Winter Counts as Transformative Inquiry: The Role of Creative Imagery as an Expression of Adaptive Change


  • Nicholas R.G. Stanger
  • Michele T.D. Tanaka
  • Vanessa V. Tse
  • Lisa J. Starr



Pre-service teachers face a complex educational context and Transformative Inquiry is a useful approach for negotiating this terrain. We interpret the movement of students via the adaptive cycle put forth in panarchy theory as they engage in the inquiry process through ‘winter counts’, a Plains First Nation tradition, as expressions of their understanding. These image-based expressions demonstrate the emotional, mental, spiritual and physical movement students have made within their inquiry. Panarchy theory moves beyond interpreting systems using simplistic equilibrium models and acknowledging the more complex and dynamic set of equilibria that describes transformation in ecological, social, and economic systems and considers the multiple complexities of systems thinking while providing insight into how change occurs as a constantly adaptive cycle process. Used sparingly within social sciences until recently, we argue it as particularly relevant for seeing Transformative Inquiry through Indigenist and interconnected lenses.






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