RESEARCH : Research Themes

Jennifer Gidley’s scholarly research has evolved through three broad, and somewhat overlapping, phases, with a fourth emerging.

Global Youth Futures

From1996 to 2005 Jennifer was concerned with 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. Jennifer’s research explores broader, global and sociological issues underlying the "global youth problematique.” Her 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 (see "An Intervention Targeting Hopelessness in Adolescents by Promoting Positive Future Images"). During this period she published several peer-reviewed academic articles and co-edited the scholarly book Youth Futures. (See Publications)

Postformal Education

In the second phase (1998 to current) Jennifer critiques the entrenched industrial model of schooling and higher education increasing dominated by managerialism and dehumanisation. She calls 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, she published over two dozen peer-reviewed academic articles. She co-edited the book The University in Transformation ( includes Spanish translation) and co-edited two special issues of the Elsevier journal Futures on the theme of “educational futures.” Her new book Postformal Education: A Philosophy for Complex Futures expands on her educational philosophy. (See Publications) (See Publications)

Postformal Psychology & Global Mindset Change

Since 2005 Jennifer's 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. Her doctoral research on the evolution of consciousness led to the discovery of adult developmental psychology research (mostly in the USA) into higher stages of thinking called postformal reasoning. She has been exploring the implications of this for 21st century education and culture and for organizational futures. She has so far published over a dozen peer-reviewed academic articles and has co-edited special issues of Futures and New Political Science on the broad theme of “Global Mindset Change.” She is currently working on an authored book in this area for the Integral Series (SUNY Press). (See Publications)

Sustainable Urban Futures

Since 2008, Jennifer has been undertaking research in this area through her position in the Global Cities Research Institute at RMIT and in her role as Cities Researcher in the UN Global Compact Cities Program. As part of this research she co-convened a workshop in Shanghai at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and presented a paper there (2010) on City Futures. She also did field research for the UN Global Compact in Berlin, Germany; and Plock, Poland, during 2012.

For details of publications from her research, see Publications tab.