November 8, 2010

Cultivating Postformal Adult Development

Cultivating Postformal Adult Development: Higher Stages and Contrasting Interventions

By William R. Torbert

As this chapter will discuss, the practice of action inquiry and the Vedic/TM method are the only two educational interventions that have empirically been shown to facilitate adult developmental transformation beyond formal operations. The primary concern of this chapter is to present experiential tastes, theoretical outlines, and empirical findings of the action inquiry approach to adult learning, adult development, and leadership.

The Vedic/TM approach and the empirical research relating to it is well discussed in Alexander's chapter in this volume and will be reviewed only briefly later in this chapter in order to compare its educational process and documented outcomes to the action inquiry approach.

The action inquiry approach to adult learning, development, and leadership is to integrate inquiry into action, rather than separating them into reflection, on the one hand, and action, on the other hand-into "ivory tower" vs. "real world." On a personal scale, this implies an attempt to widen and deepen one's awareness meditatively in the very midst of one's workaday action. On an interpersonal scale, integrating action and inquiry implies speaking in ways that simultaneously assert, illustrate, and inquire into others' responses.

On an organizational scale, integrating action with inquiry results in the creation and re-creation of liberating structures that simultaneously increase participants' awareness, empowerment, and productivity . On all three scales, the action inquiry approach is intended to invite reframing of assumptions and developmental transformation at appropriate moments.

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SOURCE: In Miller, M. & Cook-Greuter, S. (Ed.s), 1994. "Transcendence and Mature Thought in Adulthood", Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield, pp. 181-203
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