Program of Study
This program is not linked to Massachusetts teacher licensure
Background for Integrative Learning
There is a growing awareness that our current institutions, including educational institutions, are not addressing the world’s most pressing issues. Graduate educational programs have a particularly strong obligation to emphasize humanity’s role in creating a sustainable Earth community. This M.Ed. in Integrative Learning draws on the ideas and practices of those who have deeply studied and wisely responded to today’s opportunities and challenges. The course content is seamlessly integrated so that teachers experience congruence with what they learn and how they teach.
The Great Work
The Great Work is a phrase coined by Cultural Historian, Thomas Berry in his 1999 book of the same title. Berry proposed that the Great Work of our time comes in response to the recognition that the ecological devastation we see around us is the result of human activity. He asserted that the task before us is to reinvent the human to become a benign, but active presence on Earth.
Each of us begins this task by responding to what Mathematical Cosmologist Brian Swimme describes as “the allurements that beckon us, by following our passions and interests” The Great Work involves aligning our personal sense of purpose with the larger creative dynamics of the Earth community.
This program provides an opportunity for students to contextualize their own interests. It is an holistic approach that supports the transformative dimension of learning: “In reality there is a single integral community of the Earth that includes all its component members whether human or other than human. In this community every being has its own role to fulfill, its own dignity, it inner spontaneity. Every being has its own voice. Every being declares itself to the entire universe. Every being enters into communion with other beings. This capacity for relatedness, for presence to other beings, for spontaneity in action, is a capacity possessed by every mode of being throughout the entire universe.” Thomas Berry
Questions that contextualize the course of study include:
How does integrative learning create a context for exploring one’s Great Work?
What is a learning community and what capacities are evoked through participation?
In what ways can we bring a sense of community – local, regional and global – to the learning process?
How does systems-thinking lead to eco-learning and the creation of integrative approaches?
How can transformative education establish a foundation for students to develop their personal contributions to a healthier and more sustainable Earth community?
Collaborative Learning Communities
During recent years there has been a proliferation of courses and degrees offered under the umbrella of distance learning. In general these academic pursuits are similar to attending a conventional university. The professor posts lectures and gives out assignments, students submit papers, there are tests and there are grades.
In contrast we promote an integrative view hosted by a uniquely designed online education eCampus where students work in collaborative learning communities; where faculty are mentors and co-learners; where creativity and self-direction are valued; and where there is a an understanding of dialogue as process. Right communication embraces an appreciation for each person’s contribution.
About the eCampus
The heart of the teaching and learning process relies on interactive dialogues accessible through state of the art conferencing software. Faculty and students meet in asynchronous classroom conferences, building upon one another’s insights and understanding.
Once signed-on to the eCampus, students have an opportunity to become an active member of a reflective learning community – exchanging ideas, exploring essential questions and responding to dialogue with students and faculty from diverse cultures and countries. There are formal and informal meetings in community journals that are relevant to current life experience.
Faculty-practitioners advise and mentor students throughout the program. Most graduates and students will tell you that the on-line community becomes a second “home” for gathering with people who share a common vision. TIES offers adults a prepared environment where content and process are integrated.
Program activities include: reflective interaction through directed readings; pondering “questions worth thinking about” posed by faculty and students; replying to postings of other students; and sharing ideas spontaneously as they arise.
“If the dynamics of the Universe from the beginning shaped the course of the [stars], lighted the sun, and formed the Earth…there is reason to believe that this same guiding process is precisely what has awakened in us our present understanding of ourselves and our relation to this stupendous process..”
Integrative Learning Seminars
The core material and course work is presented through a series of on-line seminars where students and faculty post responses to an assigned reading (or viewing).
Subsequent to the initial posting, participants comment and weave responses, searching for new insights. Quite often the authors of the books and/or experienced scholars are available during the on-line dialogue.
A sample of an integrative seminar dialogue can be accessed from the download section at the bottom of this page.
Area of Emphasis
Each student chooses an area of emphasis –a passionate interest– within the concentration of Integrative Learning. This “independent” portion of the work accounts for one third of the degree requirements. The integrative seminars provide a “lens” for the exploration of this emphasis area.
Examples include: environmental awareness, media literacy, conscious nutrition, art education, sense of place, leadership, learning communities, transformative education, holistic leadership, cosmology, art and community, experiential education, caring in the culinary arts, ecoliteracy, experiential learning, Earth education, administration, elementary music programs, and spiritual ecology.
All of this work is encountered with the implicit goal of developing students’ content and process-based knowledge for contribution to the Earth Community.
The experiential learning or practicum is based on your Emphasis Area. Students take their new knowledge and apply it in a real setting. The practicum emerges from the research question(s) one chooses to explore and involves a minimum of 150 hours of applied learning.
Our premise is that humanity has the possibility of reclaiming a sustainable relationship with the Earth. One of the processes of communication that makes this possible is dialogue. In this case we refer to a variation on a particular form of dialogue described by Physicist, David Bohm. Bohm’s constant thread that particularly relates to our dialogue is that we are investigating the possibilities for:
- The emergence of shared meaning
- Increasing awareness of our own and others assumptions
- Increasing sensitivity and willingness to “listen”
- The creation of space between our reaction and our response
- A willingness to experiment with the principles described
Our approach to dialogue is enhanced through the medium of the eCampus. Some graduates have called this a transformative experience.
Throughout the three semesters faculty and students also engage in telephone conference calls.