© 2016

Postformal Education

A Philosophy for Complex Futures


Part of the Critical Studies of Education book series (CSOE, volume 3)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxiv
  2. Jennifer M. Gidley
    Pages 1-13
  3. An Evolutionary Approach to Education

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 15-15
    2. Jennifer M. Gidley
      Pages 17-44
    3. Jennifer M. Gidley
      Pages 45-69
    4. Jennifer M. Gidley
      Pages 71-98
  4. Postformal Psychology and Education: A Dialogue

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 99-99
    2. Jennifer M. Gidley
      Pages 157-186
  5. An Evolving Postformal Education Philosophy

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 187-187
    2. Jennifer M. Gidley
      Pages 189-206
    3. Jennifer M. Gidley
      Pages 207-227
    4. Jennifer M. Gidley
      Pages 229-247
    5. Jennifer M. Gidley
      Pages 249-267
    6. Jennifer M. Gidley
      Pages 269-271
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 273-291

About this book


This book explains why the current education model, which was developed in the 19th century to meet the needs of industrial expansion, is obsolete. It points to the need for a new approach to education designed to prepare young people for global uncertainty, accelerating change and unprecedented complexity.The book offers a new educational philosophy to awaken the creative, big-picture and long-term thinking that will help equip students to face tomorrow’s challenges. Inside, readers will find a dialogue between adult developmental psychology research on higher stages of reasoning and today’s most evolved education research and practice. This dialogue reveals surprising links between play and wisdom, imagination and ecology, holism and love. The overwhelming issues of global climate crisis, growing economic disparity and the youth mental health epidemic reveal how dramatically the current education model has failed students and educators. This book raises a planet-wide call to deeply question how we actually think and how we must educate. It articulates a postformal education philosophy as a foundation for educational futures.The book will appeal to educators, educational philosophers, pre-service teacher educators, educational and developmental psychologists and educational researchers, including postgraduates with an interest in transformational educational theories designed for the complexity of the 21st century. 

This is the most compelling book on education I have read for many years. It has major implications for all who are in a position to influence developments in teacher education and educational policy. Gidley is one of the very rare scholars who can write intelligently and accessibly about the past, present and future in education. I was challenged and ultimately convinced by her contention that ‘what masquerades as education today must be seen for what it is – an anachronistic relic of the industrial past’. Gidley’s challenge is to ‘co-evolve’ a radically new education. All who seek to play a part must read this book. 

Brian J. Caldwell, PhD, Educational Transformations, former Dean of Education at the University of Melbourne and Deputy Chair, Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA)


postformal education postformal psychology evolution of consciousness postformal pedagogies evolutionary pedagogies critical pedagogy critical studies alternative education educational futures

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Sustainable FuturesUniversity of Technology SydneyUltimoAustralia

Bibliographic information


“This is a Very Important Book; the reader gets an early sense that this is one of those books that takes itself really seriously, throws a massive arc in terms of content and purpose, and is out to change the world. In short, Jennifer Gidley is on a mission and Postformal Education is her manifesto.” (Giles Barrow, Pastoral Care in Education, February, 2019)

“This offers the readers the possibility of a radical change in their thoughts about education, from solid theories that open new ways of thinking the education of children and young people in the face of a proposal of a postformal education. … Gidley's commitment to writing a work that is transformative stands out. … the book is recommended to all those interested in philosophy of education, developmental psychology and education professionals … .” (Everton M. Batisteti, REMIE: Multidisciplinary Journal of Educational Research, Vol. 18 (1), February, 2018)

“It is tremendously exciting to connect with education in this “zone” and indeed moments of deep fascination and stimulating speculations have accompanied my reading of this book. … Altogether the ambition of this volume is enormous. … It is an important book for the rarity of its subject matter and ought to be paid attention.” (Helen E. Lees, Other Education - The Journal of Educational Alternatives, Vol. 7 (1), 2018)

“Few books offer such a broad scope of transdisciplinary scholarship, nor attempt to defend an education which takes aim at ‘planet-sized’ problems. Postformal Education: A Philosophy for Complex Futures is such a book. … this text represents a timely wake up call for universities and university scholars to consider what these orthodox institutions could learn from risking engagement with the peripheries.” (Daniella J. Forster, Policy Futures in Education, June, 2017)

“This book synthesizes an extraordinary wealth of research and educational philosophy. … we have rigorous research from philosophers, scientists, psychologists, educators, sociologists, all drawn together in this far reaching book. … Everyone interested in a better future should read this book.” (David K. Scott, Research Bulletin, Vol. 22 (1), 2017) 

“Jennifer Gidley has produced a work that repays studying. … It is a book to stir up our thinking and the education system.” (Phil Hadridge, Foresight, Vol. 19 (1), 2017)

“I believe it may be most appropriate for researchers, academics and post-graduate students in education, consciousness and cultural studies. Accordingly, Gidley’s new book is a welcome addition to existing educational literature that is focused on forward thinking, sustainability and innovation … .” (Marian de Souza, International Journal of Children's Spirituality, Vol. 22 (2), April, 2017)

“The book will appeal to educational philosophers and researchers, educators and teachers, developmental and educational psychologists, educational administrators, and anyone else with interest in transformative educational theories designed for the 21st century. … [Gidley] joins the chorus of voices calling for a planet-wide call to action to transform education and makes a distinct, inspiring, and significant contribution.” (Gabrielle Donnelly, Journal of Transformative Education, Vol. 15 (4), 2017)

“Material that Jennifer Gidley has marshalled and organised into this book is positively breathtaking. If you are looking for a book which gives as thorough a survey of the global educational landscape as could be wished for, you need look no further. … if you are trying to work creatively in education and you want to know who your allies are in the fight against the ‘audit culture’ of modern factory-style education, then you need to read this book.” (Norman Skillen, RoSE - Research on Steiner Education, Vol. 8 (1), 2017)