5 abr. 2010

ENTREVISTA: SOBRE APRENDIZAJE Y TRANSFORMACIÓN

Contextos y experiencias que pueden propiciar la transformación humana en un proceso de desarrollo individual, según Terry O'Fallon, pedagoga especializada en psicología del desarrollo. En diálogo con Realidades de por medio sostiene que "no hay relación entre nivel de formación y niveles de conciencia", y que todos los días de nuestras vidas pueden formar parte de un proceso de crecimiento si somos concientes de ello. (Texto en inglés)


“Does your sense of self stop at your own skin? Or does it stop at your family? Or does it stop at your nation, or at the world, or does it stop at humanity? Does it stop at sentience?”, are questions made by Terry O'Fallon when explaining development and the person’s perspective taking capacity.
She exemplifies the topic by describing her work at the adult post-graduate level with transformative learning, and introduces the stages of the developmental model she works with, defined by Suzanne Cook-Greuter. Furthermore, she explores the cross-cultural application of this model, and also debates some of the nuances of developmental transformation and the overarching importance of context and support.

Can you define ‘transformative learning’?
To me, transformative learning is any kind of experience that causes one to transform. One can transform in many ways, two of which are the structure stages (on the left side of the v below), and the state stages (the right side of the v), the combination of which defines part of the space one's consciousness space one has to roam around in. Any time that ‘roaming space’ changes, there is likely a transformation.

When did your work become more directly focused on transformative learning and development?
I went to get my PhD at The California Institute of Integral Studies for transformative learning and change in human systems. After the first year in that PhD program, they employed me as a teaching fellow and I started working with other PhD cohorts in conjunction with a primary instructor. I ended up teaching at CIIS for quite a number of years using this cohort model, where we tried to put more embodied, developmental frames around the actual content that we were teaching. Afterwards, I started setting up the best of what I thought the cohort model offered, and we developed this approach for generating transformative change in systems here at Pacific Integral. We use a cohort model, and we work with all four quadrants.

What exactly is the cohort model?
The cohort model encourages, and has an expectation, that people will have a kind of learning together that is beyond that which they ordinarily encounter in their other work. We design it with the idea that we have one group of people that will go through an 18month period together where they can move deeply into conscious relationship with one another, where they can afford to explore things they wouldn’t ordinarily explore. The group is anywhere from ten to twenty, and part of their task is to learn to be a community together, a transformative community, as well as the individual’s transformative learning. Part of the process is engaging together in a retreat center for five days or a week at a time, and they stick to these five day meetings over a period of 18 months, and then in between we have them apply what they’ve learned - in their regular life, in their families, in their communities, in their workplace. We have online learning with projects that they do, we have awareness practices that we give them for each week, which they do right in their own context so that there’s some sort of application in their real lives.

So your work at Pacific Integral has cohorts of adult learning groups, where the adults are choosing to come to pacific integral for this developmental process, and they’re formed into cohorts, and then they go through that process together, is that correct?
Yes. And it isn’t necessarily just developmental. We interview, and we have a fairly in depth application process, so we have a number of questions for people, writing, interviews, the inventory, so we have quite an involved process so that people know what they’re getting into by the time they accept. We’ve actually started working on the transformation of a county, Mason County, where our retreat center is located. We also work with a cancer retreat center, and a non-profit that works with the children of disenfranchised people in mason county. Our participants did an integral assessment on our retreat center to begin with. The cohort had to work together as a group to do all the interviews, to collect all the data, to come up with conclusions, to make sure that all the quadrants and methods were accounted for. It’s a disorienting dilemma to have such a worthy project to work on, because the non-profits we work with are a very important part of the community. They are not very rich, they struggle to make it and they can’t afford assessments, so we offer that as a service, and in turn our participants learn how to do a really good integral assessment on human systems. We find that the work we ask them to do actually cements their community in ways that it never would if we just had people sitting around talking to each other. The paradoxical aspects of the individual and the group really start to take on this whole idea of collective individualism, where you learn how to really do both, because we’re using real world materials, taking real world projections and not pretend ones, and we have the opportunity to do so in real time, real space, with real projects that matter. The dialogue is good, but it’s not enough. So that’s basically what the cohort model is about. And we’ve just found it to be very, very helpful. We also give the leadership development profile to all of our participants before they have their first session, and then we do a final, a test re-test, so that they can see how they’ve changed developmentally from the first to the end. Our experiment is really to make this cohort experience one that doesn’t end at the end of our program, but that allows people to continue to stay in touch with other people that can support their own insights along the way, even when they don’t have anybody in their regular area to do so.

With regard to the Leadership Development Profile, at what point did you come to Suzanne Cook-Greuter´s work, and when did the developmental perspective merge with your background in education and begin to influence your work?
Well the developmental perspective came much sooner than the material. I saw the developmental perspective first, and then went looking for something that would verify what I was figuring out. That was still back when I was a principal. That was a disorienting dilemma for me, to see in my community a group of native families, a group of fundamentalist Christians, a group of hardcore business people, and then there was me, and I didn’t fit in any of those groups. It was just such a dilemma for me, why they couldn’t get along, you know? As far as the politics of these sorts of things are concerned, it was not an easy situation. There was a lot of infighting, and of course there’s money involved. The school district relied on the money from the native population and felt like they were entitled to it, and the native population felt they weren’t getting the kind of curriculum they wanted. In that situation that I began to see how people had very different beliefs. When I went into the PhD program I discovered Wilber, and he of course recommended Spiral Dynamics, which lead me to the developmental inventory. As soon as I took that inventory, I realized that there’s a much bigger granularity to individuals in that inventory than anything spiral dynamics can do. Spiral dynamics may be fine for other things, but it doesn’t really have a way of working with individuals at a particular center of gravity, and it just does not have the granularity for working with individuals that this process has.

What are the essential descriptions of the developmental levels in the Leadership Development Profile?

Well, there are dozens of pages written about each one of these level so describing any of them in a few words isn't an easy task!
In the Preconventional Levels we have the Impulsive and Opportunist Stages, which together comprise about 4% of the 4510 sample.
The Impulsive is an undifferentiated stage with beginning language concerned with meeting one’s primary needs. The Opportunist has a first-person perspective and pre-operational actions. The time span they are aware of is “now”, and the self is seen in single concrete features. Their competition is for power, goods, etc. Their experience is self- against-the-world. Opportunist’s needs rule their impulses so the focus is on their own immediate desires and a need for self-protection. They scan for opportunities and feedback is seen as a threat or attack.
In the Conventional Levels we have the Diplomat, Expert and Achiever stages. The Diplomat, (about 11% of the 4510 sample) are able to take a second-person perspective, understanding past and present with conformity to the past. Their experience of self is primarily external, with simple internal states (e.g. sad, happy). Group norms rule their needs so their focus is on socially acceptable behavior and approval from their group. They have an in-group-out group focus with in-group conformity. This level is sometimes related to the Traditionalist view or a fundamentalist belief system. The Expert, (about 36% of the 4510 sample; in the US, the largest percentage of the sample fell here) has an early third person perspective using abstract operations (symbolic representation). It is a self-conscious stage with beginning objective self-reflection because there is a new differentiation from others, so an internal self appears. They begin to understand linear time and can generate multiple ideas but they have trouble prioritizing them. Experts have an early world centric perspective and can make simple comparisons (too much, not enough). They take feedback from other craft experts. “I know it” is a common term. The Achiever stage, (about 30% of the 4510 sample), has a solid third-person perspective. They grasp linear time, causality and systemic thinking with the mind set of a 5-year plan. Thus goals, achievement, effectiveness, analysis, contracts and agreements become important. Self in society and a world-centric focus emerges. Truth is found through science and they begin to see contradictions, opposites and possible increments in-between. Achievers accept feedback if it helps them grow and improve. Their either/or thinking allows them choice and often they “agree to disagree”. This level is sometimes equated with Modernist.
The next stages of development are grouped as Post-conventional, and include the Individualist and Strategist stages. The Individualist, (about 11% of the 4510 sample) can take a fourth-person perspective, perceiving natural systemic operations and relativity. They can see multiple pasts and futures. Thus there is interest in how the “now” unfolds, bringing a greater interest and focus on process, relationships, and non-linear influences than on deliverables. Personal blind spots become of interest so they accept feedback as a requirement to know their inner self. Dialogue with internal voices is common and multiple contradictions are recognized, so both/and thinking arises. “ It depends”, is a common phrase. Individualists are sometimes seen as Post-modernists. The Strategist, (about 5% of the sample of 4510), takes an enlarged 4th person perspective and can engage with general systems thinking. They think in terms of a moral, principled and authentic self that can self-regulate independent parts within a larger context. Their awareness of time is historical, of their lifetime, and of their parent’s past and children’s future. They invite feedback as means to authentic personal development where conflict is seen as an opportunity and they lead by reframing and re-interpreting such that decisions reflect over-arching principles. Strategists are aware of multiple polarities within themselves and can begin to see their integration so an understanding of paradox arises. Their focus is on self-development and growth.
The final category we have measured is grouped as the Unitive stages, including Magician and Ironist. The Magician, (about 1.5 % of the 4510 sample) has a 5th- to nth-person perspective with awareness of the constructed nature of thought, cognition, and reality including three- dimensional time and space. They think beyond their own lifetime with a global-historical perspective, and recognize that the ego has functioned as the primary center of their self-identity, so they are in touch with their egocentricity, and its nature of self-preservation. For the first time they “look at all experience fully in terms of change and evolution” (Gook-Greuter, 2002, p. 29). They become profoundly aware of existential paradox inherent in all thought, recognizing the “two sides to a coin.” The Ironists, (about .05% of the 4510 sample), have the capacity to look at sentient beings as they are related to the evolutionary flow of nature and time. Their time frame is the earth’s history and its future. Truth is immanent and they “are more likely to have a balanced, integrated sense of both their belongingness and separateness as individuals because they feel part of the ongoing evolution of the universe in all its aspects and cycles of creation, destruction, and recreation”. (Cook-Greuter, 2002, p.33) The two sides of the coin are unified, with resolution of paradoxes.

How cross-cultural are developmental studies like Suzanne Cook-Greuter´s?
Well I know that the research has involved other cultures, but I don’t know how many. The thing is that this work doesn’t test the culture, it tests the structure of people’s perspectives. And it really does work. Primarily a structure is whether you’re in a first person, second person, third person perspective. They have done studies all over the world to show that people do grow through these various levels of perspectives, and that is the basic scaffolding that the sentence completion test engages with. So on top of that you put culture, you put personality, you put interests, types, awareness. There are all kinds of other things that add into the human-beingness of a person. But this particular inventory really does work with the type of structure. For instance, what can you see in terms of space and time? How far out in time can you see? Can you see one moment in front of your face? Or can you see forwards and backwards to eternity? Does your sense of self stop at your own skin? Or does it stop at your family? Or does it stop at your nation, or at the world, or does it stop at humanity? Does it stop at sentience? Those two things have an awful lot to do with a person’s perspective taking capacity. So it measures that more than anything, and also working with opposites and poles, black and white. Is it either or, black or white? Is it both black and white? Black within white and white within black, the two sides of the coin? Those sorts of things arise everywhere.

So how do you use this framework at Pacific Integral?
We began to use a test, re-test process with our cohorts, and we all engaged ourselves with that process. I became interested in the scoring, and I took the scoring workshop, and I am now certified and engaged in many different approaches to using developmental frames. We are actually able to do leadership development profiles on a whole group now. You get a really good feeling, not only of the center of gravity of a particular group, but you can get a sense of the focus a particular group has, and of course designing consulting engagements and cohort coaches is so much more personally designed than it would otherwise be. So we’re really learning how you can use this inventory in ways that perhaps people haven’t been in the past.

In an interview I heard, Suzanne talked about the idea that individuals can evolve to a certain level of complexity, and then in a sense, lose that capacity if they find themselves in an environment that doesn’t support the value of that perspective. Can you describe any experience you have around that?
Well we describe the opposite experience. What we’ve found is that the people who come into our program have been in a culture or in a milieu that is very close to the level of development that they test at. When they come into our program we’ve made a concerted effort to take that glass ceiling off. What we’ve found is that without that lid, people have a natural propensity to move, to bloom. Some people bloom at greater speeds than others, and some bloom at an incredible speed. They have been held in a particular frame for a long time, and they now are in a space with a cohort of people where they can simply express, explore and experiment with the person that they are. As a result, they can grow through incredible spurts of growth, almost unprecedented. It’s almost hard to believe. And then when we do the re-test, we wait for six months, after they leave our program, and so far the results are showing a pretty good movement for people even after they’ve been out for six months. The other beneficial thing about a cohort model is that people develop life long ties. We find that people stay in touch and they find ways, when they are struggling with something, to connect in with one another. So even if they have a glass ceiling where the work, culturally, or via the center of gravity, they have another community that they can step into that will understand what they’re talking about.

It really sounds like the bottom line is the context that people are able to have access to.
Yes, I think so, yes. We sure don’t say ‘well you should develop’, we don’t - but people naturally rise to the level that they are ready to flower into, and with community connections, they can stay there. We’ve even had some people move here all the way from Ethiopia so that they can stay connected. We have an international part to our program, and our first cohort had people from eight different countries, and we usually give scholarships to those people because its so expensive for them to just come here, so if they can make it, then we waive their tuition because we know the value of having an international experience for people. I often tell people that raising consciousness is like raising a family. It’s a very personal thing. And people don’t think of it so much that way. Its incredibly personal, but its incredibly impersonal. You’re actually nurturing something that is very fragile and yet sustained and sustainable, and has its own sort of trajectory. We really feel a responsibility along with a wonder and awe in our own learning, because it seems to happen simultaneously. The surprises are rampant. We’ve got beyond the point beyond thinking that anything we know will endure for very long! So in answer to your question, I think we can set context and containers up so that the ceiling is taken off of people, and that you can help that container become more enduring, so that people can maintain and retain what they’ve been learning. And so far it seems to be working.

Hearing you describe this, I get the image of human beings more like plants, which can flourish when they’re have the right surroundings. Doesn’t this imply that our cognitive capacities are much more plastic than we realize?
Oh absolutely I have no doubt about that. I’ve had that belief for a long time.

So how do you explain the discrepancy that some people develop through these stages at rapid paces and others seem not to?
Well my own sense of it is that sometimes there are experiences in our life that we still need to have. For instance, for someone that’s getting out of college and needing to express themselves in their very first position, it might not be appropriate for them to have a magician consciousness. I think that there is an interactive relationship between what’s going on in your life, the experiences you’ve had in your life, and what experiences you need to have in your life. And those very experiences are part of what help one to develop when the experiences are fully embodied. I think that some of our participants have gone through many of those experiences, but they’ve been in a milieu where they haven’t had the opportunity for their consciousness to flower because they’ve had this glass ceiling. So we find people who are really exploring for the first time certain aspects of their lives which support the flowering of a particular level of consciousness, and it’s appropriate for them to stay there for a while. I mean, there’s no rush through life. In our program we have MDs, psychologists, PhDs, janitors, people with hardly any high school education, and there is no relationship between education and levels of consciousness. But the thing I notice so often is that people have a certain trajectory through their lives. They wear out with a certain level of consciousness, and feel the urge then to flower into something new, and it takes a while for some people to get through that stage of having enough of what they’re experiencing. I don’t think there’s a timetable on any of that. There is brain research which shows that when people are in a dilemma and absolutely can’t make sense of something that’s happened to them, the brain begins to grow neurons like crazy. And I find an awful lot of people who have just been through or who are going through a disorienting dilemma start going through these levels relatively quickly. So those are some of the things that I’m claiming. Mezirow talks about disorienting dilemmas as one of the causes of transformation, and I notice that that is also a part of it. And then of course Ken Wilber cites meditation and awareness as being another thing that will support people’s growth and development. I essentially think that there’s a whole variety of things, and its just a beautiful mystery.

What it is like to work with a group of people who are committed to their own process of development, who are also participating in assessments like the test that you administer, and to get those results, so that for instance you can say 'oh, John´s at the unitive stage!’ How do you relate to John once you have assessed him?
Well at this point I have become so accepting of everybody… it doesn’t matter what level of development you’re at, you’re still a human being, and you still have your own mode of suffering. So you just relate to people as human beings. The idea is to be with them with a compassionate tone, and a questioning tone, and a supportive tone, and a creative tone, no matter what level people are at. And very soon in conversation with people you learn to just rise to whatever level of engagement each person is at, relative to those particular approaches. We get the results back, and we go over them with people, and we also really try to have a discussion around the kind of state – stages they have, and then we just let it go. We just let it go. Because we let people know that they’re moving targets, its just a snapshot in time, its not something that is a forever after thing, whether you’re early or late, we don’t know what makes people move or stay, so its just one point of information, and we just go on from there.

It seems like so many adults, at least in US or in the west, lose an active learning experience in their lives once they leave school, to varying degrees. Perhaps the concept of being a student of the world doesn’t necessarily fit perfectly with being a successful, earning adult in America. How is the understanding of development redirecting people back to the experience of being a student of the world? If people are not inclined to seek out an organization like Pacific Integral, in what ways can people begin to facilitate their own development?
To me, the most important thing is just being aware of what happens. I’ve been in that place where I was a single mom raising two kids by myself, and trying to earn a living, and trying to see that they had football uniforms and made their way through high school and college. The life of someone who is involved in raising a family and earning a living for that family is incredibly busy, indescribably busy. So oftentimes you background your own development just because you’re just so focused on somebody else, without the understanding that you yourself can get stuck when that happens. But you can also have an awareness that this process can also be engaged with as a developmental process. You can go at it from a different perspective, one in which you can learn interactively while your kids are learning. If you even think about raising children as raising consciousness, raising your family is raising consciousness. If you don’t have that awareness, then you kind of go on automatic and just go from day to day. I mean, the parenting instinct and the paying bills instinct really does take over sometimes, but to me the question is, how can you make people aware? Once they’re aware it seems to take away the instinctual part, and people figure out ways to develop. They figure out how to be meditating while they’re in action with their kids rather than just reacting to them, and they figure out how to use their wild drive in the morning as a meditation or awareness practice, and they look at the trajectory of their career as something that is supporting the health and well being of other sentient beings. It’s just a whole different way of being in the world, once you have an awareness of development. It’s harder for people to engage developmentally when they don’t know it exists, or even deny that it exists.

It sounds like you’re talking about a question of leadership, but more in the sense of social and cultural leadership than in the sense of within an organization, so that if there are other adults out there, be they celebrities or journalists, or even just people that you know in your life that are talking about this process of being aware, that itself is that kind of leadership.
I think so. My sense of it is that people may disagree, but when something lands for them, they will usually pursue it and show some interest. So for me it’s a matter of sharing this stuff. You can tell in a minute when it doesn’t land, and you can just be quiet about it. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve struck up a conversation and pretty soon there’s a whole group of people standing around me because they’re curious, they want to know about the developmental process, and then they go off and find out on their own. And of course there are other times when I make a comment and it just goes like water off a duck’s back, and that’s okay too.

Speaking to leaders who may be reading this who are not integrally or developmentally informed, what would be your advice to how they can increase their capacity as leaders, and therefore the capacity of their organization (or family)?
Well I see that leadership is seen differently at each level of development, so success as a leader is defined differently at each level. Earlier levels tend to see leaders as charismatic and someone who takes a stand and leads publicly in some way. At the latest levels, leadership is often behind the scenes with more of a quiet quality, transmitting their influence in ways seldom seen.

Interview by Lauren Tenney

*Terri O´Fallon is a founding partner of Pacific Integral, an organization providing individual and organizational capacity development, consulting, organizational mentoring, transformational program design and web-based education and resource delivery. Terri holds a PhD in Integral Studies from the California Institute of Integral Studies, and a Masters Degree in Special Education with honors. She is a certified scorer of the Leadership Development Framework, developed by Susanne Cook-Greuter, a well known inventory that gives a glimpse into one’s developmental nature at a point in time. She is able to use this inventory to design or support a developmental trajectory of increasing capacities for human systems, including individuals and organizations. Terri is also certified in Dynamic Facilitation, Level one and two Spiral Dynamics and Level two, SD Natural Design; Second Tier Leadership, and is a certified Spiritual Director. Terri has worked in education for many years as an executive director and various administrative positions in public schools, including superintendencies and a principalship, as well as teaching courses for seven colleges and universities, and was a faculty member for CIIS in the Transformative Learning and Change Program, specializing in delivering PhD graduate studies using online networks with participants worldwide.

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