A Transformative Approach to Higher Education
The Camphill Academy offers an educational approach that transcends traditional academic learning. All learning processes in the Camphill Academy emphasize field-based learning, embedded in the experience of community life as practiced in the Camphill Movement. They are rooted in rich and diverse practical experiences, which provide the driving force for the educational process and challenge students to ever further growth in personal capacities, practical skills, insight and understanding. Contemplative capacities are cultivated as an essential means for self-education and self-development, and the practice of the fine and performing arts permeates all aspects of the learning process, supporting and enhancing the development of practical skills, inter- and intrapersonal capacities, and conceptual knowledge.
Community life, organized around the ideals and principles of the Camphill Movement, provides an environment that supports personal growth and development on many levels. Much of this happens through informal processes, as a result of encounters with others of diverse backgrounds and abilities, the need to constantly co-create the social, economic and cultural fabric of the community and to find collaborative solutions to the issues that present themselves in daily life. Common celebrations and conflict resolution alike offer opportunities for growth and development, especially if they can be reflected on individually, or in dialogue with others. Students are expected to show initiative and become an integral and active part of all aspects of their community’s life.
Students begin to explore the practical dimensions of their field from day one and a strong emphasis on broadening and deepening practical exposure continues throughout their learning experience. As they progress through the program, students are asked to carry increasing degrees of responsibility within the work of their community, while continuing to receive support, feedback and guidance. The deep immersion in practice provides a real-life context for the development of insight and conceptual knowledge, with many learning experiences designed to build explicitly on students’ practical experiences. Students’ emerging practical capacities are a key component in assessing their progress in the programs.
By working with artistic practices, students develop refined capacities of perception for human and social processes, as well as the aesthetic sensibility needed to permeate all their actions with an artistic quality. Conscious reflection on the experiences that arise in the course of artistic practice, through dialogue or contemplation, leads to far-reaching insights and conceptual understanding. Engagement with artistic processes facilitates the development of new personal capacities, supporting self-education and self-development and providing a foundation for phenomenological research and inquiry into the nature of the human being.
The development of capacities for contemplative and meditative practice forms another central thread in the educational process. The ability to distill insight from experience is itself a contemplative faculty and stands at the heart of practice-integrated study. It is also central to the ongoing self-directed development of the reflective practitioner. In addition, transdisciplinary practice requires an inner mobility that allows the practitioner to move between different cognitive modalities, integrating sense perception, aesthetic sensibility, analytical and conceptual thinking, synthetic and imaginative thinking, moral intuition and practical imagination with faculties for creative action. This integration is accomplished through the cultivation of contemplative and meditative capacities.
Dialogue and Inquiry
In a learning process that is grounded in experience, new ideas are distilled from experience through a process of inquiry and reflection that is enhanced through dialogue with others. Ideas acquired from others, whether through conversation or reading, in turn become facilitators of new experiences, opening up new capacities of perception and action, raising awareness of aspects of reality hitherto unnoticed. Traditional academic practices, such as reading, writing, discussion and reflection on concepts and ideas remain an integral part of the educational process, though not as activities isolated from life experience, but as one side of a learning cycle that moves continuously between full immersion in life and conscious inquiry into its meaning, laws and processes. Thus, the entire learning process takes on the form of a reflective action-research project.
Supervision and Guidance of Experienced Practitioners
The learning experiences combine a range of different formats, including hands-on, self-directed and project-based learning, individual mentoring and supervision, retreats, workshops, studio art courses and traditional classroom-based courses. These different components weave together into a seamless whole, forming an educational experience that engages the whole person in a process of growth and transformation. This experience is inherently challenging, and the most significant steps are often accomplished through moments of crisis. To navigate this process, students have access to several layers of individualized guidance and support.