Category Archives: Critical thinking

Models of education



In response to a posting on the UNESCO-UNEVOC e-Forum (a virtual community of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) practitioners from around the world who share information and knowledge about different aspects of TVET) I have been reflecting on the inequities of our education systems. There are still so many educational environments that continue to advocate the use of a teacher/trainer focussed approach that promotes ‘instructional/transmission’ as opposed to ‘transformational’ learning.

As many of you know, I’ve recently completed my Masters thesis in Education, looking at autobiographical reflection and perspective transformation, using the lens of Jack Mezirow’s Transformative Learning Theory. Through Mezirow I also discovered Stephen Brookfield, Patricia Cranton, Edward Taylor, John Dirkx and a whole collective of inspirational and authentic educators. The research I have undertaken – and the work I do with my own VET (Vocational Education & Training) teachers and students – always brings me back to a transformative approach to learning.

Using this methodology encourages us to examine and contest the unattended assumptions that pervade our thinking, behaviours and practices, and allow us to slowly, thoughtfully, meaningfully shift our thinking and ways of seeing the world. In this model, the teacher/educator/VET practitioner and ‘learner’ share the journey of learning, bringing their very unique skills, knowledge and experience to the learning space. It is achieved through any method that promotes an open and equitable learning space where all are encouraged to think critically and engage in open dialogue and inquiry.

Paulo Freire, a well renowned, radical, Brazilian educator (later to work with Ira Shor) spoke scathingly of what he referred to as the ‘banking’ model of education, where students basically line up to receive the skills and knowledge identified as necessary by a ‘ruling other’ (a teacher, an industry, a governing body of some sort … someone who tells you “This is the way it is.”) This model is also known as ‘bucket education’ … “Line up, hold up your bucket, and I will shovel in the things you need to know … got it?” You are a passive recipient and have no part to play in critiquing the value or practical application of the information provided.

If we are striving to cultivate powerful learning environments where innovative and transforming outcomes are realised for the future of our global community, then it can only be achieved in a way that truly honours and speaks to the incredible strengths that lay within each individual. Carl Rogers and many other authentic educators speak of cultivating our learners so that they can grow in strength and stature like the plants we nurture. This cannot be realised through teacher focussed, ‘banking’ learning environments, only through open, authentic learning spaces where critical inquiry fosters the discovery of personal truths and meaning-making that ultimately lead to world-changing advances founded in the value and integrity of each individual.

Critical reflection and hands-on, experiential inquiry must always underpin the process of learning, or we will only ever create passive little ‘vegetables’ whose incredible strengths and intelligences might never be realised. The world will be so much poorer for this. For what it’s worth, I think teacher-focussed learning environments and their associated tests and exams are magnificently designed to maintain the status quo and hierarchy of the class system.

What do you think?

Follow the link to the interesting and beautiful representation of this transformative approach as  illustrated above:

If you’re interested in reading more on any of the ideas I’ve put forward here, my thesis can be found online at:


Worldwide tipping point


My earlier post about tipping points in our lives was revisited on Sunday whilst speaking with an amazing young woman. I have come to know her through the involvement of one of my sons in a community development project in Rwanda. She, like so many of the souls I have been exposed to recently, is part of a groundswell of intelligent, compassionate individuals committed to making a difference in our world.

We discussed the emergence of a growing awareness – even while amidst the safe mediocrity of our selfish and mundane existence – about what we can do to draw together and support our global family. My friend has this morning sent me through two links that extend our conversation:

Go to for some inspiration (and check out their Facebook site:

I also followed her link to Mike Daisey’s confronting approach to addressing global change, related to the dangers of corporatisation. Daisey, known for his monologue ‘If You See Something Say Something.’ has been called ‘pugnacious, funny and touching’ … and I agree with these references.Hearing Mike’s challenge brings up indignation and resistance in me.

My approach to anything that emotes fear, or anger within me (hearing of the overwhelming atrocities and indignities that we are exposed to daily across the media) is to come back to my core truth … that everything resides in love. Any response to anything … no matter how horrifying or terrifying … must come from my heart, from love. Every solution lies in love, not fear, not hatred, not war.

The following link will take you to his hour-long, no-holds-barred monologue, containing strong opinions and offensive language … that really challenged my thinking. If you are ready to be challenged about where you stand in the global picture of change , you may like to have a look.

What are your thoughts on how we … I … can contribute individually to global change?

The tipping point: when do you know it’s time to change?


Years ago, in another life, I listened to an audio tape discussing the process of undergoing change (it was probably related to trying to give up smoking!) Analogies were given related to the unendurable circumstances that ultimately lead to change. I can’t recall the author, but he gave the example of a young woman driving to a dinner engagement, along a winding road on a cold and stormy night, past a road accident. The car had run off the road into trees, and was very badly damaged, but the accident scene was well attended by emergency vehicles who were providing the necessary response to the seriously injured driver. The young woman decided not stop, knowing that her presence was unnecessary. It was a cold and wet night, there was nothing more she could do to help, so she decided to continue on her way to her dinner appointment in the warm car. There was nothing to be gained by her stopping, and a potential personal cost was involved (being out in the cold, wet night, and late for her appointment.)

Change the circumstances. Same cold and stormy night, same dinner engagement, same accident, same emergency response, but this time as she passes, the young woman sees that the car that has run off the road belongs to her grandmother. This time the scales of personal gain and cost have swung. Even though all emergency response is being provided, and she might be late for her appointment, were she to continue past the accident, the personal cost to her would be unbearable. She will be late, cold, wet and uncomfortable, but the pain and cost of not knowing, coupled with the personal gain of needing to be with her grandmother, necessitates that she change her plans.

My own circumstances, and those of others who have shared with me their stories over the years have often reflected that same experience. We go about our business, responding automatically to the situations in our days, making mindless changes as required, until something causes us to alter the way we view and respond to our environment. Sometimes it is because we just become aware of the need for change, other times because we are tripped up, sometimes daily, by the same troublesome conditions, other times it’s because life throws a hard ball our way and knocks us totally off our perch. But whatever it is, we reach a critical point where we can no longer continue to ignore what is happening around us, and where we have to choose a new way forward – there comes a critical point where we have to change.

There are tipping point in our lives, where critical internal and external factors can act as catalysts to a previously unimagined future. These crises – “ … the instrument of transformation  …trouble that leads to crisis … if this disruption to order is unable to be accommodated within the existing social structure, there may arise the legitimation of a new order …” (A. Nelson, 1994) – call us to make choices and conscious changes in some of our most deeply rooted behaviours, and through this, an altered sense of self can emerge that holds promise for progression beyond previous barriers.

What have been your tipping points, and how have they altered your life?