Imaginal education is a whole-person approach to learning that creates a way to release the boundless potential of an individual or group, so it can act creatively. Educators see learning as an every moment reality, touching all dimensions of a person’s life. As Institute teachers began to develop image change curriculum, they researched and experimented with many approaches. LiDona Wagner writes stories of the beginnings of Imaginal Education in the 1960s as it was used with the Muskedoodler gang and 5th City Preschool in “Origins of Imaginal Education.”
As Imaginal Education was being developed, Kenneth Boulding’s Introduction to The Image (1956) (condensed version here) provided the framework for the curriculum with its five points of image change. Boulding says that behavior is based on the way people see themselves in the world: through self-perception, self-story, and self-image. In a visit Kenneth Boulding had with Denver ICA staff, he said he was surprised how well the Institute summarized his thinking into five principles.
When the ICA met David Cooperrider, he had written “Positive Image, Positive Action”. In this shorter version of his work, he highlights six areas of research on the role of image in society, including its influence in medicine, cognitive psychology, athletics and culture. In retelling the Pygmalion story, he wrote that “significant Pygmalion effects have been experimentally generated in as little time as fifteen minutes and have the apparent capacity to transform the course of a lifetime.”
Elise Packard, Miriam Patterson and Jane Stallman wrote The Evolving Resource of Imaginal Education: Releasing maximum potential of individuals, organizations, programs and communities. In their writing they describe: