Integral approach to education

Four QUADRANTS: behaviors (reading, writing etc)/ experiences (imagination, intuition, insights) / cultures (shared meaning, group values) / systems (program curriculum, rubrics, policies). They can also be seen as the various modes of interaction and ways of knowing the world


twelve commitments of IE


twelve ways of knowing

Four LEVELS: four general levels of altitude that occur in each of the quadrants (traditional, modern, postmodern, integral)


Wilber’s color chart

It is important for Integral educators to continually ask themselves how to teach in a way that could help their students transform vertically toward post-rational modes of being.

Kegan: five developmental levels: 2-6, 6-teens and teens & beyond, self-authoring, integral (being able to synthesize many different value systems)

Four LINES: While there are lines of development in all the quadrants, there are at least four main developmental lines within an individual’s interior that Integral Education should take into consideration: cognitive (objective reals, sensory input, perspective talking, interconnections between phenomena), emotional (subjective realm, feelings and impulses, sensations, phenomenological awareness), moral (intersubjective realm, interpersonal obligations, duty, compassion), and kinesthetic (somatic and physical realm, physical sensations, hand-eye coordination, bodily movement)

Four STATES: By working actively with various states, the transformative space of the classroom can be increased dramatically. gross-waking states that take physical reality as its object; subtle-dream states that takes the subtle realm as its object; causal-formless states that takes vast openness as its object. The fourth category is witnessing states, which can take any state as its object and witness it

Four TYPESsensory styles of learning/ personality styles of learning/ gender styles of learning/ preferred narrative styles of writing



Esbjörn-Hargens, S., 2007. Integral Teacher, Integral Students, Integral Classroom: Applying Integral Theory to Education. In AQAL: Journal of Integral Theory and Practice Vol 2, No. 2., pp. 72-103.

Image 01 available here, Image 02 available here, Image 03 available here

Integral Theory


Integral Theory

  • is a post-metaphysical approach to knowledge synthesis that is based on the AQAL (all-quadrant, all-level) framework, its five elements (quadrants, levels, lines, states, and types), and Integral Methodological Pluralism
  • provides a comprehensive means of integrating the four dimension-perspectives of objectivity, interobjectivity, subjectivity, and intersubjectivity with the major methodological families in such a way that avoids postulating pre-existing ontological structures/ IT assigns no ontological or epistemological priority to any of these elements because they co-arise and “tetra-mesh” simultaneously
  • is interested in the participatory relationship through which multiple ways of knowing the myriad dimensions of reality occurs through various methods of inquiry
  • is designed to offer an effective means to combine the best of both conventional and alternative approaches in a particular form of Integral Education/ it claims that if an approach to education excludes any of the following components, it falls short of a truly integral approach.
  • provides an effective template to design pedagogy, classroom activities, evaluations, courses and curriculum

ALL QUADRANTS: basic perspectives an individual can take on reality/ ALL LEVELS: occurrence of complexity within each dimension/ ALL LINES: the various distinct capacities that develop through each of these levels of complexity/ ALL STATES: temporary occurrence of any aspect of reality within the four quadrants/ ALL TYPES: refers to the variety of styles that aspects of reality assume in various domains.


References + Image

Esbjörn-Hargens, S., 2007. Integral Teacher, Integral Students, Integral Classroom: Applying Integral Theory to Education. In AQAL: Journal of Integral Theory and Practice Vol 2, No. 2., pp. 72-103.

Bricolage as a design methodology


Bricolage implies that :

  • design is in crisis: the standard social science methods are not well adapted to the new realities of global complexity which contains new concepts that they define, such as the “multiple“, the “distributed” and the “emotional“/ design research has relied on established methods from other disciplines however, it is not  about the variety of methods available as it is about the hegemonic and dominatory pretensions of certain versions or accounts of method/ some methods, although extremely good, fail to appropriate the ephemeral, the indefinite and the irregular/ educationally that has resulted in a refocusing on understanding how design can address social, economic and political issues; what kind of future world we want to live in/ understand-improve-apply the practice of design has become what is the nature of design? (Law + Urry)
  • designs is undisciplined: it has always had to draw knowledge from other disciplines, initially through a lack of existing subject knowledge and lately due to a refocusing on larger, more difficult social issues/ Buchanan: design is the last liberal art, meaning a discipline of thinking that may be shared to some degree by all men and women in their daily lives and is in turn mastered by a few people who practice the discipline with distinctive insight and sometimes advance it to new areas of innovative applications/ design acts as an agent of change due to design’s ability to synthesize understanding from the natural world with understanding of the human condition/ the SEVEN ROLES of the designer: facilitator-researcher-co-creator-communicator-strategist-capability builder-enterpreneur (Buchana, Banerjee, Fry)
  • design is maturing: the study of the discipline is scientifically based and the accumulated knowledge is subject to criticism/ the practice of the discipline is unrestricted as to the area of application/ both study and practice give active consideration to the social problems and ramifications/ there is a growing number of phds and a growing number of related journals and conferences/ design can only exist outside its disciplinary boundaries to be effective (Kernan)



Yee, J.S.R., Bremner, C., 2011. Methodological Bricolage – What does it tell us about Design? In Doctoral Design Education Conference, 23-25 May 2011, Hong Kong Polytechnic, Hong Kong, available here

Image available here

Knowledge and Design, 1972


Design proceeds by conjecture-analysis than by analysis-synthesis (…) if research is to make an impact on design it must influence designers at the pre-structuring and conjectural stages (…) regardless the quality of research work itself, the history of attempts to link research to improvements in environmental action is largely one of confusion and failure (…) there is a widespread feeling that an ‘applicability gap’ has developed between research and design (…) far from being removed from the field of science, the cognitive schemes by which we interpret the world and pre-structure our observations are increasingly seen to be the essential subject matter of science (…) we cannot escape from the fact that designers must, and do, pre-structure their problems in order to solve them (…) Popper: science could be contained within a hypothetico-deductive scheme/ Kuhn: science as a puzzle solving activity until the next paradigm switch/ Lakatos: science as conflicting sets of inter-related theories (…) the object of science is cognition (…) remaking cognition (…) SO FARthe role of scientific work is to provide factual information that can be assimilated into design; second that a rationalised design process, able to assimilate such information, would characteristically and necessarily proceed by decomposing a problem into its elements, adding an information content to each element drawn as far as possible from scientific work, and “synthesizing” a solution by means of a set of logical or procedural rules (…) design as we know it can be seen as the socially differentiated transformation of the reflexive cognition of the maker in terms of the latent possibilities of his tools, materials and object types. Its object is not the building, but at one remove, sets of instructions for the building (…) NOW: we can imagine a man and an object he will create as though separated by a space which is filled, on the one hand, with tools and raw materials which we can call his ‘instrumental set’, (or perhaps technological means) and on the other, a productive sequence or process by which an object may be realized (…) we would argue that design is essentially a matter of pre-structuring problems either by a knowledge of solution types or by a knowledge of the latencies of the instrumental set in relation to solution types, and that is why the process of design is resistant to the inductive-empiricist rationality so common in the field. A complete account of the designer’s operations during design, would still not tell us where the solution came from (…)  the polarization between rational and intuitive design should be reformulated as a polarity between reflexive design and non-reflexive design (…) four main types of elements: instrumental sets, solution types, codes and information (…) at this point of time a building is a climate modifier, a behavior modifier, a cultural modifier ad a resource modifier



Hillier, B., Musgrove, J., O’ Sullivan, P., 1972. Knowledge and Design. In William Mitchell (ed.), Environmental design: Research and Practice, edra3/ar8 conference, UCLA, January 1972

Image available here

Design with a capital D


RCA Report on the nature of design with a capital D

  • central concern is “the conception and realization of new things”
  • it encompasses the appreciation of “material culture” and the application of “the arts of planning, inventing, making and doing.”
  • at its core is the ‘language’ of ‘modelling’; it is possible to develop students’ aptitudes in this ‘language’, equivalent to aptitudes in the ‘language’ of the sciences – numeracy – and the ‘language’ of humanities – literacy
  • design has its own distinct ‘things to know, ways of knowing them, and ways of finding out about them’

Education in any of these ‘cultures’ entails the following three aspects:

  • the transmission of knowledge about a phenomenon of study
  • a training in the appropriate methods of enquiry
  • an initiation into the belief systems and values of the ‘culture’

If we contrast the sciences, the humanities, and design under each aspect, we may become clearer of what we mean by design, and what is particular to it.
the phenomenon of study in each culture is:

  • in the sciences: the natural world
  • in the humanities: human experience
  • in design: the man-made world

the appropriate methods in each culture are:

  • in the sciences: controlled experiment, classification, analysis
  • in the humanities: analogy, metaphor, criticism, evaluation
  • in design: modelling, pattern-formation, synthesis

the values of each culture are:

  • in the sciences: objectivity, rationality, neutrality, and a concern for ‘truth’
  • in the humanities: subjectivity, imagination, commitment, and a concern for ‘justice’
  • in design: practicality, ingenuity, empathy, and a concern for ‘appropriateness’

Perhaps it would be better to regard the ‘third culture’ as technology, rather than design (…) Technology involves a synthesis of knowledge and skills from both the sciences and the humanities, in the pursuit of practical tasks.



Cross, N., 1982. Designerly ways of knowling. In Design Studies, Vol. 3, no. 4 pp. 221-227

Image available here

Use of VLE for threshold concepts


First Year students/ 30 students – one tutor/ Phase One

collage workshop – evaluation of learning through anonymous post-it notes:

  • what did you grasp today? what’s still a bit confusing? (if a student didn’t understand something, however small and seemingly inconsequential, it would be
    heard (anonymously) and acted on.)
  • whose work did you find successful? ( to remind students that whilst their drawings grow from personal values and engagement, they succumb to the viewers’ interpretations)

collage workshop – online summary from the session was prepared

  • The online space of the VLE with content structured in the form of a tutorial session served to allow students to repeatedly go over moments of uncertainty or trouble from the workshop.

The demands of project based learning are rigorous: the need to generate elements of work continuously (or fear falling behind) puts pressure on students to sidestep conceptually difficult elements by creating works that seem correct yet do not demonstrate a grasp of the underlying principles

First Year students/ 30 students – one tutor/ Phase Two

learning orthographic projection – evaluation of mistakes & omissions

  • double approach: hand design and CAD design of the same process_images looked right but were not right in both design environments

learning orthographic projection – online tools for tutoring

  • fifteen minute podcast and sample sketchbook as online handout

Removing activities from the scheduled studio sessions offers a strategy for responding to a stuffed curriculum and frees up time to focus on elements of transformative learning



Williams, J., 2014. The design studio as liminal space. In Charrette 1(1) Summer 2014.

Image available here 

#The City we need


Twitter Chat with Roberto Rocco/ Tuesday 30.01, 14:00-15:00 (GMT +3). Extract from the brief:

The way in which planning and design are generally taught does not cater for the need to create sustainable, fair and inclusive cities. Many planning and design schools follow an old paradigm of architectural education that privileges individual genius and design creativity and do not prepare students to understand the implications of social, economic and environmental sustainability, spatial justice and the right to the city (…) This poses the question: what can spatial planning and design schools actually DO in order to help deliver the city we need? What do we need to teach, and how, in order to be able to deliver enlightened professionals who are able to work in a transdisciplinary way, incorporating grassroots participation and multiple stakeholders in planning and design processes that embrace complexity and are embedded in local social, political, economic and cultural landscapes?

Organization: The World Urban Campaign/ Image available here

Markus/Maver Route Map of the Design Process


Analysis involves the exploration of relationships, looking for patterns in the information available, and the classification of objectives. Analysis is the ordering and structuring of the problem. Synthesis on the other hand is characterized by an attempt to move forward and create a response to the problem – the generation of solutions. Appraisal involves the critical evaluation of suggested solutions against the objectives identified in the analysis phase.

A complete picture of design method requires both a ‘decision sequence’ and a ‘design process’ or ‘morphology’. They suggest that we need to go through the decision sequence of analysis, synthesis, appraisal and decision at increasingly detailed levels of the design process (stages 2, 3, 4 and 5 in the RIBA handbook) (…) Maps of the design process may need to allow for return loops from an activity to that preceding it (…) This accounts for the return loop in the Markus/Maver decision sequence from appraisal to synthesis, which in simple terms calls for the designer to have another idea since the previous one turned out to be inadequate.



Lawson, B., 2005. How Designers Think: The Design Process Demystified (4th ed.). Oxford: Architectural Press

Image available here

Critical Reflections on Schön’s Reflective Practitioner by Helena Webster



Schön’s failures:

  • there are other cognitive, affective and corporeal dimensions to learning that take place both within the studio and in other settings/ he produced notions of reflective practice at a time when there was a significant paradigm shift from “behavioral” and “cognitive” psychology to “humanist” and “situated” theories of learning.
  • students experience arch education as the sum of its explicit and hidden dimensions and it is this total experience that effects the development of students from novices to professional architects/ Schön confines his notion of student learning to formal pedagogic encounters
  • in his long explication of students’ encounters with design tutors suggests that the role of the design tutor is to ‘correct’ students’ designs, he fails to acknowledge that arch is a dynamic and contested field or the ramifications that this might have on the design tutorial interaction
  • Schön’s description of teaching is arguably akin to a teacher-centered model; described by the learning and teaching literature as a ‘transmission’ model of teaching/ Schön fails to recognise that Quist, as a representative of a particular institutional habitus, uses his power to direct Petra’s learning towards alignment with his normative habitus
  • the plausibility of temporal aspects of Schön’s concepts are also questionable: at what point does action become reflection-in-action and at what point does reflection-in-action stop and reflection-on-action start?

Today’s truths are constructed by cultural groups, Webster argues. There are struggles of power between the groups about the dominance of their particular truths. Architectural professional knowledge is constructed and contested both within and between groups. In this context presenting arch knowledge as unproblematic is odd.



Webster, H., 2008. Architectural Education after Schön: Cracks, Blurs, Boundaries and Beyond. In Journal for Education in the Built Environment, Vol. 3, Issue 2, December 2008 pp. 63-74 (12)

Image available here

How soon is now?


  • Real Virtual: virtual environments that represent the real world.
  • Virtual Augmented Real: use of ubiquitous augmented information systems connected to the real world objects (ie. GPS data, pilot’s line of sight measurement etc)
  • Real Augmented Virtual: information from the real world gets embedded into the virtual realm. (ie. Kinect Sports Video Game)
  • Fantastic Virtual: products of unrestrained imagination



Pak, B. Newton, C., Verbeke, J., 2012. Virtual Worlds and Architectural Education: A Typological Framework. In Proceedings of the 30th eCAADe Conference – Volume 1, Czech Technical University in Prague, Faculty of Architecture (Czech Republic) 12-14 September 2012, pp. 739-746.

Image available here

ZARCH Publication now available!


I am very pleased to see our articlePedagogical approaches to embodied topography: a workshop that unravels the hidden and imaginary landscapes of Elaionas,‘ get published in ZARCH Journal and I am also very happy to share this with you. It is based on a collaborative project that began in 2015 with Prof. Nelly Marda and Christos Kakalis from the University of Newcastle along with the students of our postgraduate course in NTUA.

The article highlights the importance of mapping in urban design and uses the concept of embodied topography to describe how activating the human body through a series of sensory motor tasks can help individuals immerse themselves in the landscape to acquire a better understanding of the urban phenomena. This process is presented here as a tool of mapping and managing the complexity of the urban landscape as it enables the individuals to recover the more hidden or even imaginary aspects of the city and their own relation to it.

As this is an ongoing research I hope that there will be plenty of opportunities to discuss what we are doing with more people involved in this kind of research in urban design. So, feel free to comment and write back your own experiences on the matter.

ZARCH: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Architecture and Urbanism, Num. 8, image available here