An ILA Leadership Perspectives Webinar

Deep Learning in a Disorienting World

Presenters: Jon Wergin and Martha Miser (Moderator)

Date: 29 January 2020

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Much has been written about the escalating intolerance of worldviews other than one’s own. Reasoned arguments based on facts and data seem to have little impact in our increasingly post-truth culture dominated by social media, fake news, tribalism, and identity politics. Recent advances in the study of human cognition, however, offer insights on how to counter these troubling social trends. In this webinar, psychologist Jon Wergin will share recent research in learning theory, social psychology, politics, and the arts to show how a deep learning mindset can be developed in both oneself and others. Based on his hot-off-the press book Deep Learning in A Disorienting World (Cambridge, 2020), Jon will focus on how leaders can create settings that embrace disorientation, not avoid it, and enable individuals and groups to recognize cognitive traps, get beyond their comfort zones, and make real transformative change possible.

Participants will learn:

  • How cognitive traps keep us from challenging our worldviews;
  • How putting ourselves and others in a space of “constructive disorientation” encourages the adaptation of other perspectives;
  • How constructive disorientation can be enhanced by nurturing mindfulness, learning with others, employing politics effectively, engaging aesthetic dimensions, and encouraging dialectical thinking; and
  • How creating conditions of constructive disorientation in an organization can lead to deep learning.

Speaker Information


Jon Wergin has been Professor of Education Studies at Antioch University’s Graduate School of Leadership & Change since 2003, following a 30-year career at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he won awards for both teaching and scholarship. He was the founding director of the Forum on Faculty Roles and Rewards in the American Association for Higher Education in 1992, and continued an active association with AAHE until 2004, focusing his scholarship on leadership and change in higher education. He is the author or co-author of 19 books and monographs, 13 book chapters, and 64 scholarly papers, and has given invited addresses to more than 100 colleges, universities and professional organizations on such topics as faculty development, evaluation research, professional education, curriculum development in higher education, evaluation and change in higher education, and department chair development. His two most recent books are Grassroots Leadership and the Arts for Social Change (co-editor with Susan Erenrich), a volume in the International Leadership Association’s Building Leadership Bridges series (Emerald, 2017); and Deep Learning in a Disorienting World (Cambridge, 2020).


Martha Miser is founder and president of Aduro Consulting, LLC, a consulting and coaching company located in Boston that specializes in leadership and change for purpose-driven companies. Over the past 30 years, Martha has held leadership positions in both public- and private-sector organizations. She spent 12 years with the City of Hartford working in a number of capacities, among them director of operations improvement and assistant city manager for administrative services. Her 14 years in financial services included time as head of leadership and organization effectiveness for Aetna Financial Services and 4 years living and working in the Netherlands, where she was global head of leadership and change for ING. Martha holds a bachelor’s degree in American studies from Hamilton/Kirkland College, a master’s in public administration from Syracuse University, and a doctorate in leadership and change from Antioch University. She also serves on the Board of Trustees for Antioch University New England.

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