subjective, inter-subjective and objective
realities an example of which would be artistic
expression, collaborative work, personal participatory
inquiry, and empirical analysis.
Both critical thinking and ones experiential feelings
are honored and incorporated.
Inclusion of the exploration of the self, cultures and
nature, not as separate islands of experience but as
interdependent aspects of conscious life in a complex
web of ecosystems.
To give an individual direction to the process of
Integral education we begin by looking at Levels or
Stages of development.
“Including the insights from constructive-
developmental psychology: We see a central role for
developmental approaches that recognizes that
individuals—students and teachers—are at different
stages of growth in their personal and educational
journeys. The more we can inform our classrooms by
these insights the more contexts we can provide to
engage with this vital transformative potential”
(Esbjorn-Hargens, Reams, & Gunnlaugson, 2010, p.10).
“This realm of the human being is educated
then by creative art, by nuanced
understanding of psychology, and by aware
focus on the feeling realm of the human
being. These realms may incidentally be
included in mainstream educational
strategies, but they are not comprehensively
engaged. The hope here would be for a
refined, sensitive, and powerfully moral
human being to emerge from ‘vital
(Esbjorn-Hargens, Reams, & Gunnlaugson,
Linda Olds (1992), as a psychologist and system
theorist argues that all knowledge has a relationship to
the physical domain of the body.
“Our knowledge from its onset is also
embodied, embedded in our kinesthetic relationship with
reality and in the connection of our bodies to the physical
world. Our bodily based experience of moving and
interacting in the world impacts our ability to understand
our world as much as our abstract intellectual thinking”
We know from research on neuroplasticity that the
brain is built to change in response to experiences
As a student goes through life the brain is constantly
being shaped and influenced, and the classroom is an
ideal place to help students make positive neural
connections: “Neuroplasticity means that the
sculpting of the brain’s circuitry during this period of
brain growth depends to a great degree on what a child
experiences day to day” (Lantieri, 2008, p. 2).
Gathering information (sensory cortex),
Making meaning from that information (back
Creating new ideas from those meanings (front
Acting on these new ideas (motor cortex). From these
four basic functions he labels four pillars of learning:
gathering, analyzing, creating, and acting (Zull).
As Zull says, “That seems to mean two things: first, the
learning itself must evoke emotion, and second, it must be
about things which naturally engage the learner. For the
process of learning, extrinsic motivators, such as grades or
gold stars, are only needed when these intrinsic conditions
are not met. If the learner is given assignments that
connect with things which naturally interest her, and if she
finds the learning itself rewarding, if she makes
progress, extrinsic rewards are not needed” (Zull).
If we are able to bring in fully functioning integral
education then it would naturally engage an individual
learner, since it would necessitate taking into account their
emotional and intellectual learning needs.
Cook-Greuter, S. R. (2005). AQ as a scanning and mapping device. AQAL:
Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, 1(3), 1–17.
Davidson, R. J. (2000). Affective style, psychopathology, and resilience: Brain
mechanisms and plasticity. American Psychologist, 55(11), 1196–1214.
Dea, W. (2011). Igniting brilliance; integral education for the 21st century.
Tucson, Az: Integral Publishers.
Esbjorn-Hargens, S., Reams, J., & Gunnlaugson, O. (2010). Integral education;
new directions for higher learning. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
Geake, J. (2009). The brain at school; educational neuroscience in the
classroom. Berkshire, England: Open University Press.
Goleman, D., Bennet, L., & Barlow, Z. (2012). Ecoliterate: how educators are
cultivating emotional, social, and ecological intelligence. San Francisco, CA:
Lantieri, L. (2008). Building emotional intelligence: Techniques to
cultivate inner strength in children. Bolder, CO: Sounds True.
Martin Haigh (2013). AQAL Integral: a holistic framework for pedagogic
research, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 37:2, 174-191.
Mooney, C. (2000). Theories of childhood; an introduction to dewey,
montessori, erikson, piaget, and vygotsky. (2nd ed.). St. Paul, MN:
Olds, L. (1992). Metaphors of interrelatedness. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
Wilber, K., (2006). Integral spirituality: A startling new role for religion
in the modern and postmodern world. Boston: Shambhala.
Zull, J. (n.d.). The art of the changing brain. Retrieved from
e Art of the Changing Brain/index.html