RESEARCH : Research Themes

My scholarly research has evolved through several broad, overlapping phases. They all co-exist today.

Rudolf Steiner for the 21st Century

The Steiner/Waldorf education system was revolutionary when first founded in Germany in the early 20th century. I encountered Steiner’s futures-oriented education 40 years ago. As a professional psychologist-educator, I saw some Steiner schools constrained by dogmatism, contributing to academic marginalisation. As a young mother I did not want my children exposed to the serious flaws in mainstream education.

I recognised that Steiner Education had huge potential but needed updating. In the sub-tropical hills of Eastern Australia, I designed and founded an innovative Steiner School campus (kindergarten to year 8). The curriculum for students and for teacher education faithfully embraced Steiner's original vision. The campus operated successfully from 1985 to 1994.

I returned to academia in the mid-90s, committed to enabling Steiner education to be relevant to the 21st century. My Masters’ research on Australian Steiner Education (1997) and my PhD on Evolution of Consciousness (2008) are dialogues between Steiner's remarkable contributions and contemporary education and psychology research. (See Research).
My Book Series: Steiner Education for the 21st Century Vol. I, II & III will tell the full story. 

Global Youth Futures

During my Master’s research I became aware of the alarmingly high rates of youth suicide among young people (15 to 25) in Australia and other “developed countries” associated with increasing youth mental health problems. My youth futures research explores broad, global and sociological issues underlying the "global youth problematique.” My significant contribution to the psychological literature on "suicide and hopelessness" draws links with the futures studies literature pointing to dystopian mass media that creates a culture of hopelessness that our young people are struggling to navigate. During this period I published several peer-reviewed academic articles and co-edited the scholarly book Youth Futures. (See Publications)

Postformal Education

From the late 90’s I began to critique the entrenched industrial model of schooling and higher education increasingly dominated by managerialism, dehumanisation, and the audit culture. I called for holistic, postformal school education and integrated liberal higher education focused on higher-order ways of knowing, empowerment of young people and human and cultural potential. During this period, I published over two dozen peer-reviewed academic articles. I co-edited the book The University in Transformation and two special issues of the Elsevier journal Futures on the theme of “educational futures.” My book: Postformal Education: A Philosophy for Complex Futures consolidates my education philosophy, and life’s work.

Postformal Psychology & Global Mindset Change

Over the last decade or so, my most leading-edge research is directed to the domain of the new thinking that is needed to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. My doctoral research on the evolution of consciousness led me to discover the adult developmental psychology research (mostly in the USA) into higher stages of thinking called postformal reasoning. I have been exploring the implications of this for 21st century education and culture and for organisational futures. I have so far published over a dozen peer-reviewed academic articles and co-edited special issues of Futures and New Political Science on the broad theme of “Global Mindset Change.” My postformal psychology is human-centred and developmental, to be distinguished from techno-topian transhumanism and posthumanism. (See Publications)

Sustainable Futures: Cities, Climate & Oceans

In my broad-based futures studies research over the years, I have become increasingly aware and concerned about the state of the planet, our rapid urbanisation, and more recently climate crisis and ocean crisis. Through my position in the Global Cities Research Institute at RMIT University and the UN Global Compact Cities Program, my research focused on sustainable and post-industrial urban futures. As climate crisis has become more urgent and with it the plight of our oceans, I have turned my attention to these areas. See my most recent climate change article. My most recent book: The Future: A Very Short Introduction (OUP) deals with these issues, especially in Chapter 6: Grand Global Futures Challenges.
My ocean research is currently desk research, in support of the Oceanic Research Institute.