Winter Counts as Transformative Inquiry The Role of Creative Imagery as an Expression of Adaptive Change

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Bozana, Iris, Koen, Simon Widler

Authors: N. R. G. Stranger, M. T. D. Tanaka, V. V. Tse, L. J. Starr

Publication Year: 2013


Journal: Complicity: An International Journal of Complexity and Education

Volume: 10

Issue: 1

Categories: Adaptive Cycle, Organizational Change, Adaptive Cycle


Pre-service teachers face a complex educational context and Transformative Inquiry is a useful approach for negotiating this terrain. Interpreting the development of the mindset of a students via the adaptive cycle put forth in panarchy theory as they engage in the inquiry process through ‘winter counts’, a Plains First Nation tradition, as expressions of their understanding. These image-based expressions demonstrate the emotional, mental, spiritual and physical movement students have made within their inquiry. Panarchy theory moves beyond interpreting systems using simplistic equilibrium models and acknowledging the more complex and dynamic set of equilibria that describes transformation in ecological, social, and economic systems and considers the multiple complexities of systems thinking while providing insight into how change occurs as a constantly adaptive cycle process. Used sparingly within social sciences until recently, we argue it as particularly relevant for seeing Transformative Inquiry through Indigenist and interconnected lenses.

Relevance: By introducing a simple indigenous practice, the winter counts, which give a deep insight of the mindset of the person creating it, the research demonstrates very clearly how every subject of the research adapts to the new situation they are brought into. The reader is able to connect this progress to his own experience of being brought into a new environment, as for example new studies, a new hometown or a new job which every person has gone through in his life. Using the subject’s winter counts and the personal experience of the reader, the model of panarchy displays the stages of the adaptive cycle and gives a deeper understanding of the process. Given this deeper understanding of using a single person to represent the adaptive progress, it gets easier to map this process to whole systems or in our case organizations, as each person in an organization goes through this change process as the whole organization itself does simultaneously.


Bozana, Iris, Koen, Simon Widler