Gopal Krishnamurthy, PhD
Director, Science Teacher Certification
Core Faculty, Environmental Studies and Sustainability
(PDF, new window)
“While our education policies, schools, and habits of teaching continue to be driven by political agendas and ideologies, today, despite the best efforts of our teachers, learning is critically endangered: its spirit tamed and tethered, its habitat shrunk, its resources depleted and its movement circumscribed” Gopal Krishnamurthy, (2015), Telegraph, UK.
My educational orientations are a passionate exploration of what does it take to reawaken our attention and to re-wild learning itself?
I am dedicated to the work of transforming and re-wilding the way teachers engage with teaching-learning (our own and that of our students and communities), curriculum design, and learning environments. My approach is grounded in observation. It invites inquiry. It facilitates direct engagement with scientific phenomena – so that it is the subject matter, rather than the textbook or lesson plan, that is the primary source of authority (e.g. Nature is the primary Teacher). This approach gets teachers themselves looking afresh at phenomena and leads to their seeing new ways to learn alongside students in how and what they observe, think, do, make, and discover. It entails navigating learning as a landscape, uncovering rather than covering a curriculum, and breaking new ground in making sense of the world. It includes making teachers and students into problem finders and problem changers, not just problem solvers. It employs and deploys ecologies of learning and teaching as research.
My work is in transformative education, teacher education, science teaching, and scientific inquiry through which I explore environmental studies. I am dedicated to transforming and re-wilding learning, curricula, and educational environments. My on-the-ground understanding of education draws from over 20 years of diverse teaching experiences in the USA, UK, and India and my work as Head of School at an international, non-profit, secondary school in England. I hold a BA (Hons) in Physics, MAs in Education and Philosophy, and a PhD in Education.
I am interested in ecologies of learning, transformative education, critical exploration, contemplative ecologies, situated learning, grounded theory, ethnography, context & interaction analysis, systems dynamics, school renewal, and teaching as research orientations.
My current teaching, research, and fieldwork holds the question and promise of what does it look like to relocate and reframe our educational, social, and environmental challenges so that solutions emerge from the careful reformulation of problems and questions?
“Do you know that even when you look at a tree and say: ‘This is an oak tree’, or ‘that is a banyan tree’, the naming of the tree, which is botanical knowledge, has conditioned your mind that the word comes between you and actually seeing the tree? To come to contact with the tree you have to put your hand on it and the word will not help you to touch it” Krishnamurti, J. (2010). Freedom from the known. (p. 20). London: Rider.
2012: PhD in Education. Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA.
2010: MA in Education, Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), USA.
2005 –2006: PhD student, Dept. of Philosophy, the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, USA Comparative (East-West) Philosophy and Philosophy for Children (P4C).
1998: MA in Philosophy, Colorado State University, USA. Studies in Symbolic Logic and Applied Ethics.
1992: BA (Honors), Major in Physics, The Open University, UK.
My interdisciplinary research (as participant-observer) reflects changes in my own perspective and actions and invites the readers in an active journey of transformation. I see the entire process of research including observation, study, hypothesis, data collection, analysis, inference, writing, and reading as transformative processes. My studies and explorations are grounded in the educational and practical work of students, teachers, and myself as agents of change. In this sense, my orientation includes the theorizing of practice. My publication summaries listed below instantiate my research orientations:
Krishnamurthy, G. (Forthcoming). Book version of Ph.D. dissertation “Gesturing Towards Teaching: A Teacher’s Narrative” (with close observation and description of visual and oral occurrences - consonant with a natural history approach) this study is an investigation of the conduct and consequences of situated teacher learning and educational transformation during a teacher education program that I conduct in India, the USA, and UK.
Krishnamurthy, G. (2019). Taking Mistakes: a mathematical tragicomedy, The New Educator, New York: Routledge. (Peer-reviewed). Combining mathematical content and dramatized narrative, this is a study based on a true story of what took place in my mathematics class and is of relevance to educational practitioners with regard to learning opportunities and contexts, teacher noticing and action, the construction and undoing of disability and selfhood, excellence and social justice in teaching, transformative teaching, and individual and cultural change.
Boxley, S., Krishnamurthy, G. & Ridgway, M. (2016). Learning Care for the Earth with Krishnamurti in Winograd, K. (Ed) Environmental Education in Times of Crisis: Children as Agents of Change in Nature and in Community, London: Routledge. (Book Chapter). Alongside Bill McKibben. This study considers transformative education rooted in place-based and experiential education, and innovations in curriculum, teaching, and learning with regard to environmental education.
Krishnamurthy, G. (2013). The Global Scope of a Local Response: School-in-a-box and the RIVER methodology, Knowledge Cultures, (Journal of Global Studies in Education), Addleton Academic Publishers, New York. (Peer-reviewed journal). In this ethnographic study of the design and development of a revolutionary and innovative community-based education program to make education available to monetarily poor communities in India and several other countries, I discuss literacy, culturally relevant curriculum development, the design of learning environments, local community involvement, global studies, and social justice.
My research interests echo the urgency of a world in crisis and our ethical imperative for effecting change towards an educational and vocational meritocracy for all, social and environmental justice, climate resilience, and a sustainable planet. I bring a keen interest in making the development of the Science Teacher Certification program and the scientific explorations, engagements, and activism of participants and collaborators (students, teachers, colleagues, and wider communities) itself the subject of inquiry and research.
Ecologies of learning, transformative education, critical exploration, contemplative ecologies, situated learning, grounded theory, ethnography, context & interaction analysis, systems dynamics, school renewal, and teaching as research orientations.
The following principles currently serve as injunctions that orient my teaching:
Principle 1: Pay close attention to everything and don't take anything for granted.
Principle 2: Unless you are just conveying information, do not meet or answer a question or problem on its own terms, since inquiry is not merely moving from question to answer to question, but questioning the questions themselves.
Principle 3: Disrupt any distinctions that perpetuate spurious dichotomies and divisions (e.g. between teaching and learning or disciplinary boundaries [science and poetry]).
When we teach ‘safely’, we proceed so that our core and oftentimes hidden beliefs about relevance, ability, intelligence, motivation, assessment, excellence, equity, teaching, learning, academics, subjects, school, practicality, and the so-called ‘real world’ are never fully called into doubt. We assume that we know a great many basic ‘truths’, and hence, teaching essentially involves a search for principles and practices that justify and apply these ‘truths’. When we teach with risk, however, we expose these foundational beliefs to the perils of inquiry. Everything is up for grabs: How can we uncover (rather than cover) a curriculum that creates and sustains a sense of wonder about the world that we inhabit? When and where is learning visible? Why school? When and where is teaching? My work holds the question and promise of: how can we learn to reframe and turn our educational, social, and environmental challenges on their heads and teach to disrupt the known, the familiar, the settled and taken for granted – so that solutions emerge from the careful relocation and reformulation of questions and problems?
Teaching is, for me, a vibrant learning experience. My classes advance ecologies of learning by engaging students in investigation and dialogue, application, reinforcement and consolidation, review, and assessment of learning. New content is connected and integrated with previous understandings. Oftentimes my classes bring students, teachers, and myself to a situation of “not knowing” and wonder - which calls for innovation, experimentation, and creative work.
I was nominated twice for university-wide outstanding teaching awards (including by faculty and students in the Environmental Studies Department) at the University of California Santa Barbara, USA. I am named alongside Noam Chomsky, Sylvia Ashton-Warner, Jonathan Kozol, Eleanor Duckworth, and others in elaborating liberationist views of education (page 20) Ayers, R., & Ayers, W. (2011). Teaching the Taboo: Courage and imagination in the classroom. 2nd Edition, New York, NY: Teachers College Press, Columbia University. In response, one of my Science Teacher Certification students asked, “this is all very well, but what does ‘elaborating liberationist views’ look like in the everyday moment-by-moment experience of teaching and learning”? I continue to cherish and explore this challenge and question.
I frequently use theater in playing out, challenging, and reframing teaching-learning situations. My teaching balances careful preparation for engagement with course material and the exploration of new ground as it emerges. Often, my classes are fun, exhilarating, productively frustrating, and certainly challenging.