How to Connect with Your Students: An Integral Approach to Higher Education

Mark FischlerCognitive, Education, Education, Interpersonal, Journal of Integral Theory & Practice


This article explores why focusing on the subject matter alone in the student/teacher relationship is a restrictive and non-comprehensive approach to higher education. Such a narrowly focused relationship seems to impede the overall health and development of both the teacher and student. The process of avoiding so much of our lives “to teach” leaves many dissatisfied and thirsting for something deeper and more whole. To move beyond the limited pedagogical approach, I will outline a comprehensive approach to higher education by utilizing the AQAL model as developed by Ken Wilber. This article will focus on one aspect of the AQAL model, the quadrants, and will consider their potential benefits in helping teachers connect better with ourselves, students, and the world.

Introduction: Making Your Subject Whole

Last year, a colleague called and told me that a student was killed in a motorcycle accident. I felt deeply sad as I contemplated the student’s short life and those he had left behind. It was then that I awoke to the fact that the subject I teach is not entirely separate from my interior experience.

Our interiors affect how we teach and how we learn. Death is not a topic directly related to the subject matter I teach, and yet many of my students were affected by this student’s death. Should I go there with them or not? Should I dare to talk about issues that affect us, affect our learning, our being and our doing, even if they are not the assigned subject matter? Why would I dare? What is the benefit? How would I approach such an endeavor?

Mark Fischler

About Mark Fischler

Mark Fischler is a Professor of Criminal justice and current program coordinator for the criminal justice and criminology programs at Plymouth State University. Prior to joining the Plymouth State faculty, he practiced law, representing poor criminal defendants for the New Hampshire Public Defender’s Office. Mark has worked extensively with alternative theoretical models in law, constitutional law, and higher education, and has published on integral applications to teaching, being a lawyer, and legal theory. His focus in the classroom is ethics and criminal procedure, and is well respected for a teaching philosophy that emphasizes recognizing the humanity and dignity of each student. Professor Fischler was awarded the outstanding teaching award at his university in 2014. He currently offers a weekly Spiritual Inquiry class through Satya Yoga Studio.