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A Whole Systems Approach to Learning

IVL Professional Development for Teachers:
From Creating Products to Creating Transformation

IVL carries with it some elements of new content (systems principles) however it is primarily concerned with the process, perception, values and the creative orientation and capacity of teachers and learners. While IVL has substantial implications for curriculum designs, it finds its expression equally, if not to a greater extent, in the moment to moment decision making process and creative scope of awareness of the teacher.   Consequently IVL professional development emphasizes a transformational approach, focusing on helping teachers expand their creative capacities, complex problem solving skills, flexible thinking and whole systems, big picture orientation.   Such a shift in teachers' sensibilites impacts everything they do, the kinds of questions they ask, they way they choose to use time, and the type of learning that is valued, and in turn, modeled for students.   Such a shift in teaching redefines learning for students and leads them toward an expanded definition of what types of learning are important, valid and valued.  

A great deal of professional development for teachers in education today emphasizes the creation of concrete utilitarian products, ranging from assessment rubrics, to curricula, to specific methodologies.   IVL represents a shift in emphasis, where the deliverable products are the teachers themselves.   Less emphasis is placed on learning how to implement a particular piece of curriculum, master a curriculum design process or classroom strategy technique, and more is placed on developing the capacities and knowledge of the teacher themselves--a whole person development as opposed to "professional" development.   Emphasis is placed on developing the teacher as a smarter, more aware, knowledgeable, creative, and conscious human being.   A great old adage clearly applies here:   "Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day.   Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime." Too often traditional product deliverable models of professional development succeed in providing teachers with a "how to" formula or concrete piece of curriculum to implement,   without providing them with the capacity to sustain the innovation and apply it in other aspects of their practice, over time.   Indeed, as Dewey noted, there is nothing more practical than a good theory.   In this case, nothing more effective than a transformed teacher--a teacher who will infuse the best practices we seek in every teachable moment and every interaction.

In some respects, IVL professional development extends a renewed level of confidence and respect for the power of the teacher as a vibrant human being to effect changes in students.    It can be argued that lasting inspirational and transformational effects of education that lead to success and productivity stem more from the human dimensions in student teacher relationships than from effective curricular designs, methodologies or assessment templates and rubrics.   Teachers need to master their subjects and themselves, first.  

Part of IVL training is to provide teachers with a capacity for creative improvisation, and to be primary sources of curriculum themselves.   We have come to so emphasize student centered learning and denounce "teacher as sage" that in many respects the baby has gone out with the bath water.   Imagine a teacher walking into a classroom without a prepared curriculum--without a scripted "lesson plan."   It would be fair to say that most teachers would panic.   Herein lies the problem. Teachers need the capacity to bring life to life, and find a curriculum in a fresh idea, question, event, and to turn that into an inspiring and provocative Socratic discussion.   As the lesson from Socrates goes, the greatest learning occurs not from the reading of books or scientific observation, but from the power of penetrating dialectic. This was not lost on Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computer when he noted:   "I would trade all of the technology in the world for one day with Socrates."