The systemic method as a tool for transformative learning

Does the systemic method fit in contemporary teaching in regular higher education? Based on our experiences and literature sources, we came to the conclusion that the method fits very well in contemporary higher education.

In teaching on leadership, teamwork and personal development, most attention is given to transformative learning. Next to informative learning (knowledge and skills) and formative learning (socialisation and values) transformational learning is teaching for change. Education based on this theory aims to challenge students to assess their value system and worldview. Core elements in this theory are: an individual experience , promoting critical reflection, dialogue (with yourself and others), holistic orientation (include affective and relational knowing besides rational knowing), and awareness of context. Zooming out and appreciation of the system is key: “Developing an awareness of context when fostering transformative learning is developing a deeper appreciation and understanding of the personal and socio-cultural factors that plan an influencing role in the process of transformative learning.”

The process of transformative learning starts with the learners experience. Through self-examination and reflection and by exploring options for new perspectives and new roles a transformation in believes, attitudes or entire perspective may take place. These elements of transformative learning match with the systemic approach. In the systemic constellation method an ‘issue’ is being visualised. This offers the learners a new experience with this issue and new perspective can be explored. A constellation gives a platform to literally take different perspectives and widens the view so more or other elements connected to the issue can been included. In the systemic process, learners can reflect on this experience by themselves, with a facilitator or as a group. It offers possibility for a shared experience and shared learning.

The systemic approach with the method of constellations is a valuable way for transformative learning. Our experiences with the method show that the method is also very feasible in an education setting. We are now on a journey to discover how the systemic approach can support transformative best and how it can be applied and integrated in medical education in the most suitable and effective way.


Arnold R, Prescher T. From Transformative Leadership to Transformative Learning. In: Laros A, Fuhr T, Taylor EW, editors. Transformative Learning Meets Bildung. Sense Publishers 2017.

Mezirow J, Taylor EW and associates. Transformative Learning in Practice. Insights from Community, Workplaces and Higher Education. John Wiley & Sons 2009.