committee. Co-operation is represented by participants' peer planning of all
those considerable parts of the course that have not been programmed in
advance by the course prospectus, and by peer assessment. Autonomy is
represented by the individual's assent to what is hierarchically and
cooperatively decided and above all by the individual's self-determination,
within this context, with respect to learning needs, personal learning
goals, methods and assessment
An interesting and important theoretical point is what sort
of relation between hierarchy, parity and autonomy is possible and desirable
in a healthy learning system. Can they themselves be in a relation of
equality, or can they only be in a relation of hierarchy? Whatever the
answer to this question, I take the view that all three need to be present
as vigorous interdependent political parts of a holistic learning system.
Learning About Confluence
This is a sort of higher order learning: about the dynamic
relation between 'first order strands of learning. But it is higher order in
another sense, not only in terms of content, but also in terms of personnel:
first order learning about confluence issues occurs among adult learners on
the courses; and higher order learning occurs among those who attend IDHP
committee meetings over a long period and learn about confluence issues from
reports on many different courses.
Let's take the seven strands mentioned above - (1)
theoretical understanding, (2) written work, (3) personal growth, (4)
political skills internal to the course, (5) social change competence, (6)
facilitative skills, (7) transpersonal centering - and look at some of the
dynamic tensions that arise between them. All the points made below are
echoed to a greater or lesser degree on all our IDHP courses, in my view.
1. The Experiential and the Reflective
This is a classic one, of course. For adult learners on IDHP
courses, there is a tension in balancing experiential work on the personal
growth and facilitative skills strands with sufficient high quality
reflective and theoretical work, both spoken and written. This is
particularly so in the first year. I believe there are four reasons for
First, intellectual development is the only strand on the
traditional education which everyone has gone through; as a result its
incidental function has been to control, repress and deny feeling,
especially distress feelings such as grief, fear and anger. So on a course
where there is a strong personal growth strand that involves dealing with
these feelings, learners want to get out from under the old oppressive role
of intellect. And it takes them some time to find their way through to a
non-oppressive and emotionally enhancing use of their intellectual powers.
So there is a genuine need in the earlier part of the course for a strong,
almost exclusive focus on the experiential and emotional strand of learning.
But it is important to note that this exclusive focus does include the
all-important exercise of intelligence as insight into and learning about
one's own personal history, destiny and development.
Second, and more fundamentally, there is a general
metaphysical point that goes beyond the analysis of any particular culture.
It is that immediate experience is intrinsically hypnotic, fascinating and
enthralling the mind, sweeping it along with a cascade of sensation and
perception, so that any intellectual and reflective endeavour is an
achievement, is wrested from a tide stemmed. And of course once intellectual
competence did get culturally established outside the flux, there was the
inevitable tendency to sustain it in an exclusive, single stranded way so
that it did not disappear below the waves.
Third, the metaphysical point is compounded by the fact that
when you structure experience for the purposes of learning from it, it is as
if the learners consider that the structuring itself is sufficient, that you
don't need to reflect on what you have learned in and through the structure.
Fourth, facilitators need more skill and more designs for
integrating in appropriate ways and at appropriate times the reflective with
the experiential. It us very easy for us facilitators to collude with a
sub-reflective culture of experiential pseudo-learning. I think we may need
more strategic moves from personal experience, through personal insight to
2. The Existential and the Analytic
The second point relates to written work, and it is
connected to the first point. On a course where the personal growth strand
is prominent in the earlier terms, and where, therefore, self-insight and
personal awareness are in the forefront of learning, there is a tension,
when students face the requirement of written work, between the claims of
personal, existential statements on the one hand, and analytic, theoretical
statements on the other.
The adult learner wants, quite properly, to write first
about personal learning from personal experience. So we have the "Odyssey
essay", the journal of the individual soul. And I think this is as it should
be. Generally. our culture gives us no practice in articulating the insights
and the learning we acquire from reflecting on our
idiosyncratic case history.
So what tends to emerge first out of the strong personal
growth thrust of the first two terms are author-centred writings. This, I
believe, provides a launching ground for authentic versions of more analytic
topic-centred writings that come later, especially in the second year.
Personal insight and general reflection are the poles of
cognitive learning, and I believe it to be important that both are honoured
in written work. I think we are learning on IDHP courses that the former is
a precursor and ground of the latter. What we have not so far explored is
the use of nonlinguistic symbolism, such as drawing, painting, sculpture,
sound, music and movement, for both personal insight and general reflection.
Nor have we explored the relation between linguistic and non-linguistic
symbolism in each of these two areas, and as between the areas.
3. Personal Growth and Facilitative Skills
There seems to be a significant tension, in the first two
terms, between the claims on participants of doing their personal growth
work and acquiring facilitative skills. Personal growth needs are too strong
for facilitator training to take. This was certainly my experience in
running the first course at the University of Surrey. We had programmed in
several days of facilitator skills training even in the first term. Course
members went through the motions of all the exercises, but by the third term
of the first year had very little recall, either mental or behavioural, of
what it had all been about.
By contrast in the third IDHP course at Surrey, facilitator
skills training was introduced gradually from the middle of the second term
and was consistently taken up with more energy, interest and enthusiasm.
This same phenomenon has also been noted on other IDHP courses. And the
reason, or at least a plausible reason, is not far to seek: when you are
engrossed in the challenge of putting your own house in order, you don't
feel ready to learn how to sort out someone else's affairs. Conversely, when
you have cleared some space in your awn psyche, you are ready to use it to install skills
for helping others.
Even apart from this, there is, I think, a group hunger that
is strong in the first term or two to get down to the nitty gritty of
personal work without distraction from theoretical and skills building
However, the several courses that use co-counselling for a
significant amount of personal growth work from the beginning do succeed in
launching a very modest facilitative skills strand also from the beginning.
In every co-counselling session, the person in the counsellor role is
practising their facilitative skills within the repertoire of co-counselling
interventions -which is a basic, all-purpose repertoire for regression work.
But that person is not being distracted from their own personal work, simply
because they are trading their time as counsellor for their immediately
preceding or succeeding time as client. And since the client in
co-counselling is significantly self-directed in the use of the repertoire,
the counsellor does not have the exclusive or indeed the primary
responsibility for the effectiveness of the client's session. In this sort
of context, facilitator skills can be acquired gradually and unobtrusively,
with the main focus being upon each person in the client role.
4. Eclecticism and Psychological Depth
There are several aspects to this issue. The first one is
about sustaining a meaningful line through personal growth work, especially
in the first year, when it is done, somewhat unpredictably with so many
different people and in several different modalities. Thus a participant
may: co-counsel with several different course members; work with the primary
facilitator of the course in that facilitator's particular style; work with
the many visiting facilitators each using a different modality of personal
growth. So there is no one person other than the participant who is getting
a sense of the growth themes, of how they are unfolding singly and together.
I may be wrong but I get a sense that for some learners this
is more problematic than has been noticed or explicitly acknowledged. And
while a great deal of learning about personal development is going on, I
think more structures could be devised to enable learners to throw into
relief more evidently the significant form of their learning about their
growth. In all this, I am referring particularly to work on regression and
the relation between past events and present ways of living.
The second aspect
is a consequence of the first. It is
to do with integration of personal growth learning with how participants
live their lives outside the course. If the personal growth learning is not
fully articulated then its transfer to the rest of living may be obscured.
And even if it is fully articulated, how it is to be transferred outside the course still
needs independent attention. Again, while a lot of transfer clearly goes on,
I have the impression that it is not part of any coordinated process of
learning about transfer.
A third aspect is to do with transpersonal development and
spiritual work. I think there is a tendency on some courses for this to be
introduced in dribs and drabs, through an exercise here or there and through
an occasional transpersonal weekend by a visiting facilitator. But then
entry to the spiritual domain becomes another episodic bit of the general
eclecticism - and this seems odd. Learners want this domain and want more of
it. The challenge is how to give spiritual learning the central and
integrative role it deserves without making the sorts of dogmatic
assumptions that undermine any true learning. I do not think this challenge
has really been met yet.
A fourth aspect is to do with personal growth from the
standpoint of overall integration - of regression and insight into the
effects of past experience, of expressive style in the present, of
interpersonal awareness, of transpersonal learning, of transfer to everyday
living. Integration of all these things happens, of course, but it seems
that the eclecticism keeps it relatively unfocussed as a happening. I do not
have a very clear sense of what could be done, if anything, about this.
5. Social Change and Political Malaise
There is a noticeable tendency on courses for social change
objectives to get crowded out of the curriculum. Of course they never do get
lost or go missing entirely: important work is done in the area. But often
this is done as an afterthought, as a rescue operation by the facilitator or
one or more course members when it is realized belatedly that the whole area
has been neglected over a term or more.
The situation is not actually as bad as it sometimes seems.
The course itself is an exercise in social change with respect to
educational practices. The. acquisition of political skills internal to the
course through peer decision-making is an important tool for social change.
And the transfer to life outside the course of personal growth learning and
facilitator skills learning is the continuous exercise of a small social
Nevertheless, whole areas of awareness and practice do seem
to be underrepresented (I am certainly not saying that they are not there at
all): history of radical political thought and social experiment,
organizational change and development, ecological issues, no-growth economic
systems, macro-analysis of rich and poor nations, nuclear threat dynamics,
non-violet political interventions, and so on. The focus of the courses is
much more on the theory and practice of personal growth from the respective
standpoints of client and facilitator, than it is on the theory and practice
of moving toward a new society.
This stems partly, I think, from the traditionally
apolitical stance of humanistic psychology with its emphasis on personal
autonomy and face-to-face situations; and partly from the political malaise
of the surrounding culture.
6. Peer Politics and Everything Else
There is a tension between developing skills in peer
decision-making and developing all the other strands on the courses. From
the beginning the participants have the challenge of planning as a peer
group a significant proportion of the first year: how on the weekly meetings
to meet the manifold objectives of the course and integrate the various
strands of learning. Difficulties in resolving this challenge of peer
planning can be at the expense of the activities which are supposed to be
Cooperative planning in a peer group to meet a balance of
individual and collective objectives takes some tine to learn, since very
few people have any prior experience of it in our culture. And this
difficulty is compounded by the fact that it is a very sophisticated balance
of different kinds of learning that the peer group has to plan.
At their worst, peer planning meetings last too long, are
held too often, and plan for too short a period; there is no awareness of
what sort of decision-making process is being used; and the frustrations and
anomie generated by the whole business mean that often decisions once made
are not kept, being forgotten or arbitrarily overruled by the turn of
events. The result is that all the other major strands of learning on the
At their best, peer planning meetings are time-limited, are
held not more than once a month, thus planning at least four weekly sessions
at one go; the group knows what sort of decision-making model it is using,
and chooses to use it intentionally; the group sticks to both the
decision-making model and the decisions it generates, and only modifies the
model or the decisions with awareness and with good reason. The result of
all this is that the other major strands of learning come on well together.
The primary facilitator has an important role in managing
peer planning meetings in the early stages so that participants can acquire
the appropriate skills. And the adequacy of the confluence of different
kinds of learning throughout the course really does depend dramatically on
these skills being acquired. So it is here that the political dimension and
the confluent dimension critically interact.
7. Tensions within a Holistic Learning System
Course participants need to learn within a single strand,
need to learn about the tensions between strands, and need to learn how to
manage this tension and balance the strands. Since different kinds of
learning are involved in the different strands, the challenge is
considerable. And it is beset by the paradox that participants need to be
integrated beings in order to balance the strands of learning, and yet the
purpose of balancing the strands is so that they may become integrated
Hence the key role of the facilitator in providing a
watching brief, being the guardian of the course prospectus, raising the
claims of those strands that are temporarily but improperly being neglected.
This interaction between facilitator hierarchy and peer parity is central to
the development of truly confluent learning and must now be considered.
Learning about the Political Dimension
This learning about each of the three sources of
decision-making in the course which I have in an earlier section called
hierarchical, peer and autonomous and about how they interact. Course
participants are concerned with this learning more from the peer
perspective, course facilitators more from the hierarchical perspective; and
both in their different ways from the autonomous perspective. Several
critical issues arise on IDHP courses.
1. Parity Too Soon
If a facilitator launches a group too quickly into peer
decision-making without any training in decision-making strategies and
without influential facilitation of the early rounds
of decision-making, then no real learning about the peer process takes place
- except negative learning about messy, ineffective and inconclusive
democracy, as mentioned in section 6 above. When this sort of thing has
happened on a course, then the facilitator has had to be encouraged by their
supervisors to exercise a more influential, hierarchical profile at a time
when otherwise they would have been relinquishing just such a profile.
Then again, if a facilitator does a good job in using
hierarchical influence to train people to bring into being an effective peer
decision-making process, but tries to do this in the shortest possible
responsible time so that she or he can join the peer group as an equal and
abandon any hierarchical status, then it can happen, and has happened, that
the result is pseudo-parity. This is because the facilitator has not taken
time out with the group to deal with transference and counter-transference
material between the facilitator and group members. This unprocessed
material sinks unnoticed into the group and distorts the political process.
The emotional material in the group traps the facilitator into the role of a
lurking hierarch, with everybody pretending it is not happening.
And transference on to the facilitator will be
increased to the degree that they facilitate a lot of personal growth work
in the early part of the course, as well as taking a leading role in
initiating people into the peer process.
2. The Hierarchy-Parity Paradox
The paradox we seem to be learning about is that it takes a
good hierarch -who is directive, structuring, confronting, facilitative,
enabling and supportive - to bring into being a good peer political process.
And that a healthy parity is sustained by being interdependent with a
healthy hierarch. So the facilitator does not abandon the hierarchical role;
but merely changes it from that of active initiator of the peer process, to
that of guardian of the course contract who intermittently raises the
consciousness of the peer group about issues and strands of learning that
are getting overlooked.
Of course, there is not really a paradox here at
all, but a systems view of political reality - that hierarchy, parity and
autonomy are all part of a learning community's decision-making process, and
have a changing and developing pattern of-interaction as the community
But what is important as parity comes to the fore, and the
hierarch recedes into a contract-guarding role, is that transference and
counter-transference material between facilitator and participants is
regularly brought up and dealt with, so that the developing political system
is not contaminated by unprocessed emotional distress.
3. Coming down the Curve
It has long been a tradition in IDHP courses that the
facilitator comes down a curve from hierarchy to parity. In the old days we
used perhaps to think-that the facilitator should seek to become an actual
peer among the participants, perhaps by the second term, certainly well
before the end of the first year. As we have just seen, this view is now
changing. It was politically naive and probably a defence against facing the
full subtleties of the changing pattern of the hierarchy-parity-autonomy
Nevertheless the facilitator still needs to cone down the
curve from a high profile to a lower profile, from a more prominent function
to a different and less prominent function. And it is still an open question
how steep or gradual this curve should be and over what period of time. We
need a cooperative inquiry involving several course facilitators and their
graduates who can review the whole process from their respective
standpoints; and perhaps propose a range of experimental models for the
curve that could be commended to future courses.
Aids to Learning
I do not think we provide enough aids to learning about
confluence and the political dimension on IDHP courses. Certainly
participants work on their emotional distress and this sets the scene for
more effective and more authentic learning within all the strands and about
But what we also