Learning & Thinking 30 Credit

Planned 30-Credit Program in

Learning & Thinking

Not a degree or a certificate, this program is for teachers who would like to complete 30-credits beyond their master's degree.

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 individualand the ideas under consideration.


Oct. 25TH

CoHort Start Date
Dates: Oct 25th, 2019

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The Planned 30-Credit Program in Learning and Thinking is a 30-credit degree program that embraces a philosophy of education rooted in relationship, holism, and meaning. This program 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.

The Program'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…”

The Planned 30-Credit Program in Learning and Thinking Degree program has three major components:

1. Program participants are introduced to a critical examination of American education, with particular emphasis on the fact that the current model leaves students at a disadvantage that can only be remedied by a significant change in the way we structure and approach learning and thinking. What is needed today, more than ever, is a shift in the way we understand what today’s youth need in order to take a more participatory role in constructing their learning and developing competency in using the thinking skills requisite to become self-regulated learners.

2. The program offers educators a framework for real and effective educational transformation. This framework consists of a shift towards a more post-modern process and learner-based approach for education that, unlike the current “one size fits all” instructivist model, provides constructivist-learning opportunities for a diverse and unique population of learners.

3. The overall curriculum is based on a progressive postmodern framework and delivered in an articulated, scoped and sequenced series whereby the nature of learning and thinking is presented as a holistic, emergent and creative process. Therefore, the flow of the program emerges over time from the following premises:

  • Cognition is directly connected to our emotions and, as such, provides us with “windows” to better understand how we learn and think as creative subjects.

  • The postmodern educator challenges the traditional notion that classrooms need to operate according to the reason and logic of a rigid curriculum that predicts the learning outcome. Rather they recognize and promote learning by drawing from and building upon the insights of educational researchers like Howard Gardner, Lev Vygotsky, David Ausubel, Tony Wagner, Ken Robinson, Elliott Eisner amongst others.

  • 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 socio-physical learning environment in which they are embedded.

  • The postmodern framework offered here strives to contextualize learning by encouraging students to see and make connections and thus integrate learning in one area with that in another. This framework fosters the acquisition of higher reasoning, as well as critical and creative thinking abilities.

  • Furthermore, this system includes the inter-subjective exchanges that occur between all learners in their environment. Rather than viewing learning as a personal and subjective experience, a postmodern epistemology perceives learning as a social and intersubjective process. Learning, in this context, is as an emergent process predicated on the assumption that classrooms operate best when there is an element of dissonance and chaos issuing from the "sensitivity to the initial conditions" of the learning environment.

  • Individuals are unique learners with distinct prior experiences, propensities and conceptual schemas. Learners drive to create meaning as a result of interacting with others and their environment.

  • Our intentions, motivations, and personality emerge from an interaction between our inherited tendencies (Nature) and our experiences (Nurture). Over time the confluence of these tendencies and experiences give rise to a unique set of beliefs. However, many of our beliefs lie beneath our conscious awareness. Therefore, change and transformation of learners can only begin when we gain access to the origin of the memes, metaphors and myths that comprise our unique personal worldview.

The program is intended for:

-- Teachers and educators who wish to expand the boundaries of their professional knowledge and skills as well as explore new ways of learning and thinking and of relating with their students, which provide them with experiential learning opportunities that encourage them to develop not only their knowledge but also their self-awareness and life skills.

-- Women and men who are seeking the sources and processes of thinking, learning and creating meaning and wish to become members of a learning community that participates in experiential and constructivist activities designed to provide insight into the nature of the ways of knowing and conceptual frameworks underlying how they perceive, think and act.


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


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, Ph.D.


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 holds a vision of a peaceful, sustainable world. She is a peace educator and a participatory action researcher with a focus on empathy development. She teaches in universities, K-12 classrooms, homeless shelters, safe houses, and youth at risk, incorporating the arts as a means to give voice to the silenced, address injustice, foster understanding, and nurture compassion. Concerned with the growing epidemic of violence and bullying, Lisa has conducted numerous studies on the efficacy of humanitarian and social justice education as compared with existing programs on bullying; this has led her to advocate for mandated peace and conflict transformation curricula in all schools nationwide. A teaching artist for nearly two decades, Lisa blends story in its myriad forms—theatre, poetry, prose, storytelling, comic books, and graphic novels—with social justice and environmental concerns, and nurtures the development of creative activism and ecological stewardship. She is honored to be the first recipient of the Frank McCourt Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Currently, Lisa is on the Board of Directors of the National Peace Academy, and the Launch Team for the Global Sustainability Fellows program. She has served on numerous boards and committees statewide and nationally—from the Campaign to Establish a U.S. Department of Peace and Nonviolence to the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence: A Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Institute—designing, promoting, and implementing programs in nonviolence, ecological and sustainability education, literacy, and peacebuilding. Lisa is trained in a variety of mediation and dialogue techniques. Her doctorate is in Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies from Lancaster University in the U.K.  She continues to research methods for developing empathy, one of the most important skills for creating a compassionate global society.

Charles H Silverstein, Ph.D.


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).