Blog – Inner Development Goals

Inner Development Goals for Integrative Learning

Beki Aldam, Crossfields Learning

Where did the Inner Development Goals come from? 

In 2015, all UN member states adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These goals represent international agreement that we have to dramatically change our ways of living, if we are to continue to inhabit Earth without destroying her irrevocably. According to who you are, those changes should occur very soon, right now, yesterday, or at some point in the future. But there is almost universal acceptance that something drastic needs to change. The UN talks of us being in “an ambitious decade” at the end of which the goals are met, in 2030. 

Why are we not steaming towards the accomplishment of these goals? For many who are concerned about it, movement towards the goals seems achingly slow, or even non-existent. The recent return of populist governments across the world has further scuppered progress and, in some cases, introduced dangerous regressions. 

Frustrations about this lack of progress began to grow soon after the goals were ratified. In early 2019 a group of academics, thinkers and leaders got together to discuss the view that what was impeding the world’s transformation to sustainable development was something about the way humanity currently functions, “at the core, we are the problem. The way we’re acting in the world, and the way we solve problems, is the problem.” [innerdevelopmentgoals.org] 

Environmental lawyer and academic Gus Speth articulated it best, when he said: “I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse, and climate change. But I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy.”  

This group agreed that, as humans, “we lack the inner capacity to deal with our increasingly complex environment and challenges.” Luckily though, all is not lost, because, “modern research shows that the inner abilities we now all need can be developed.” [innerdevelopmentgoals.org] 

The development of these inner abilities is the foundation of the Inner Development Goals (IDGs). 

What are the Inner Development Goals? 

The IDGs are an identified list of transformative skills for sustainable development. They show us which qualities and skills we need to develop and nurture, in order to be able to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. 

Crucially, there will be guidance on how to develop these necessary skills, which will be “open source and free for all to use”.  

Reading the full IDG report is interesting, because over a thousand people worldwide have had an input in their evolution. And there were many discussions on how they ought to be presented. Essentially, though, there was a need to make them accessible, and easy for mass communication and education. Agreement was made that 23 skills and qualities would be presented in five ‘dimensions’ or categories: 

Why do we think they are important? 

At Crossfields Institute, we have a commitment that everything we do should make the world a better place. We believe that education has the power and potential to be a force of positive change in the world. And we aim not only to care for and nurture the environments around us, but to promote environmental responsibility wherever we can. 

For us, then, the IDGs align clearly with what we wish to help our learners achieve – real, lasting, positive change in the world. 

How can they improve and enhance IE? 

The IDGs give us a framework to develop our own skills and qualifications. Many of those skills are vital to becoming effective learners. For example, developing your co-creation skills (as part of part 4. Collaborating – Social Skills) will ensure that learners are better able to work in pairs or groups to create their work. It will lead to more satisfying learning experiences; better outcomes for learners and teachers; and a higher quality of work that we can showcase as a result. Everyone benefits! 

If anything, we think Integrative Education and IDGs complement each other. Arguably, young learners are better equipped to grasp the concepts of, and improve, their skills and qualities for life, in an environment where the learning better reflects the world around them; where their thinking is already connected across different subject areas; and where they are required to work in pairs or groups as part of their everyday educational experience. 

Most importantly, the IDGs give us practical help in addressing the needs of humanity. And they help people to navigate the anxieties and uncertainties that can impede progress and impair the quality of our lives. Climate change anxiety, rising alarmingly in the younger demographic, is a very real challenge that we must support our young learners – and their teachers – through. As this article in the Lancet argues, “we owe it to children and young people to prioritise mitigation of climate change at its source, while at the same time investing in evidence-based tools to support their mental wellbeing in the face of this ongoing crisis.” 

How have we used them in our work? 

We have embedded the principles of the IDGs into our Integrative Education Level 3 qualifications. 

The IDGs work alongside research methods, independent project work, cross-cultural competencies, eco-literacy and many other complementary elements that prepare young people for the next stage in their lives, and to be active and responsible global citizens. 

How can you find out more? 

Contact the Learning Team to find out more about our Integrative Education suite of qualifications. 

Read the full IDG report to find out more about the project. 

Crossfields Institute Level 4 Award in Internal Quality Assurance: Integrative Approach

Blog – Integrative Education

Integrative Education

Beki Aldam, Crossfields Learning

What does ‘integrative education’ mean? 

The definition of ‘integrative’ is, “combining two or more things to form an effective unit or system.”  

What happens when we apply that to education and learning? It becomes a multi-faceted term that encompasses many elements of the learning process, the students and the teachers.  

The best-known version of integrative education (IE) is where the student learns in a way that combines or crosses over the boundaries between traditionally-divided subject areas. Sometimes called transdisciplinary, cross-curricular, or inter-curricular learning, students partake in learning that requires a range and combination of skills, and may include several subject areas. For example, a project making musical instruments that might combine musical, mathematic, physics, and handwork skills. 

However, it isn’t only the idea that day-to-day living is not neatly divided into subject silos, and that by fragmenting the student’s learning experience into artificial categories, the student is working in a way that isn’t reflecting the reality of the world around them.  

Education that is truly integrative also encourages an integration of intellectual, emotional, physical and social skills within the individual. It integrates the learner with the world in which we live; the societies that are fluctuating around them; and the planet that so desperately needs more understanding and support from humanity.  

Why does Crossfields Institute embrace IE? 

For Crossfields Institute, there are three ways that education can be described as ‘integrative’. For us, integrative education: 

  1. Engages the whole person – both teacher and student. They use and develop their mental, physical and emotional skills.

  2. Connects the learner and their learning to their daily life. Their own experiences become valuable in their learning; their learning is useful in their own lives, within their particular context. The student’s educational experience remains relevant for them, and continues to do so as they leave the educational setting and move out into the world. 

  3. Connects or combines both different subjects and the skills those subjects seek to develop. 

Education that is integrative will – we believe – be more engaging, more enlightening, more meaningful. Students will have the chance to love what they learn and apply it wherever it is most needed in their lives. 

The good and the great 

So, what advantages can this way of learning produce for the learner? 

Arguably, integrative education: 

  • Better prepares students for a swiftly-changing world, one that isn’t divided into subjects. 

  • Allows students to come up with better ideas and solutions, when looking at a project or problem as a whole, rather than by dividing their thinking. 

  • Encourages students to apply their skillsets in a fluid and dynamic way, rather than trying to approach something with a fixed mindset. 

More broadly, we can see that humanity is facing some serious challenges, with increasing numbers of crises threatening us at every level. Things have to change, and education is a crucial part of that. Our education systems are not currently enabling people to function happily, healthily or sustainably in the world. 

The challenges and reservations 

Although there are clear problems with education, it’s still an unnerving idea to many that everything about the current system needs to be overhauled in favour of something different, a move into the unknown. However, integrative education isn’t a new concept. Pedagogical experts have mooted, examined and proposed IE ideas for over a century (Kilpatrick’s The Project Method was published in 1918!) 

Yet, in many of the world’s mainstream education systems, IE has not been implemented in any meaningful way. There are reasons for this: 

  • Time: On a practical level, teachers often don’t have time to collaborate in a way that would make their students’ experience truly integrative. There are many gestures and nods towards IE (numeracy in your English lessons anyone?) but these do not make the educational experience truly integrative, and therefore don’t bring along its benefits. 

  • Organisation: There has to be some way to organise the educational experience. And there are advantages to structuring the students’ day so they learn a certain set of skills, and are able to focus on one thing at a time. Also, even if they did work on a multi-disciplinary project, they’d need to break that down into manageable chunks. Some argue that subject-silos are an effective way to do this. 

  • Change: Embracing IE fully requires big changes to be made. Large-scale reforms are difficult and often unpopular at first, making it an unappealing job both for educators and the politicians who may direct or enable such reforms at a national level. 

However, these challenges can be met and mitigated by the right IE system. One that allows teachers to collaborate; one that recognises the importance of specialist knowledge, but doesn’t restrict teachers and learners within subject silos; one that is organised and purposeful; one that works with education settings to support and implement the changes in a manageable way.  

Where to begin 

At Crossfields, our IE suite aims to allow all students to achieve their best and stay engaged. It’s also more inclusive than the current exam-based system, because it uses a fairer, wider range of assessment such as portfolios, presentation and performance. The courses run at both Level 2 and Level 3. Schools and organisations who adopt the IE qualifications are given support and teachers are offered training, to ensure they feel comfortable with and capable of delivering the materials.  

Find out more about the IE suite 

Upcoming Event: Contemplation in the Classroom

An exploration of contemplative pedagogy in higher & further education
12th June – 14th June 2015 at Emerson College, Sussex

This event will bring together educators working in higher and further education with an interest in utilising contemplative practice in their teaching. The aim of the weekend is to deepen our understanding of contemplative pedagogy and to learn from each other’s experiences of teaching.

The focus of the weekend will be on how contemplative practice can be integrated into teaching and learning activities. What forms can it take? What are the challenges we face in integrating contemplative pedagogy? What are the benefits? What does it ask of us as teachers? We aim to get a balance between intellectual tasks and embodied experience; practice and theory; connection with others and internal reflection.

Although the weekend is aimed at educators working in higher or further education, anyone with an interest in contemplative pedagogy and a willingness to engage in a range of contemplative practices is very welcome.

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