Center for Spiritual Inquiry and Integral Education

R. Michael Fisher
"Transformation" on Hold for CSIIE
by R. Michael Fisher - Wednesday, January 25, 2012, 08:16 PM

I think one is really doing good research, when they are following the data and thinking and creativity and not just repeating what they already believe. This recently happened to me with a research article just published where I wrote:

"What This Critical Inquiry Has Taught Me

This essay is not a report of my previous work. It is an inquiry into it and beyond it. New emergent ideas and connections came from thinking and writing in a rather spontaneous way at times. I practiced fearlessness by letting go, and releasement at times of the habitual ways of talking about my work in articles. It was very satisfying to learn new things.

At the same time, I also was aware that I may be writing to an audience that finds this all too complicated or "too soft" to be valid. I agree, in part, much of this is speculative, and I look forward to the day when I, and/or others, can write about some of the ideas here with more empirical rigor and applications. That said, I feel it is a strong piece, and some of the best writing I've done. We'll see what you think, and that's an invitation to further dialogue.

As for new findings from this writing inquiry, the most outstanding was how I realized my notion of "transformation" and "transformative learning" has to change now. The critical fearlessness pedagogy unfolding in the essay was ahead of me. I was trying to catch up to it. I don't think I ever fully did, but it left its traces. My position now is to not use "transformative learning" or "transformational education" as labels. I believe they are dubious and presumptuous. That's new. I used to cherish them and locate my work within them." [see Fisher, R. M. (2011). A critique of critical thinking: Towards a critical pedagogy of fearlessness. NUML: Journal of Critical Inquiry, 9(2), 92-164]


So, I'm suggesting, all faculty and students at CSIIE use "transformation" and "transformative learning" with extra attention to reality, to theory, to real development and to stability of developmental change (i.e., stages or levels of consciousness, for e.g.). That we do not water-down and use those terms so easily and apply it like a condiment on everything. Of course, this is open for discussion and dialogue, even debate. I'm not making a "rule." Point is, I am really correcting myself in this particular forum, as you'll see that in two or more forums prior to this one I use "transformation" or "transformative" too easily, and comfortably, for my own liking and in accordance with what my own research has informed me.

Picture of Zachary Seibert
Re: "Transformation" on Hold for CSIIE
by Zachary Seibert - Tuesday, February 14, 2012, 01:12 PM

As a practitioner in the "transpersonal" realm, I have also encountered the oversaturation of "transformational" rhetoric. Your description of the term being applied "like a condiment on everything" certainly strikes a chord with my own observations. The oversaturation of this transformational languaging dillutes the potency of the work, especially when it is not coupled with persistent effort and action to affect the actual changes one supports. It becomes simply rhetoric, stripped of meaningful context.

While I admit that the overuse of "transformational" and "transformative" has evoked a nearly cynical response in my thoughts at times, I still find myself extremely reluctant to release the term. Reading your response instead engenders in me a desire to more actively engage in the work itself, and to rise above my own lack of enthusiasm for the terminology that best describes my efforts. The word "transformation", itself, inspires in many people an image or feeling sense of immediate change. I suppose it is that very fallacy of immediacy that so often leads to disappointment and discontent in clients, students, and teachers and practitioners as well. While the instant change, or epiphany, may happen in individual cases, it is hardly the rule. Most truly "transformational" work is an ongoing process, it takes time to integrate and to unfold new potentials, and these inevitably lead to further frontiers. I suppose what springs to mind for me is that perhaps with all this oversaturating rhetoric, the word "transformation" has become confused in the cultural mind with the mythical "quick fix".

It seems to me an accident of expansive language, aggravated by the lack equally expansive dedication and effort. Caught up in the elegance of semantics surrounding the work, some practitioners and scholars have possibly lost contact with the steady and powerful drive of transformation itself that drove them to choose their terms in the first place. I am myself thrilled with the languaging of transformational movements, and yet I do find myself having to dig pretty deep into any of it to get at the meaning, to get at the nature of the work that's being described.

Reading your initial post, I am reminded to be especially mindful of the way I use these terms. The concepts that they represent are so embedded in the core of my work and values that it would be dangerously simple to accidentally dillute the potency of the concept with overuse of the word. Of the self-corrections that this inspires in me, I believe the most important is that I back up the word "transformation", with progressive and sustainable efforts at productive change.

Staying with the wisdom beneath the rhetoric is a continuous lesson.