Using Integral Theory in the Classroom

Jack CrittendenArticle, Cognitive, Education, Education, Journal of Integral Theory & Practice Leave a Comment

The first part of this article discusses the need for the application of Integral Theory, a postdisciplinary model, to university and academic culture. It suggests that the academic culture must leap from an interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary model to a postdisciplinary view. By making such a leap, not only are various disciplines connected, they are also brought into an effective problem-solving relationship through the use of the four quadrants of Integral Theory.

The second section examines the need for and current status of character education. It uses the AQAL framework to outline an Integral Character Education, which not only includes inculcating values in an individual but also the requisite behaviors associated with those values, as well as the need to anchor them in social interaction and a common ethos. The article culminates in a discussion of how to make schools more democratic in order to encourage further development in students.


Anyone who is paying attention today to developments on college and university campuses, especially on the campuses of research universities, will see a groundswell of change. More scholars and administrators are talking about interdisciplinarity. While they refer to this in different ways—“interdisciplinarity” or “multidisciplinarity”—the direction is the same: away from discrete disciplines and toward projects and perspectives that combine, if not transcend, disciplines. This is certainly the case at my home institution Arizona State University (ASU). Over the past three years, ASU has created two new schools—the School of Life Sciences (which includes biology, botany, bioethics, science public policy, and other once-thriving departments now melded into one School) and the School of Global Studies (which involves international relations, religious studies, the Center of Religious Conflict, sociology, and much more). These Schools, as well multiple centers, are merging departments and programs. All of this is due to an emphasis on interdisciplinarity.

Whether this movement is a fad or a significant reform, a fashion or a transformation, remains to be seen. What is undeniable, however, is that the academy now realizes that many problems facing us as nations and as a species do not fall neatly, if at all, into discrete disciplines. If, for example, we wish to understand global environmental changes and how those will affect us, then we might start with climatology, but we need to take into account geography, geology, biology, chemistry, physics, politics, economics, anthropology, history, sociology, medicine, as well as recent hybrids such as biophysics, bioethics, biochemistry, and ecology. Scholars who study any problems of magnitude, and by that I also mean “significance,” cannot be content to sit in their academic silos adding whatever small piece to the puzzle they can. Instead, they need to get into serious academic conversation with scholars looking at the same phenomenon from different perspectives. Those perspectives then need to be integrated into a common evaluation of what is happening and how to proceed.

Jack Crittenden

About Jack Crittenden

In 1976 Jack Crittenden and Ken Wilber started ReVision, a journal of knowledge and consciousness. Several decades later Jack, as a founding member, helped Ken start the Integral Institute, and he currently serves on its Board of Directors. In between Jack earned a doctorate from Oxford University in political theory, which he has been teaching for over 25 years at Arizona State University.