Salutogenic Perspectives on Lifelong Learning

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Firm Learning:
Salutogenic Perspectives on Lifelong Learning
as a way towards cultivating
Organised Sustainable Prosperity and Well-being
of Learning Organisations and their People

This Version by André S Clements, here
Unisa School of Management Sciences, allergy
Industrial Psychology – Human Capacity Development (HCD)
Assignment 3: Becoming a Learning Organisation.


- Salutogenic Orientation : Aiming at Optimal Well-being
    Well-being : A Sense of Coherence
    Confident Well-being
- Integral Competence : Towards a Paradigm of Holistic and Able Effective Force
    People Power
    The Integral Paradigm
- Partagogy : The Science of Bringing the Pieces Together
    The Gamut of human behaviour
    An Expansive Upward Spiral
Involvement for Recursion
    Pragmatics of Partagogy
- The Learning Organisation
    Expansive Capacity
    Adaptive and Generative Rewards


Our future is an immanent picture
painted by our dance with the present,
sculpted from our dialogue with change.



It may be argued that much of the current focus on ethical and ecological issues surrounding industry is predominantly (focused) on the harmful (pathological) aspects of organised industry; such as pollution, corruption, large-scale economic disempowerment and the digital divide. The importance of taking cognisance of these issues cannot be understated. It is also however, important to look at the situation from the opposite perspective, that is, from a Salutogenic orientation. In other words with a focus on the creation of well-being by looking at successful coping strategies and health which will also yield solutions to many current challenges.

This approach may well be likened to the “keep your eye on the ball” notion, essentially attempting to map a course to desirable outcomes instead of merely “putting out fires”. Much of the theory of Salutogenesis can be successfully translated from the neurology and medical sociology fields where the terms and concepts were coined into fields such Human Capacity Development (HCD). Salutogenesis advances the idea that optimal well-being is anchored in what may be called a Sense of Coherence (SOC). A SOC is the result of high degrees of Meaningfulness, Manageability and Comprehensibility. It is clear that these factors are influenced by a wide array of dynamics in the individual, and when transposed into the organisational context even more so. This learner argues that the holistic well being of the individual, an organisation and society as a whole, requires the augmentation of Sensibilities, Abilities, Values, Vision, Integration and You, or SAVVI/Y, which can also be termed integral competence.

The intensity and acceleration of change in the contemporary global context suggests that any attempt to acquire integral competence should be a fluid responsive process. It also suggests that there are no one-stop quick fixes, rather, what is called for is an on-going process of attuning to the requirements of well-being or life-long learning. Life-long learning is arguably the only route through which the individual can achieve permanent experience of fulfilment and happiness, an organisation can achieve commercial progress and stability, and society can build towards a harmonious sustainable future.

The development and augmentation of integral competence across the scale from the micro level in the individual person through to the macro level of global collaboration, as a continuous process should be the purpose of lifelong learning. Implementing and managing this process is the key to developing learning organisations and it is specifically the role of the HCD Practitioner to communicate, facilitate and support this process in a responsible and efficient manner. The process requires a certain investment to be efficient. Two critical components of this investment are attention and involvement, which should be applied across the key domains of Partagogy. The HCD practitioner can play a significant role in the strategic formulation, maintenance and management of the learning organisation and towards the ultimate goal of a sustainable collective learning society.

Beyond the immediate rewards and direct returns on the investment of Commerce and Civic- driven organisations in becoming learning organisations – such as increased strategic advantage in the contexts of globalisation, accelerating change and legislation – lies the additional promise that they can, and indeed should become, the agents and facilitators of our collective sustainable future.

Salutogenic Orientation: Aiming at Optimal Well-being

“Salus”: Preservation and Prosperity

Aaron Antonovsky coined the term "salutogenesis" in 1979 rooting it in the Latin concept of “salus” which means health, well-being, preservation, safety and prosperity. The salutogenic model focuses on the causes of global well-being rather than reasons for specific harmful and degenerative processes. Antonovsky advocates a holistic approach emphasising the need to take note of all relevant perspectives such as the social or historical context of people in order to understand the broader picture. From that vantage point it seeks to identify the forces that promote order and influences a person positively. It is this holistic slant that makes Salutogenisis relevant to a wide variety of fields including HCD.

Well-being is seen as a process in flux that is negotiated by people throughout their lifetimes and thus relies on the timely “updating” of the necessary capacities – which is only possible if a life-long process of learning is engaged with.

Well-being : A Sense of Coherence

Antonovsky argues that the experience of well-being constitutes a Sense of Coherence (SOC). This is the result the collective effect of resources and processes conducive to health. Furthermore, the view is held, that there is a direct relationship between the strength of SOC and peoples’ abilities to employ cognitive, affective and instrumental strategies likely to improve coping and thereby well-being. Antonovsky identifies three inherent prerequisites that determine a person’s abilities to cope, these are: ·

  • Meaningfulness : The profound emotive experience of life as making sense and thus coping being desirable
  • Manageability : The recognition of the resources required to meet the demands and a willingness to search them out ·
  • Comprehensibility: The conceptual perception of the world being understandable, meaningful, orderly and consistent rather than chaotic, random and unpredictable.

Confident Well-being

DF Smith in "Functional salutogenic mechanisms of the brain: Perspectives in Biology and Medicine “2002;45(3):319-28 supports this model noting that the result of a salutogenic brain is “… a self-perpetuating cycle for enhancing self-confidence and well-being."

An individual will typically only attempt activities for which he or she possesses acceptable levels of confidence, and confidence also has a direct impact on the conviction with which activities are executed. The impact of the confidence resultant from a healthy SOC thus has direct bearing on the quality of life of- as well as the quality of contribution, a individual can make in the contexts of organisations and society.


Factors that support and nurture the prerequisites of SOC include the phenomena of social support, spirituality, happiness, humour, and love. This learner proposes an acronym to summarise the requirements of a SOC in a catch phrase that will be as memorable and as accessible as possible to a broad a range of HCD subjects, it is SAVVi/Y standing for:

  • Sensibilities : Make sense of- and understand life situations and contexts
  • Abilities : Acquire and hone the relevant skills
  • Values : Appreciate virtues and integrity
  • Vision : Focus on the most desirable outcome
  • Integration : Find harmony in ever greater contexts
  • You : Make it your own personal reality and commitment

The above constitutes the concept of integral competence.

Integral Competence : Towards a Paradigm of Holistic and Able Effective Force

People Power

It is not uncommon to hear mention of the importance of ‘people’ in conversations up and down the corridors of business or politics. But what exactly is it about people that is so important, and why?

Part of the value that individual human beings offer could be described as resourcefulness. Resourcefulness, whether it be in terms of professional competence, productive capacity or any other resource utilised for the sake of business or the relevant organisation is inextricably linked to and affected by the rest of that individual’s life.

The Integral Paradigm

In “The Web of Life”, Capra beautifully summarises life as a phenomena of vastly complex and intricate systems and processes of interacting networks of systems, constantly evolving towards apparently ever increasing complexity. It is in the face of this complexity that the human being offers his or her resourcefulness – the ability to be an intelligent and influential agent. As with most processes, being intelligent and influential requires certain resources and catalysts and an important part of Capra’s contribution is his argument for a multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary approach.

Indeed this argument appears to be a central theme in the evolution of our contemporary paradigm. Exponents of this paradigm include Covey, Senge, Capra, Wilber, Beck and Cowen. From an academic learning perspective it is important to realise that the requirements for competence exist independently of our theories and science, rather, our theories and sciences constitute attempts at discovering, understanding and managing these requirements whilst reflecting our condition. Thus it is important for the HCD practitioner as well as the scientist or academic not to become bogged down in the semantics of the latest or most popular theory or teaching, but to aim rather at finding understanding of- and sensitivity to- the riches and complexities of Human Capacity and its development.

Both Senge and Wilber go to great lengths lamenting the destructive nature of the fragmentary nature of our heritage from the industrial age paradigm, and especially the fragmentation between ethical life and economic success.

Integral Competence, whether of the individual or of a group or system of individuals, can be defined as the power, ability, readiness and skill required to interact with existing and probable situations in ways that are in integrity with the values and healthiest interests of the human(s) and their larger context.

Wilber does a sterling job of investigating and formulating a cognitive model of the entire spectrum of human development and begins to map the inter-relationships of various capacities in this context. It is interesting to note the emergence of a quantum-paradigm in his as well as Capra, Graves, Beck and Cowen’s material, a paradigm which acknowledges simultaneous, yet different and often apparently disparate characteristics of various phenomena. For example, Wilber’s Cartesian grid framework of conceptual paradigms, at first glance appears to be a flat-structure, egalitarian model, yet it does not require a huge amount of imagination to see it as a hierarchy such as that of Maslow, Graves or Beck, where the subjective context is the seed of the objective, that the seed of the inter-subjective, which forms the seed or core of the inter-objective. The emergent paradigm sees this apparent structure but recognises both the autonomous wholeness and interdependence of each unit and thus describes it as a holarchy – a structure of wholes – and recognizes that top and bottom is a matter of perspective.

This paradigm suggests that the HCD practitioner should be able to identify beneficial capabilities and also ways that human beings and their organisations may develop well-rounded balanced repertoires of capabilities in response to their ever changing environments with relevance to their condition. This implies a continuous and more precisely a recursive process where-in it is recognized that the present is forever inextricably linked to the past, and most importantly to the future. Thus the HCD practitioner should be concerned with aspects across the entire arena of continuous human development, in other words the entire integral framework:

  • Subjective: The individual’s inner development including aspects such as experiential, emotional, intellectual and spiritual well-being.
  • Objective: The effectiveness and validity of skills, processes, qualifications etc.
  • Inter-Subjective: The socio-cultural parameters of the learner’s situation
  • Inter-Objective: The structural-functionalist broad context dynamics and issues involved.

The HCD practitioner should aim to continually develop the ability to discriminate the most relevant and beneficial ways to maintain and develop these various capacities and should facilitate individuals and organisations in recognising the advantages of such development and aid in identifying and utilising opportunities for such development, thus accessing the most appropriate participation opportunities as per Levinger’s theoretical model of Partagogy.

Partagogy : The Science of Bringing the Pieces Together

The Gamut (Note 1) of human behaviour

The discipline of partagogy as set forth by B Levinger focuses on four core domains of human behaviour and national development, namely:

  • Family Life (Note 2)
  • Livelihood
  • Civic Affairs
  • Environmental stewardship

An Expansive Upward Spiral

The ideal of HCD in the context of Partagogy is instigating and nurturing skills, knowledge and behaviours that are of benefit to the individual an society. Levinger uses the conceptual model of an ‘ever-broadening upward spiral’, similar to the Spiral Dynamics model presented by Beck and Cowen, which also focuses on the developmental value structures of societies and individuals. Beck and Cowen’s focus is of a more socio-psychological theory nature than Levinger’s pragmatic approach, however through their use of v-memes, or value-memes and related theory they are arguing for similar ends and the two theories do to a large extent vindicate each other’s viewpoints. An important similarity is the view that individuals respond to opportunities in their environment, society, based on their existing capacities, which are then modified by the interaction. This begins to suggest the merits of an iterative, specifically recursive approach, to learning across the lifespan.


Indeed Levinger’s theoretical presentation and proposed methodology is strong in this aspect. The theory of Partagogy highlights the fluid nature of Human capacity, in its development, and perhaps by implication also its decline, through the availability and access of participation opportunities. The settings and situations of fruitful action constantly change, yet constantly define the parameter of future opportunities. Three inter-related issues influencing the formulation and success of participation opportunities are highlighted in each life stage. They are:

  • Design
  • Implementation
  • Monitoring and Evaluation

Each of these components can and should have influence over the others through formulation and feedback. Further-more the significance of the experience and nature of transitions between the various life-stages is noted. This approach argues for equitable empowering individual across the entire demographic range to:

Acquire knowledge content relevant to the participation opportunity · Use dynamic collaborative interaction styles · Maximise cognitive strategies towards successfully usable retention and meta-cognition

Attention, Involvement for Recursion

Partagogy views HCD as the result of participation opportunities that are both available and successfully accessed. It stands to reason that those participation opportunities that are available, but that individuals are not aware of, or the benefits of which individuals are not aware of, will not be accessed. There is a shared responsibility between the individual and the agent of HCD to seek out and familiarise themselves with relevant participation opportunities, in other words HCD firstly requires Attention.

As HCD is only the result of appropriate active participation in participation opportunities it is clear that the level of involvement is very important. This underscores the importance of the appropriate style of interaction as well as the merits of experiential learning and personal significance as argued for by Rogers

Partagogy holds that additional participation opportunities should and will be created in the course of such participation engagements and thus promotes the notion of recursive development, which should be the keystone of a holistic approach to optimising any capacities.

Pragmatics of Partagogy

A central feature of partagogy is the belief that it is possible and indeed hugely rewarding to develop and maintain the infrastructure required to develop the necessary knowledge, interaction styles, and cognitive strategies for life in an era of perpetual change. This is done through methodologies and content based on research of the factors that enable and limit participation in an integral range of learning opportunities. It is this balance between the subjective, or experiential realities, and the empirical validity of the approach that suggests partagogy as a powerful instrument in the arsenal of HCD especially in the context of organised business and civil enterprises, all of which needs to become learning collectives and entities in their own right in order to survive and prosper.

The Learning Organisation

Expansive Capacity

According to Peter Senge a learning organisation is a group of people who continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire and where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured while collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together. As argued by W Grulke, Edward De Bono and countless others, the present is constantly evolving towards greater complexity and accelerating change of the complexity. In this environment of increasing intricacy, only those that are flexible, adaptive and productive will succeed, let alone excel. This level of responsiveness requires that organizations discover how to draw on, and support people’s commitment and capacity to learn at all levels’.

This requires that learning opportunities, or participation opportunities in the context of Partagogy, be meaningful to the individual as well as the organisation and state (state as understood in the broad sense of agencies representing the establishment of existing authority and power structures).

Adaptive and Generative Rewards

Senge argues for both “adaptive learning” as well as “generative learning” where the emphasis is on creativity. Adaptive approaches go a long way towards achieving the state of coping as described by Antonovsky, however, it is perhaps in “generative learning” where the greatest rewards for learning organisations lie.

De Bono argues for a move towards what he calls “Sur/Petition” – going above and beyond usual competition. This can be seen as house building as opposed to house-keeping, and de Bono argues that this process is reliant on Integrated Values, Serious Creativity, Conceptual Research and Development. He stresses that companies have to make their offerings to their buyers and consumers with regard to how that offering will integrate into their complex life value systems and that these will be the deciding factors of future success.

It is this learner’s view that a similar argument can be made around a company’s value offering to their employees and indeed the futurologist and social commentator John Renesh points out that as people follow their individual paths of self-actualisation, the organisations they work for, with, and in, will need to also be changing dramatically. More conscious people will leave organisations that demand that their values be co-opted. He argues that organisations that do not provide thriving growing ground for these more healthy conscious workers will be populated by less conscious ‘slower to wake up’ individuals, and like prehistoric dinosaurs, will be forced into extinction by the demands of competition and survival. This, he maintains, will lead to what may be called more “conscious organisations” that are committed to learning, growing and being more aware, more responsible, and more aligned with their intended values.

Essentially he is illustrating the spiritual aspect of organisational competition and survival dynamics that is congruent with Ken Wilber’s definitions and theory of spirituality and in addition to the obvious “adaptability to change” argument, offers yet another profound argument for adopting and developing the ideal of the learning organisation.


Our contemporary situation, from a holistic global perspective, demands a move towards continuous recursive cultivation of integral competence. As a species we have excelled in the process of niche creation manipulating our environment and ourselves towards what we have perceived to be our best interests. This process comes at a price: the extent to which we are able to, and do, impact on our environment holds serious risks for us as well as our environment. We are faced with a simple choice: ignorance which will lead to decay, destruction and irrevocable harm; or accepting responsibility for the future.

If we choose the route of responsibility the challenge is to learn how to cope with the present and future situation. We should be aware of pathological aspects of the individual, organisations and society and take corrective action while also mapping and pursuing the route to optimal well-being. This implies operating from a salutogenic orientation that maximises a sense of coherence in individuals, organisations and society. This approach, focusing on developing competent human beings, will solve existing problems while promoting holistic preservation and prosperity.

A competent Human being has SAVVI/Y:

  • Sensibilities : Make sense of- and understand life situations and contexts
  • Abilities : Acquire and hone the relevant skills
  • Values : Appreciate virtues and integrity
  • Vision : Focus on the most desirable outcome
  • Integration : Find harmony in ever greater contexts
  • You : Make it your own personal reality and commitment

Both the learning individual as well as the HCD practitioner stands to gain well-being, valid-confidence and holistic efficiency from maximising the factors that are conducive to a sense of coherence. This promotes satisfying the practical as well as meta-physical requirements for coping in a world that is ever changing and increasingly demanding.

Just as the concept of Globalisation represents the awareness of the dissolution of conventional boundaries, increased connectivity and extent of the impact of actions, so to The Integral Paradigm recognises the merits of focusing across conventional fractured and compartmentalised disciplines while guarding against reductionism in order to find the most effectual cognitive models, resources and methodologies. In a sense this is where HCD can practice what it preaches by developing a culture of practical scientific and thorough academic meta-cognition. HCD and its practitioners can lead by example, developing their own Integral Competence in order to communicate, facilitate and support the process from a first hand perspective. HCD and its practitioners have a vast heritage of healing and development modalities to draw from while playing roles in strategy design, resource maintenance, support and supervision.

Direct benefits to organisations investing attention and involvement in moving towards the ideals of the learning organisation include the well-being and confidence of their members leading to optimised productivity, stability, reliability, responsiveness to complexity and risk through adaptive learning and the competitive advantage gained by developing sur/petition through generative learning.

Commercially driven organisations typically already contain the inherent motivations, infrastructure and resources required to actively become learning organisations. Civic organisations are inextricably linked to commercially driven organisations on numerous levels and have as much, if not more cause and responsibility to adopt the ideals of equitable life-long learning and the ideals of the learning organisation. Apart from the direct rewards learning organisations will reap, all organisation have a social responsibility to their members, suppliers and clients to promote well-being and prosperity. Organisations who fail or refuse to acknowledge this will find themselves increasingly boycotted and side-lined if current ecological and ethical consumer and lobbying trends are any indication.

The most appropriate way forward differs from situation to situation. In the workplace HCD and partagogy has to be recognised, especially by management, as important instruments through which organisational commercial, social and technological preservation and prosperity should be cultivated. In some cases, often depending on the scale of the organisation, it may be feasible to have a business unit or department dedicated to HCD and or Partagogy. This will no doubt be of great benefit to the organisation yet most importantly, a culture of equitable continuous learning and development should be promoted and supported by taking cognisance of situations and striving to supply and make available the resources required.

The investment of attention and involvement in HCD will not, and cannot go, un-rewarded.

Word count: 3 848 words


Note 1 :
Gamut is a term predominantly used in the fields of colour theory and design and relates to the range, extent or scope of phenomena that a given medium can facilitate. E.g. the gamut of reproducible colour is different from a computer monitor to a printed page. So too the gamut of Human Development factors differs amongst various theoretical models.

Note 2 :
Though agreeing in sentiment this learner questions the suitability of Levinger’s nomenclature for these domains, especially the first term: “Family Life” which could be misconstrued as excluding orphans and the informal social bonds which in contemporary society is often as strong or stronger than consanguinity, which the term implies. This learner would propose the term ‘Social Life’, or ideally ‘Communal Affairs’ thereby attempting to imply the often informal, home and social context.


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