Designing a Teachers’ Training College

Designing a Teachers’ Training college starts with coming up with a catchy name like: Aardwerk Academie. Just kidding.

No, designing a teachers’ training college starts with the realisation that people learn best by doing and that systems (people) have an innate ability to learn, i.e.: the ability to change behaviour over time in response to (changes in) the environment. As form leads function, designing a teachers’ training college starts with gathering the elements such as learners, subject matter and learning environment and placing them in close proximity so they can interact.

The next realisation is that permaculture and learning permaculture is a complex process that requires plenty of time and exposure to a wide diversity of situations and contexts.

The engine

A teachers’ training colleges requires lost of resources (inputs). For one thing learners and staff would probably prefer to survive their stay at the school for more then a couple of days: you need to live first to be able to learn. Primary production of life’s essentials is to be an integrated element of the school and its operations.

Everybody works, nobody dies – you could say ­čśë This collective approach could be facilitated by collective governance, like e.g. the Sociocratic Circle Model and the concept of Co-operative as legal entity. And here we have an administrative framework for our school.


As a permaculture education institute we should aim to be holistic and integrative in our curriculum. All learning activities have multiple layers – transparencies of glasses through which you look at the world – in no particular order:

  1. Design
  2. Science
  3. General Skills
  4. Primary Production
  5. Arts & Crafts
  6. Pedagogy
  7. Didactics

Missing “Permaculture”? Right! That’s because permaculture is a design philosophy and derives many of its concepts from science. So we’re covered ­čśë


To create a realistic context a study circle consists of students and staff at all levels required to run a school – or a course, a workshop or whatever. From the housekeeper to the course director, consultants and researchers. Which is why the Aardwerk Academie is open to students of EQF levels 6 and up and students can complete the training at levels 7 through 9.┬áDepending on entrance and exit levels, students will learn in teams for 2 to 4 years.

The purpose (function) of the school is to replicate itself. A study circle will learn and grow to the stage where they can go out into the world and start their own school – given enough experience of course. Alumni should also be able to function in other teams and perform a function suitable to their ambitions and competences.


Instead of blanket general purpose certificates or diploma’s the school provides detailed profiles of a learners competencies and proficiencies. This assists the learner and staff in tailoring the learning experience to what is most effective as well as informs the real-world outside the school what learners and alumni have achieved and are capable of. Using the EQF system and other accreditation tools like the permaculture PDC and Diploma frameworks (as they develop and mature) clear comparisons can be made with the school’s profiling tools, boxes ticked and equivalent papers awarded – on request.


One of nature’s patterns: cyclical processes. To better understand some aspects of how nature works, the school adopts the moon phases as leading in planning activities. A complication is that moon phases and the daily solar cycles shift in relation to each other. However, with a few compromises and correction we arrive at four periods each year of about 12 weeks and a couple to spare. This fits really well with Looby Macnamara’s design web nodes, so we use them as a guide too.

Knowing, Doing & Being

Being a permaculture teacher means more then just having read the manual and done a couple of designs. Higher level understanding and assimilation, development of new behaviours is stimulated by experiencing the same process in different contexts and reflecting on differences and commonalities, theorising underlying principles and applying them in new unknown situations.


The form we use here is to provide the challenge of designing suitable permaculture education in different contexts. Eight different contexts over the first two years of the college. The first year students are challenged to design education for different age groups, each according to their stage of development: vocational education (young adults), secondary education (adolescents), primary education (k-12) and adult education.

The second year the challenges are based on special interest groups like: women, prisoners, gifted people, obscenely rich, homeless or jobless people.


Each challenge deals with a number of concepts in design, science etc. – see the 7 layers. They are presented in realistic contexts – see contexts.


APT* as well as SLO* core competence documents provide a framework to start with. No doubt the sociocratic circle approach to governance will be a good tool to adapt those frameworks to the needs of the learners and the school as a whole.

Your thoughts?

Your questions and comments are most welcome. We are open for dialogue en reflections.

Would you like to know more?

Are you a professional in permaculture education or would like to become one, please contact us at or visit our web site

APT: Accredited Permaculture Training – Australian authority on permaculture curricula
SLO: Stichting Leerplanontwikkeling – Dutch authority on curricula