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Detail Mentor Profile: KATHLEEN FORSYTHE

The Transformative Learning Foundation


Kathleen Forsythe

Council of Autonomous Scholarly Support, Doctor of Knowledge Architecture, 2001

Kathleen Forsythe is one of the first knowledge architects in the world and combines her knowledge in cybernetics and systems to generate practical strategies and projects that open new directions for the civil society. The systemic nature of her work is equally applicable at every level of the learning system from the curriculum to the organization and management of institutions. She Co-chaired, with Dr. Ashok Kohsla of New Delhi (current Head of the Club of Rome), the Intersectoral Dialogue at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, an experiment in developing a conversational forum among world environmental leaders. During the 1990s she worked on several environmental energy projects with connection to the State Council in China. She has over 40 years experience in the field of open and distance learning and has been a pioneering force in the development of several institutions in this province such as North Island College, the Knowledge Network and SelfDesign Learning Community. An artist, poet, and writer, Kathleen Forsythe has a lived commitment to imagination and innovation as the antidotes to war and conflict.
Kathleen has helped to create SelfDesign since its inception and is one of the founders of the SelfDesign Learning Community in British Columbia.

Kathleen is currently the principal of the SelfDesign Learning Community and the executive director of the SelfDesign Learning Foundation. She has also served as a founding faculty member at North Island College; founding Executive Director of British Columbia’s Knowledge Network; Director of Information and Learning Services at Greater Victoria School District; and Director, New Learning Research Centre for Learning and Technology.


  • Open University, (U.K.) B.A. 2000
  • The University of Victoria, Diploma of Education, 1976
  • Open University (U.K.) B.A. 1974


Main Interest

Southeast of Vancouver, BC


SDGI Courses

LC 513 Observing for Learning (3 credits)

The notion of Observing for Learning is based on the concept that “Everything is seen by the observer” [1]. We often act as if knowledge exists in the world outside us and that it must be structured into us if we are to learn. Modern thinking about learning suggests that knowledge is composed when we make sense of our experiences within our environment by ascribing meaning and significance to our interactions. We compose our meaning and develop our knowledge from acting and interacting with the concepts and ideas of each other through interactions known as conversations. A conversational model of teaching and learning blurs the distinction between the partners. The role of the observer, within such a conversational model is not that of the non-participating, “scientific” observer, but of the naturalistic inquirer – the participant researcher who works with qualitative information in a dynamic environment. The naturalistic inquirer who observes for learning is not the one who measures, but the one who relates and understands.

In this course, learners will be asked “What does learning look like? What conduct would we describe as adequate to say that learning is occurring, has occurred or that a learner ‘knows’ something?” Observing for learning is both an epistemological frame that departs from traditional notions of assessment and a methodology that radically transforms the relationship between learner and mentor as both come to delight and inquire in the construction of their own unique knowledge architecture. Learners will engage in their own Observing for Learning as a fundamental aspect of the course.

LC 514 Conversation Circles: Nurturing a Passion for Teaching (3credits)

Learners explore the possibilities of teacher conversations, formal and/or informal, for sustaining personal and professional growth. The course examines how sharing teaching experiences may contribute to teachers in the process of becoming. Another focus is to gain an understanding of the influence of social interactions in improving the practice of individual teachers and how cultural nuances affect the interaction process. Learners will study the conversation theory of Gordon Pask and other scholars.



Publications/Presentations/Professional Projects

  • Forsythe, Kathleen: Recursion in Language and Learning: What Autism teaches us about Praxis, Paper given to the ASC Bateson Group Ecology of Ideas Conference, Asilomar, 2012
  • Forsythe, Kathleen- and Madeline Von Foerster: Poetry and Art Performance, ASC Bateson
    Group Ecology of Ideas Conference, Asilomar, 2012
  • Forsythe, Kathleen: SelfDesign, presentations given to several universities in Poland, 2009 and
  • Forsythe, Kathleen – Cathedrals of the Heart: Towards a Caring Economy – First Conference on Systemic Management , Institute for Systemic Coaching , Vienna, Austria, May, 2001
  • Forsythe , Kathleen – Evil and Ethics Revisited, American Society for Cybernetics, July, 2000
  • Forsythe, Kathleen – We Have Only One Home: Environmental Justice and the Future of Hope, World Congress on Systems and Cybernetics, Toronto, July, 2000
  • Bunnell, P. and K. Forsythe, 1999 The Chain of Hearts: Teaching the Biology of Love, Proceedings of the BodyMind Conference, Vancouver, in prepublication.
  • Bunnell, P. and K. Forsythe, 1999 Intelligence Arises in Relationship, International Society for Systems Science, Asilomar
  • Bunnell, P. and K. Forsythe. 1996. Software Design and Knowledge Architecture for FutureQuest, Vancouver, BC.
  • Bunnell, P. and K. Forsythe. 1995. Coversaation and Creativity in the Development of a CD-ROM Game. Invited paper. American Society of Cybernetics Conference, Chicago.
  • Bunnell, P. and K. Forsythe. 1995. Design for a People’s Earth Monitoring System, prepared for the Earth Council. Vancouver, BC.
  • Designs for Wonder: Tools for Conceptualization- Paper given to the National School Board Association Conference, Dallas, 1990
  • The Natural Way of Learning and Technology, Paper given at the NCCE Conference, Portland, Oregon, April, 1991


  • First Solo Art Exhibit: Autogeography: Maps of the Infinite Interior, May-August, 2006, Full Bloom Flowers Gallery, Commercial Drive, Vancouver
  • ArtSPacific Show: three juried paintings Delta Arts Council, April 2013

Floortime Training

  • Floortime Advanced: Interdisciplinary Council on Development and Learning September 2014
  • Floortime Basic: Interdisciplinary Council on Development and Learning July 2013
  • Floortime Intermediate: Interdisciplinary Council on Development and Learning January 2013