‘We Learned the Language of the Tree’ Ecovillages as Spaces of Place-Based Transformative Learning

Siri R. Pisters*, Hilkka Vihinen, Elisabete Figueiredo, Arjen E.J. Wals

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This article explores learning processes that underpin ecovillages as place based ‘sustainability initiatives’. Through the theoretical lens of place- based transformative learning (PBTL), developed in earlier work (Pisters et al., 2019, 2020), empirical data from life-story interviews and photovoice sessions from three ecovillages is analysed and discussed. The results support, illustrate and deepen the meaning of the four dimensions of the theoretical framework: connection to place, compassionate connection, creativity and transgression. They show how the co-existence of ‘community’ and ‘disruption’ is essential in PBTL where community brings connection, cohesion and stability to a change process whereas disruption paves the way for disrupting old structures and experiment with new ones. This article shows how a change in inner consciousness is related to alternative practices and structures that re-define relationships with ourselves, other humans and the material, more-than-human world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-83
JournalJournal of Transformative Education
Issue number1
Early online date22 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • consciousness
  • ecovillages
  • place
  • transformative learning
  • transgressive learning


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    Project: EU research project

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