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I completed my Doctorate in Science and Sustainability Education at the University of California, Davis, USA in 2008.


My area of interest is the teaching of Permaculture in higher education. Specifically, I did a case study of the use of Action Learning by associates of Gaia University to study permaculture. This is the preface to my findings:



     It is wonderful that a great deal of learning takes place outside of school and tragic that so much of school takes place outside of learning. When it came time for me to chose a topic of investigation worthy of a dissertation I decided I wanted to research the best possible learning of my favorite discipline within the bounds of formal higher education. I was looking for a degree program in which students could initiate their own course of study – according to their own interests and needs. I wanted to find a university that supported its students in learning by doing. I sought a learning environment that challenged assumptions in ways that opened students up to new worlds of thought. I found Gaia University International’s (GUI) Action Learning-based (AL) degree in Integrative EcoSocial Design (IESD) a prime study case.


     At the request of Gaia University International’s founders I began my study by focusing on the emerging organizational structure of the school. I found that GUI had disposed of most of the conventions of a university education and decided instead to base their degree programs on an annual residential intensive workshop model. The implications for genuine learning were that students, called Associates, were given eleven months of the year to involve themselves in world-change projects in their own communities. I wondered how, with all this freedom, Associates managed to keep motivated to submit reports of their learning every six months. I found that GUI included a fledgling support system of advisors and Associates that aspired to be the vehicle to transport apprentice world-changers toward world-change success. Finally I was curious to know what it was like, not just to be enrolled in the university and have advisors checking in on you, but also to have transformative learning experiences through regular meetings with a group of peers. I found that the potential for Action Learning within GUI is high and may soon be realized in a genuinely meaningful form of university education. The following chapters detail: 1. The ways I decided what to research, 2. How I decided to relate my data to extant theories of education, 3. The methods I used to conduct the research and, 4. My major findings and conclusions. I close with some suggestions as to what GUI’s attempts at Action Learning imply for more conventional forms of higher education.


Please email me to request an electronic copy of the full dissertation.


One of Gaia University's founders, Andy Langford, also introduced me to the term Chaordic Design when explaining the design theory behind Gaia University. I like the idea of purposefully designing permaculture networks.






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