Learning & Thinking Creatively explores the philosophy of education rooted in relationship, holism, and meaning that is predicated on establishing a new culture of learning needed for a world in constant flux.



The Master of Arts in Learning and Thinking (M.A.L.T.) is a 36-credit degree program that embraces a philosophy of education rooted in relationship, holism, and meaning. MALT is predicated on establishing a New Culture of Learning that develops the knowledge, skills, competencies, and imagination for a world in constant flux. Towards this end, the program nurtures the emergence of a collegial learning community dedicated to co-creating new meaning within a constructivist and transdisciplinary context.

MALT’s Postmodern Learning Model seeks to promote a New Culture of Learning through the following Six Central Themes:

  1. Promote meaningful and alternative approaches to learning and thinking that encourage what holistic educator Douglas Sloan refers to as insight-imagination. Sloan describes insight-imagination as “…an act of perception, permeated with intense energy and passion that penetrates and removes barriers in existing thought and frees the mind to serve in new ways and directions. Insight announces itself as a whole…that includes new forms of imagination and new orders of reason…”

  2. Redefine the role of "learner" and "teacher" as co-creators in the participative framework of learning and thinking.

  3. Transcend the current Western Modernist Mindset by adopting a new participatory worldview whereby learners promote, maintain and generate a dynamic process for meaningful learning and thinking.

  4. Tear down the artificial barriers to knowing we have come to refer to as "disciplines" and refocus our attention to the interpenetrating and interwoven processes that serve as common ground to all knowledge systems.

  5. Renew what it means to be a "teacher" whose role is to “draw out” natural inclinations and abilities, rather than “pour in” information. This new role of facilitator and coach promotes the active processing of information into knowledge and ultimately into understanding.

  6. Explore other dimensions of human experience: other than the logical and linguistic ways of knowing, including but not limited to those of Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences and five minds for the future, as well as Daniel Pink’s “right-brain” skills to foster the development of a new generation of creators who as “…artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers—will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys…”


Recent research findings conducted by neuroscientists, developmental psychologists and educational motivational theorists clearly demonstrate that learning and thinking processes need to be well integrated in order to enable students to transform information into real understanding. Therefore, teacher preparation courses and professional development for veteran educators need to evolve to provide today’s educators with the understanding and wherewithal to incorporate an experiential approach to learning and thinking into their classroom teaching and thus facilitate the aforementioned integration.

Cognitive systems involve not only learning and thinking processes but also emotional and consciousness ones. Cognitive systems are therefore “ecological” and holistic in their design and behavior. Learning and thinking may then be seen as “ecological” processes that create integrated relationships between reality and concepts, between concepts and other concepts and, as such, construct conceptual understanding.

Progressive educational researchers have concluded that meaningful learning and thinking consists of applying cognitive and metacognitive strategies, which challenge learners’ preconceived assumptions and level of conceptual understanding. Constructivist methodologies present learners with opportunities to reconstruct and reorganize previously acquired conceptual understanding in accommodating new knowledge into their existing world-view and, as such, promote “meaning making". Therefore meaningful learning and thinking processes foster the development of a unique and personalized relationship between the individual and the ideas under consideration.

Courses and Descriptions

The Sixth Year Certificate includes the following courses:

LT 501 The Western Mindset: Modern and Post-Modern Perspectives
LT 502 Cultural Perspectives and Personal Beliefs as Learning Modifiers
LT 504 Play and the Development of Learning Awareness
LT 505 A Constructivist’s Approach to Knowing and Creating Meaning
LT 506 Flow and the Emergence of Thought
LT 507 Learning Theories and Applications
LT 508 Knowing and Learning in Multidimensional Contexts
LT 510 Dialogue: Linguistic Learning Processes for Cognitive Development
LT 609 Self, Community and Culture: Interactive Learning Fields
LT 613 Enhancing Learning through Cognitive Assessment

Important Note: The Sixth Year Certificate was licensed by the Office of Higher Education (OHE) in September 2020. The Graduate Institute anticipates full accreditation by the OHE by September 2022. The Sixth Year Certificate will be awarded to students upon accreditation by the Office of Higher Education*

*students completing the program prior to accreditation will receive a transcript showing completion of 30 -credits. The Sixth Year Certificate will be awarded upon OHE accreditation.

The Master of Arts in Learning and Thinking includes the following courses:

​LT 501 The Western Mindset: Modern and Post-Modern Perspectives
LT 502 Cultural Perspectives and Personal Beliefs as Learning Modifiers
LT 504 Play and the Development of Learning Awareness
LT 505 A Constructivist’s Approach to Knowing and Creating Meaning
LT 506 Flow and the Emergence of Thought
LT 507 Learning Theories and Applications
LT 508 Knowing and Learning in Multidimensional Contexts
LT 509: Self, Community and Culture: Interactive Learning Fields
LT 510 Dialogue: Linguistic Learning Processes for Cognitive Development
LT 511: Mentorship: Expanding Learning Capacity across Disciplines
LT 512: Commencing Project: Analyzing Learning through Action Research
LT 513: Enhancing Learning through Cognitive Assessment

The Master of Arts in Learning & Thinking degree program is now approved as a Master of Arts degree for all PreK - through 12 educators by the Connecticut State Department of CT State Policy, C.G.S. 10-145b(g), based on providing the 15 - credit specialization in relevant content and/or content pedagogy.

Programs Offered:

Master of Arts: 36 Credits

Sixth-Year Certificate: 30 Credits


Tuition | Dates | Tuition Assistance | Bibliography

Academic Director

Jim Trifone, PhD - Academic Director

Jim Trifone holds a PhD in Education from the University of Lancaster, UK and has authored numerous publications and conducted workshop presentations at universities and National Conferences on concept mapping, motivation, constructivist teaching pedagogies in the United States and abroad. Jim brings more than forty years of classroom instruction as a public high school educator and twenty years of educational management to the Master of Arts in Learning and Thinking [MALT] degree program offered at The Graduate Institute in Bethany, Connecticut. As the Academic Director for the MALT degree program, he is responsible for creating and coordinating learning experiences that integrate the content and perspectives of the humanities, arts and the sciences. His passion lies in creating constructivist-learning experiences, which encourage his K-12 teachers to embrace the notion that learning itself is the mechanism of social and personal change in society.

Over the years Jim’s various publications have focused on learning strategies that foster students’ level of conceptual change learning, as well as motivation to learn. His doctoral dissertation revealed that one strategy for fostering conceptual change learning-concept mapping-is not only effective in enhancing students’ ability to develop a more meaningful and deeper conceptual understanding, but also a means to motivate students’ in becoming self-regulated learners. One of his major instructional goals is to encourage students to become capable, competent and motivated learners who are self-regulated learners. His passion lies in discovering strategies that effectively foster students’ active participation in their own learning processes for the expressed purpose of developing a conceptual understanding.

Jim’s extensive teaching experience and research studies have grounded him in adopting a “systems” approach to learning, knowing, thinking and teaching, which was central to creating and developing the MALT degree program. Towards this end, he views the role of “teacher” as one responsible in fostering students’ development of concepts and skills through active participation in constructing what they learn. Moreover, this perspective views “learner” and “teacher” as co-creators in the participatory framework of learning. Meaningful learning and thinking consists of applying cognitive and metacognitive learning strategies to hands-on and minds-on experiences that challenge preconceived assumptions and level of conceptual understanding.

In summary, as an educator, Jim strives to contextualize learning by encouraging students to see and make connections, thus integrating learning in one area with that in another. This framework fosters the acquisition of higher reasoning, as well as critical and creative thinking abilities. From this new perspective, the learner is not perceived as someone disconnected from the learning environment. Rather, the learner is a participatory member of a learning system comprised of the teacher, students and physical learning environment in which they are embedded.


Jeff Bens, MFA

Jeff Bens MFABiography

Professor and Chairman of English at Manhattanville College, Director of Manhattanville's Undergraduate Creative Writing Program and a Professor of graduate creative writing, Jeff Bens is the author of the novel “Albert, Himself” (Delphinium Books) and director of the award-winning documentary film “Fatman's.” His short fiction and essays are published widely. Jeff was a founding faculty member of the School of Filmmaking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and has served on film festival juries around the world.

Diana Boehnert, MFA


Art is a healing tool that connects the inner self with life experiences. It can promote wellness by reducing stress and allowing the imagination to transform our deepest emotions into meaningful images that release stressors and grant restoration. Expressive Art allows one to explore these experiences through a variety of expressive techniques (Journaling, Soul Collage, Mandala, Drawing, Face Casting) in order to investigate the mediums that best convey one’s personal experience. The visual dialogue that takes place may give new perspectives and alternate responses in life’s queries. Consider what these techniques might accomplish in the realm of your own experience. Formerly the Coordinator of the Art for Healing Program, Integrative Medicine Department of Hartford Hospital, a current instructor at the Graduate Institute. Former adjunct at Southern Connecticut State University, Manchester Community College and the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies. Ms Boehnert is an artist/teacher whose work has focused on the healing aspects of the creative process. She has facilitated Expressive Arts with individual patients and clients in the healthcare system and with groups of Teens at Risk, Domestic Violence/Thrivers and Cancer Survivors/Thrivers. With 45 years’ experience, she teaches, lectures, conducts workshops on fine art and expressive art related topics at various colleges, museums and conferences. Diana is available for private teaching and workshops that convey the expressive, healing and spiritual nature of visual communication.

Peter Concilio, CAS


After a career of than 34 years as a high school teacher and department chair in Language Arts and Film Studies in Weston, Connecticut, Peter retired to Vermont where he lectures on film and jazz studies in the Osher program at Dartmouth. He holds a Masters Degree from Niagara University. and a Certificate of Advanced Studies from Fairfield University. Peter has been involved in the production of both full-length fiction and documentary films. Peter is an accomplished jazz musician, directs a summer festival, and regularly performs with his jazz trio.

James Floman, PhD

James Floman PhDBiography

James is a postdoctoral Associate, Yale University, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, Yale Medical School. James earned his Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia studying how contemplative practices influence emotion regulation, compassion, and prosocial behavior in teachers with Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl. He also investigates the dynamic relationships between emotion and cognition and their influence on teaching and learning at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence with Dr. Marc Brackett.

Jessica Hoffman, PhD


Jessica is an associate research scientist at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. She serves as project director for RULER for high schools, which helps bring social-emotional learning to high school students and educators to promote safe, nurturing environments where students and educators can reach their full potential.

Jessica received her B.A. in psychology and sociology from Brandeis University, and her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in clinical psychology from Case Western Reserve University. Jessica specializes in working within school settings to develop creative interventions aimed at enhancing children’s creative thinking to promote adaptive coping and enhance mental health. Her current research focuses on the efficacy of RULER for high schools, including the impact of emotion skills instruction on school climate, creative problem solving, and emotion regulation ability.

Lisa Worth Huber, PhD

Lisa Worth Huber, PhDBiography

Visiting Faculty

Lisa Worth Huber is a specialist in community peace building and conflict transformation and has worked in diverse settings as a consultant, facilitator, and peace and justice educator.

Currently, Lisa serves as Chair on the Board of Directors for the National Peace Academy; serves on the Advisory Council for the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence; and is an adjunct professor in Sociology at Western Connecticut State University. Lisa designed and served as Academic Director for Connecticut's first accredited MA program in Conflict Transformation at The Graduate Institute, and was a member of the international Launch Team for the Global Sustainability Fellows program. Lisa is certified and trained in a variety of dialogue and peace building practices from restorative justice to Kingian nonviolence. She is a participatory action researcher with a focus on healing collective and personal trauma through narrative, and empathy development, one of the essential skills for creating a compassionate global society.

In addition, Lisa has been a teaching artist for over two decades, working in universities, K-12 classrooms, homeless shelters, safe houses, and other vulnerable communities. Along with teaching nonviolent and peace building programs, Lisa incorporates the arts as a means to give voice to the silenced, address injustice, nurture compassion and imagine new futures. Lisa blends story in its myriad forms with peace, humanitarian, social justice and environmental concerns, and nurtures the development of creative activism and ecological stewardship.

Charles H Silverstein, PhD

Charles SilversteinBiography

Charles H. Silverstein is dedicated to pursuing his deep interest in personal transformation, alternative healing, and the relationship between science and spirituality. He holds an MA degree in Conscious Evolution from TGI, and a PhD in Transformative Studies from the California Institute of Integral Studies. His research interests included higher stages of adult development, transformative practices, spiritual development and personal growth with an emphasis on meditative practices and somatic awareness. He had a 20-year career as an investment analyst and portfolio manager for a large institutional investment company, and was an educator in the fields of science and mathematics.


Mary Evelyn Tucker, PhD


Mary Evelyn Tucker is a Senior Lecturer and Research Scholar at Yale University where she has appointments in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies as well as the Divinity School and the Department of Religious Studies. She teaches in the joint MA program in religion and ecology and directs the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale with her husband, John Grim.​

Her special area of study is Asian religions. She received her Ph.D. from Columbia University in Japanese Confucianism. Since 1997 she has been a Research Associate at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard. Her Confucian publications include: Moral and Spiritual Cultivation in Japanese Neo-Confucianism and The Philosophy of Qi (Columbia University Press, 2007). With Tu Weiming she edited two volumes on Confucian Spirituality (Crossroad, 2003, 2004).​

Her concern for the growing environmental crisis, especially in Asia, led her to organize with John Grim a series of ten conferences on World Religions and Ecology at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard (1995-1998). Together they are series editors for the ten volumes from the conferences distributed by Harvard University Press. In this series she co-edited Buddhism and Ecology (Harvard, 1997), Confucianism and Ecology (Harvard, 1998), and Hinduism and Ecology (Harvard, 2000).



The innovative curriculum in the Master of Arts in Learning and Thinking will ignite your creativity and provide new pathways to enhance the art and science of your teaching. Course content is delivered holistically across each of the program’s class sessions.

TGI is also happy to make custom arrangements with school districts and other educational venues to offer specialized cohorts within the district with a minimum number of students. Contact Admissions at (203) 874-4252 or admissions@holisticperspectives.org to make a request for a cohort in your area.

Class topics include:

  • Movement and creativity as classroom tools

  • Mindsight learning: enhancing students’ information processing skills

  • Models for intellectual and ethical development

  • Reconnecting children to the aesthetics of nature

  • Flow: the psychology of optimal experience

LT 501: The Western Mindset: Modern and Post Modern Perspectives - 3 credits

From the pre-Cartesian/Kantian era through the evolution of scientific thought and the emergence of post-modern thought, this course traces the meta-cognitive processes for creating meaning. Various epistemological perspectives, including theories developed by Goethe, Hegel, Coleridge, and Emerson, are analyzed as foundational works upon which twentieth century epistemology has evolved. Program participants explore the phenomena of human insight, subjective interpretation of experience, and the dichotomy of perception vs. reality.

LT 502: Cultural Perspectives and Personal Beliefs as Learning Modifiers - 3 credits

The learner’s life experiences and cultural origins are examined for their impact on learning processes, behavioral outcomes, and social interactions. The cognitive frameworks for constructing knowledge and belief systems are examined, analyzed, and evaluated. Personal assumptions and perceptions are also examined in relationship to social, cultural, and religious influences. Belief structures are defined and analyzed relative to their impact on such self-generated phenomena as consciousness, intuition, and knowing. The discernible characteristics of the affective domain are also examined relative to their compatibility with inherent aesthetic systems. Both cognitive and affective processes are assessed in terms of their influence on the creation of meaning and the more ethereal creation of values.

LT 504: Play and the Development of Learning Awareness - 3 credits

The role of play in cognitive development, and its impact on formal learning processes are explored through experiential interactions. A comprehensive review of current research in applied learning and its concomitant influence on reading, linguistic development, intelligence, and the integration of consciousness serve as the framework for epistemological inquiry. Program participants explore selected in-depth theories in Consciousness Studies as connecting elements for viewing self-initiated changes in human processes.

LT 505: A Constructivist’s Approach to Knowing and Creating Meaning - 3 credits

The continuous modification and transmutation of cognitive frameworks are considered fundamental learning processes that evolve from personal epistemological structures. Knowledge and the constructivist perspectives upon which they are interpreted are examined relative to their impact on developmental learning. The construction of personal frameworks for effecting understanding are considered critical to the interpretation of experience and the creation of meaning. Reflection, cyclical re-evaluation of knowing, and the creation of meaning are analyzed as manifestations of the epistemological phenomena.

LT 506: Flow and the Emergence of Thought - 3 credits

The formulation of conceptual structures and the frameworks within which they are held are the subjects of analysis in this course. The focus is upon understanding the ongoing transitions that feed into continuous energy loops. Implicate and explicate perceptions and direct experiences are analyzed from the perspective of how feedback processes modify epistemological structural frameworks. Program participants are provided practical applications within the contextual framework of the Bohmian philosophy. This course is designed to enable program participants to construct an understanding of the subjective processes that promote the integration of experience into a coherent belief system. Participants analyze the concept of flow through the study of creativity, intentionality, serendipity, and intuition.

LT 507: Learning Theories and Applications - 3 credits

Dewey, Piaget, Inhelder, and other theoretical contributors enlighten this study of the theoretical frameworks that facilitate the development of a personal epistemology through the validation of authentic learning experiences. Program participants learn to analyze the cognitive processes that unify learning across multiple disciplines and frame content in context as precursors to discovering the elements of personal reality. Transdisciplinary perspectives are analyzed in their multiple interactions, and the evolutionary nature of knowing is revealed as a product of cognitive dissonance resolution.

LT 508: Knowing and Learning in Multidimensional Contexts - 3 credits

Work, and its informal iteration referred to as play, are analyzed as integrative forces in facilitating process thinking, and as factors through which contextual sequencing creates meaning from physical and non-physical realities. Knowing and learning in multidimensional contexts form the basis for studying individual consciousness. Relationships of sign and signifier are examined and assessed for their epistemic value. Together, work and play are viewed as integrative elements, and as concepts of consciousness which emerge in direct and concrete epistemic forms.

LT 509: Self, Community and Culture: Interactive Learning Fields - 3 credits

Various perceptions of being, as derived from the “spirit, mind, and body” to expressions of complex interactions, are examined relative to their contributions to the development of personal reality. Culture, in its multidimensional forms, is analyzed as the substrate upon which individuals generate persona and personal meaning. Social mores and folkways are examined relative to their impact on self, community and cultural development. The overarching goal of this course is to enable each participant to utilize a framework for exploration of the holonic relationship among the individual, culture, spirit, implicate and explicate contexts of experience, and the creation of meaning.

LT 510: Dialogue: Linguistic Learning Processes for Cognitive Development - 3 credits

The purpose of the course is to enable each participant to demonstrate a deep understanding of the epistemological processes that create personal meaning. Program participants develop the requisite knowledge, skills, and dispositions to effectively engage in Bohmian dialogue processes. Participants learn how to suspend belief of their own assumptions, perspectives, and metaphysical foundations in order to actively listen to and openly embrace the insights of others in an unconventional, non-judgmental and authentic way. Dialogue practiced in the style of Krishnamurti and David Bohm, are applied in clinic-like settings with well-trained facilitators. Imagery and visioning are also explored as functional elements of meditation, intention, inquiry, and energy applications.

LT 511: Mentorship: Expanding Learning Capacity across Disciplines - 3 credits

The mentorship experience expands students’ capacity for learning through authentic, real-world experiences and through on-site professional language development and application. Students experience learning through analysis, synthesis, interpretation, evaluation, and assessment of the mentor’s interaction with his/her clients and/or projects. The interactions inherent within various learning experiences, and the involvement in diverse structural frameworks of the mentors’ techniques, provide the foundation for epistemological transformations. Field work and case studies, within the mentorship and internship, are analyzed using self-evaluative protocols. Participants produce independent work products that reveal unique epistemological and ontological perspectives.

LT 512: Commencing Project: Analyzing Learning through Action Research - 3 credits

Independent study projects, individually designed by program participants under the tutelage of faculty and their Program Coordinators, provide the foundation upon which the Commencing Project is undertaken. Participants design and conduct a research investigation that focuses on some aspect of learning and thinking. The formal research project is then presented to the entire cohort for response and commentary, and is examined by a Juried Review Committee.

LT 513: Enhancing Learning through Cognitive Assessment - 3 credits

Enhancing learning through personal cognitive development and assessment of meta-cognitive and cognitive processes are qualitatively and quantitatively investigated as foundations for supporting personal learning goals. Assessment frameworks, instruments, techniques, templates, and philosophies are explored and analyzed for their value in facilitating program participants’ problem-solving and decision making processes. Personal assessments are based in two principles: 1) Assessment is deliberately designed to improve student performance, and 2) Assessment must help students systematically examine and self-correct performance, thereby enhancing the quality of their work. Students use rubrics to assess understanding, competency in writing, oral presentation, Bohmian dialogue and group discussion, Culminating/Commencing Project, E-portfolios, program-specific assignments, and the Product Anthology.

  Full course descriptions are available in our Catalog of Programs

LT 609 Self, Community and Culture: Interactive Learning Fields - 3 Credits

This course is devoted to the study of implementing a holistic pedagogy. Specifically, Colleagues will be presented with the state-of-the-art findings regarding how to view the learner, the teacher and the curriculum through the lens of a holistic pedagogy. A holistic pedagogy fosters the development of a unique and personalized relationship between the individual and the ideas and information under consideration. The course will provide experiential opportunities for learning how to cultivate a holistic and integrated understanding of subject matter. It will also serve to focus on how human diversity shapes the perceptions of the world.

LT 613 Enhancing Learning through Cognitive Assessment

Students will challenge the traditional notion that classrooms need to operate according to the reason and logic of a rigid curriculum that predicts the learning outcome. Students will explore process-based, constructivist learning and boundary-free learning models that encourage learners to take a personal and more meaningful approach to learning. Students will also review and investigate Bloom’s revised taxonomy, multiple intelligence theory, learning style theory, brain-based instruction and the most up to date research in holistic theory and pedagogy. Students will consider the three pillars of public education- Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment- and examine both state and national curriculum standards as they develop instructional plans designed to integrate holistic teaching practices and learning strategies in their classroom.