Is transformative learning suitable for our classroom environment?
Transformative learning theory says that the process of “perspective transformation” has three dimensions: psychological (changes in understanding of the self), convictional (revision of belief systems), and behavioral (changes in lifestyle).
Transformative learning is the expansion of consciousness through the transformation of basic worldview and specific capacities of the self; transformative learning is facilitated through consciously directed processes such as appreciatively accessing and receiving the symbolic contents of the unconscious and critically analyzing underlying premises.
A defining condition of being human is that we have to understand the meaning of our experience. For some, any uncritically assimilated explanation by an authority figure will suffice. But in contemporary societies we must learn to make our own interpretations rather than act on the purposes, beliefs, judgements, and feelings of others. Facilitating such understandings is the cardinal goal of adult education. Transformative learning develops autonomous thinking.
Perspective transformation, leading to transformative learning, occurs infrequently.
Jack Mezirow believes that it usually results from a “disorienting dilemma” which is triggered by a life crisis or major life transition – although it may also result from an accumulation of transformations in meaning schemes over a period of time. Less dramatic predicaments, such as those created by a teacher, also promote transformation.
An important part of transformative learning is for individuals to change their frames of reference by critically reflecting on their assumptions and beliefs and consciously making and implementing plans that bring about new ways of defining their worlds. This process is fundamentally rational and analytical.
In order to foster transformative learning, the educator’s role is to assist learners in becoming aware and critical of assumptions. This includes their own assumptions that lead to their interpretations, beliefs, habits of mind, or points of view, as well as the assumptions of others. Educators must provide learners practice in recognizing frames of reference. By doing so, educators encourage practice in redefining problems from different perspectives.The goal is to create a community of learners who are “united in a shared experience of trying to make meaning of their life experience”.
Educators need to provide learners with opportunities to effectively participate in the discourse.
Discourse involves assessing beliefs, feelings, and values. This dialogue has the goal of assessing reasons for competing interpretations through critical examination of evidence, arguments, and alternate points of view. Learners are able to validate how and what they understand, as well as develop well-informed judgments regarding a belief. Educators can encourage critical reflection and experience with discourse through the implementation of methods including metaphor analysis, concept mapping, consciousness raising, life histories, repertory grids, and participation in social action.
The educator becomes a facilitator when the goal of learning is for learners to construct knowledge about themselves, others, and social norms. As a result, learners play an important role in the learning environment and process.Learners must create norms within the classroom that include civility, respect, and responsibility for helping one another learn. Learners must welcome diversity within the learning environment and aim for peer collaboration.
Learners must become critical of their own assumptions in order to transform their unquestioned frame of reference. Through communicative learning, learners must work towards critically reflecting on assumptions that underlie intentions, values, beliefs, and feelings. Learners are involved in objective re-framing of their frames of reference when they critically reflect on the assumptions of others. In contrast, subjective re-framing occurs when learners critically assess their own assumptions.
The role of the learner involves actively participating in the discourse. Through discourse, learners can validate what is being communicated to them. This dialogue provides the opportunity to critically examine the evidence, arguments, and alternate points of view, which fosters collaborative learning.
Yesterday, Nellie Deutsch educator and transformative learning advocate, talked about this very subject. Transformative learning notions were developed by Jack Mezirow. He believed that learning could evoke psychological changes, in the understanding of self, convictional changes in the belief system and behavioural changes in the lifestyle.During the lesson we were encouraged to connect these ideas to other theories ofl learning. The names of humanist psychologists: Maslow, Carl Rogers and educators such as Dewey came up.We were also asked to examine our approach to teaching and reflect on whether we as teachers were able to take our students outside of their comfort zone in order to promote learning and change. Did we foster routine or were we full of surprises?
Intuitively, transformative learning feels right. It is, in many ways, what I have been practicing for years.
* actively listening to students
* creating an open classroom and encouraging free discussion
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