Lily Fessenden

Assistant Professor

Lily Fessenden

Lily teaches in the MS in Ecological Teaching and Learning Program. Her PhD in the Humanities focused on transformative learning and change and her dissertation was a cooperative inquiry exploring the experience of interbeing. That work resulted in a shift from theory to practice. Her current practice is chronicled in her LoveYou blog. She welcomes your participation.

She has also practiced transformative learning and change through homeschooling, teaching conflict management, and by serving on the boards of PeaceAction Maine, the Center for Consensual Democracy, and the Maine Earth Institute. She currently serves on the Planning Board for the Town of Searsmont, Maine, and is on the board of the Midcoast Conservancy.

She was faculty and executive director of the Geocommons College Program, a study abroad experience focused on communities working towards a sustainable future, and also directed the Northeast Initiative, an outreach program of The White Mountain School helping secondary schools integrate sustainability into their school improvement efforts. Her commitment to a just and sustainable future is evident in the courses she teaches and on the farm where she lives.

Education: BA, Bowdoin College; MA, Goddard College; PhD, California Institute for Integral Studies, San Francisco

Publications and Presentations

Fictional story Subversion and the Suburban Lawn was published in the spring 2009 issue of Hawk and Handsaw: Journal of Creative Sustainability. 

Journal of Pedagogy, Pluralism, and Practice: Toward a Participatory World View: Awakening to Our Interdependent Nature.

Her most recent presentations were Teaching About Just Sustainability: Experiencing the Urban Environment at the 12th International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic, and Social Sustainability (2016) and Teaching Action Research: Best Practices and Challenges and Inquiry into Teaching Action Research: A Collaborative Action Research Project at the 2015 conference of the Action Research Network of the Americas.

Philosophy of Education

There is no such thing as a neutral educational process. Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world. - Richard Shaull

I believe education is the practice of freedom. Freedom to discover the world and our relationship with it; freedom to make meaning from our experience as individuals and as communities; and freedom to be actively engaged in creation. To exercise these freedoms consciously and with purpose requires the development of the human capacities for communicative and emancipatory learning.

According to Jurgen Habermas communicative education is where we learn to develop values, resolve conflicts and manage complexity; and emancipatory learning helps us discover the false assumptions that shape our beliefs and our actions. Both of these capacities free us to become conscious participants in the evolutionary process. I believe that to develop this kind of education teachers must partner with students in a process, instead of transmitting static truths.

To experience learning as a dynamic process that responds to change, students and teachers must engage in cycles of knowledge, action and reflection. Knowledge is shared, people reflect on this information within the context of their own experience, and if empowered, act consciously on their new understanding. If this process is shared collectively, the group has the opportunity to utilize a diversity of experience and thought that can produce insights that might not arise on an individual basis. Learning becomes a lifelong process of experience reflected upon and integrated into new learning, a mode that is conscious of the relations between the inner experience and outer realities. This process can provoke an awareness that stimulates the imagination and makes possible a creative transformation of self and world.

My experience with the knowledge/action/reflection cycle has resulted in an ecological worldview. This perspective informs my pedagogy. Together with students I educate myself about the earth, learn to think about the problems we face and how to act on what we discover. This process deepens my understanding of what it means to be human and the essential relatedness that characterizes creation. It is education that is open-ended, generative and transformative. It fosters stewardship, citizenship and a concern for justice. Education as a dialogue makes possible a conscious exploration of self, society and the earth so that its members can become socially responsible actors in a democratic society and excellent ecological citizens. Creating the conditions for and participating in this dialogue is my life work.