The Transpersonal Orientation to Learning Scale (TOTL) measures attitudes toward using a transpersonal approach in education. According to Shapiro and Fitzgerald, a transpersonal approach to edu­ cation would advocate the development of human spiritual potential. It would advance using intuitive and receptive modes of con­sciousness, such as fantasy techniques, meditation, and altered states of conscious­ ness, in conjunction with the “cognitive, ra­tional, logical and active modes” (Shapiro & Fitzgerald, 1989, p. 376).


This 40-item scale uses a 5- point Likert format with the usual range of response options: “strongly agree” = 5 points, “agree” = 4 points, “uncertain” = 3 points, “disagree” = 2 points and “strongly disagree” = 1 point. All items were so worded that agreement to every item indi­ cates greater support for the transpersonal approach to education. Four subscales of ten items each were identified: (a) Fantasy Techniques Applied in Schools, (b) Mysti­cism Preferred to Science as an Epistemol­ogy, (c) Mystical/Occult/ Paranormal Tech­niques Applied to Schools, and (d) Transcendent Consciousness. However, the authors caution that this scale may not mea­ sure four dimensions and instead measure only one dimension: a general orientation to the transpersonal approach; or possibly two: a theory-oriented dimension (subscales II & IV) and a practice-oriented dimension (sub­ scales I & III).

The authors contend that the contents of their items are consistent and representative of contents in transpersonal psychology be­ cause they were developed from classic and current writings in the field. In describing what a transpersonal orientation professes, Shapiro and Fitzgerald (1989) write that “intuitive and receptive modes of con­sciousness are considered equal [emphasis mine] in importance to cognitive, rational, logical, and active modes” (p. 376). How­ ever, this inclusive description of the transpersonal approach does not seem reflected in TOTL items that decry the limits of science (“As a probe into the way things are, science is a powerful but strictly limited instrument.” [Item 31) while extolling the exclusivity of mystical states (“Mystical ex­perience is the source of all true art and sci­ence” [Item 101). If all modes are equal, why should the authors expect an advocate of transpersonal psychology to denigrate the cognitive/rational logical modes in favor of intuitive and reflective modes?

Other apparent discrepancies exist be­ tween what Shapiro and Fitzgerald describe as this field’s concern and what other repre­sentatives in the field have stated should not necessarily be this field’s primary focus (ul­timate, altered states and the paranormal). The authors state that transpersonal psy­chology concerns itself with “ultimate human capacities and potentialities” (p. 376), a view reflected in TOTL item 4: “Sci­ence can deal with instrumental values, but not with intrinsic (ultimate) values.” In 1973, however, a mouthpiece for the field, The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, decided to drop the term “ultimate” from its statement of purpose, acknowledging that much of the field does not focus on the ulti­ mate (Walsh & Vaughan, 1993). Moreover, Wilber (1993) asserts that altered states, however valued by transpersonal psychol­ogy, should not necessarily be the field’s dominant paradigm; yet TOTL items 13 and 14 privilege altered states. Finally, some authors within transpersonal psychology would not include parapsychology as a sub­ set (Boucouvalas, 1980) and so might ques­tion the references made to psychic phe­nomena used in items 17, 19, 20, 22, 31.

Practical Considerations:

No special skills or instructions are needed to administer or score this paper-and-pencil measure of gen­eral orientation toward the transpersonal ap­proach to education. The scale takes about 20 minutes to administer. TOTL scores and subscale scores equal the sum of the rele­vant item responses. Higher scores indicate greater endorsement of the transpersonal approach to education. In analyzing the scores, the researcher should consider that since the wording of every item supports the transper­sonal approach and the same set of re­sponses is used throughout, TOTL scores may be subject to response set bias.


The pilot study for this measure used the responses of a total of 166 students from four different graduate programs in the School of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The programs were the following: Confluent (Humanistic) Education, Counseling Psy­chology, Single Subject Teaching Creden­tial, and Multiple Subject Teaching Creden­tial. The size of the groups was unequal.

For the total TOTL, scores in the pilot study ranged from a low of 69 to a high of 198. Scores at the 90th, 50th and 10th per­ centiles were 165, 137 and I 09, respec­tively.


Analysis of the 40 items of the TOTL indicate a “reasonably high internal consistency” (Shapiro & Fitzgerald, 1989, p. 378) with a spilt-half reliability of .98 and a Cronbach alpha reliability of .96. For the subscales (factor), Cronbach alpha relia­bilities were Factor I .83, Factor II .82, Fac­ tor III .93, and Factor IV .82.


The authors propose that the con­ tent validity of the TOTL’s 40 items was built into the scale by basing item develop­ment on a content analysis of the writings of 25 noted transpersonal/humanistic authors in education and psychology. Then content validity was furthered by having the result­ing 222 items independently judged by nine academics in Confluent (Humanistic) Edu­ cation for relevance and clarity. On the basis of interjudge agreement and item variance from a pilot study, 67 items were retained. Based on an item analysis of these 67 state­ments, 40% of the items were eliminated. Nineteen items were eliminated because of “low item-total correlations and/or little re­sponse variance” (Shapiro & Fitzgerald, 1989, p. 378). Next, eight additional items were eliminated based on a preliminary fac­ tor analysis and the judgment of the authors about these items’ substantive relevance. The remaining 40 items constitute the TOTL.

Criterion validity of the TOTL was sup­ ported in two ways: (a) use the TOTL to compare groups of students expected to have differing views on the transpersonal approach to education and (b) demonstrate the presence of positive correlations be­ tween TOTL and measures with similar con­ structs. First, it was anticipated and demon­strated that the mean score for the Confluent (Humanistic) Education students (152) would be significantly higher than mean score of Counseling students (139, F [3,61] = 14.08, p < .001). A post hoc test for com­ parisons between groups of unequal size re­portedly supported these comparisons (Steel-Torrie extension of Tukey’s HSD test [Lehman, 1995, p. 360]). It was further demonstrated that mean scores for the Con­ fluent and Counseling groups would exceed both the Single Subject Credential mean score (127) and Multiple Subject Credential mean score (129). The two Teaching Cre­dential groups did not differ significantly from each other.

To explore the relationship between the TOTL and measures designed to assess sim­ilar constructs, scores on the TOTL were correlated with four other scales. The signif­icance level was set at .05. Responses to the TOTL correlated significantly (.46) with a measure of attitudes toward humanistic in­structional values (Orientation to Learning scale; Shapiro, 1985). A second positive correlation (.38) was found between a measure for a type of visionary seeker who might be expected to value the transpersonal (Intuitive-Feeling temperament scale of the Kiersey Temperament Sorter [Kiersey & Bates, 1978]) and the TOTL. Third, TOTL scores correlated (.22) with the Concrete Experience of the Learning Style Inventory (Kolb, 1976). However, TOTL did not cor­ relate significantly (.15) with the Divergent Learning Style subscale on the Learning Style Inventory (Concrete Experience Plus Reflective Observation).

Factorial validity was indecisive. One principal component analysis that used a varimax rotation (which attempts to mini­mize the number of variables that have high loadings on a factor, thereby enhancing the factor’s interpretability) supports the unidi­mensionality of the TOTL. A secondanaly­ sis using an equamax rotation (which at­ tempts to simplify both variable and factors and divide the variance across factors) sup­ ported a four-factor solution. The four fac­ tors accounted for the overall variance (53%) as follows: Factor I, 16%; Factor II, 10%; Factor III, 15.5%, and Factor IV, 11%.

The TOTL appears to measure a general orientation toward a transpersonal orienta­tion to education, although it may not match the transpersonal orientation as described by the authors or be representative of a field that has not yet agreed on how to define it­ self. The TOTL is unique in being a transpersonal measure related to educational research. For the psychology of religion, it may serve as a useful measure to compare with measures of spirituality and with mea­ sures of learning styles in religious educa­tion.

Transpersonal Orientation to Learning Scale

Items should be responded to and scored by checking the following responses and using the following point scheme: strongly agree (5 points), agree (4 points), uncertain (3 points), dis­ agree (2 points), and strongly disagree (1 point). The Roman numeral following each item in­

dicates the item’s subscale:

  • I = Fantasy Techniques Applied In Schools,
  • II = Mysticism Pre­
  • ferred to Science as an Epistemology,
  • III = Mystical/Occult/Paranormal Techniques Applied to Schools,
  • IV = Transcendent Consciousness.

  1. Strictly speaking, a scientific worldview is impossible because it treats only a part of the world. (II)
  2. As a probe into the way things are, science is a powerful but strictly limited instrument. (II)
  3. Only a nonscientific approach to mankind and the world can give us meaning, purpose, and a vision in which everything coheres. (II)
  4. Science can deal with instrumental values but not with intrinsic (ultimate) values. (II)
  5. As a human being, a scientist may become engaged with questions of life meanings, but his science will not help him answer such questions. (II)
  6. Scientific propositions leave the existential problems of life completely untouched. (II)
  7. Reality far exceeds what science will ever register. (II)
  8. People have a natural desire to experience altered states of consciousness. (IV)
  9. We are on the verge of discovering and controlling a kind of biological energy that has to do with the occult, psychic phenomena, and other unusual occurrences. (IV)
  10. Mystical experience is the source of all true art and science. (II)
  11. Humankind’s consciousness of self is approximately halfway between subconsciousness of nature and the superconsciousness of spirit. (IV)
  12. Through transforrnative spiritual or mystical experience a realm of exquisite order, intel­ ligence, and creative potential can be revealed to nearly everyone. (IV)
  13. It is only through the traditions of spiritual or mystical direct knowing that the true na­ ture of reality can be glimpsed. (II)
  14. In mystical experience we see the way things “are,” not how we wish them to be or ana- lyze them to be. (II)
  15. Bodily death does not end individual consciousness. (IV)
  16. Death is not the final end, but rather the entrance to a new existence. (IV)
  17. Psychic phenomena remind us that we have access to a source of higher knowing, a do­ main not limited by time and space. (IV)
  18. Social transformation results from personal/individual transformation-change from the inside out. (IV)
  19. Transcendence through altered states of consciousness, paranormal phenomena, and spiritual disciplines should be included in public school curricula where appropriate. (III)
  20. Psychic phenomena, peak experiences, self-transcendence, spiritual growth, parapsy­ chology, and Eastern psychologies all have their place in public education. (III)
  21. Research has indicated that working with imagery often has a beneficial effect on phys­ ical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. (I)
  22. Children and youth in schools should be taught how to induce altered states of con­ sciousness in themselves such as those states in psychic healing, parapsychological phe­ nomena, yoga, biofeedback, and meditation. (III)
  23. Effective methods of mind/body control have been practiced in yoga for thousands of years and should be taught in our schools and colleges. (III)
  24. Directed fantasy trips and guided imagery have been practiced in yoga for thousands of years and should be taught in our schools and colleges. (III)
  25. Teachers who use fantasy journeys and guided imagery have a vital key to improved in­ struction. (I)
  26. Guided imagery and visualization techniques really work in improving instructional out­ comes. (I)
  27. The use of fantasy gives students an imaginary experience which they can relate to the verbal, logical material usually presented in class. (I)
  28. Self-hypnosis should be used in public schools and universities to accelerate learning and to gain voluntary control over physiological functions. (III)
  29. We cannot really understand the world that lies outside of us without understanding the deeper spiritual and mystical aspects of ourselves. (IV)
  30. Contemporary physicists are now scientifically describing reality in almost identical terms with the views of mystics from many different religious traditions. (IV)
  31. Dreamwork, fantasy, biofeedback, body awareness, psychic abilities, and meditation should all be implemented in the classroom. (IV)
  32. Guided fantasy is a very useful learning tool. (I)
  33. Teachers, parents, or counselors who are interested in opening up the world of fantasy for exploration by children should not overlook the fact that they too will benefit per­ sonally from the experience. (I)
  34. Fantasy is a tool for human growth and development which is effective and rewarding at any age. (I)
  35. Techniques like guided daydreams and sharing fantasies have very positive results in ed­ ucation. (I)
  36. Classroom sharing through fantasy exercises is a very effective way for students to inte­ grate inner experience with outer reality. (III)
  37. Students in school should be taught that anyone can assert control over the healing process. (III)
  38. Spiritual, transpersonal perspectives should be incorporated into all aspects of a graduate program in psychology. (III)
  39. Various practices of meditation should be introduced into the public schools. (III)
  40. Students in schools should be taught how to establish and maintain contact with their inner cores, where unity with all life energy occurs. (III)


Stewart B. Shapiro, Department of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106- 9490.


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