transformative education theory
Giving Students an Opportunity to Test a New Paradigm or Perspective
Cranton, Patricia. “Teaching for Transformation.” [ITAL:] New Directions of Adult and Continuing Education, 2002, no. 93, 63-71.
The Transformational Learning Theory originally developed by Jack Mezirow is described as being “constructivist, an orientation which holds that the way learners interpret and reinterpret their sense experience is, central to making meaning and hence learning” (Mezirow, 1991). The theory has two basic kinds of learning: instrumental and communicative learning. Instrumental learning focuses on learning through task-oriented problem solving and determination of cause and effect relationships. Communicative learning involves how individuals communicate their feelings, needs and desires
Meaning structures (perspectives and schemes) are a major component of the theory. Meaning perspectives are defined as “broad sets of predispositions resulting from psychocultural assumptions which determine the horizons of our expectations” (Mezirow, 1991). They are divided into 3 sets of codes: sociolinguistic codes, psychological codes, and epistemic codes. A meaning scheme is “the constellation of concept, belief, judgment, and feelings which shapes a particular interpretation” (Mezirow, 1994, 223).
The Transformative Learning Theory is difficult to execute, but it undoubtedly deserves more attention than it receives. In addition, its inclusion in your training does not need to be so critical. If it’s unfeasible to hinge your entire lesson on achieving a perspective transformation, then don’t do it. Instead, you can use Mezirow’s principles to augment your learning. Face the learner with a dilemma, provide them with a safe space, and give them room to reflect. Then, carry on with the lesson. If a learner didn’t get their epiphany, then they’ll still get a chance to learn the content in a more traditional way. However, those who do will retain that lesson indefinitely, and they can be your champions for training those that need additional help.
Eureka! Many remember 2001: A Space Odyssey for depicting one of the most famous epiphanies in cinema history. With bones splintering across the screen and kettle drums thundering in the background, a solitary ape invented a weapon in an electrifying moment of inspiration. It probably would have shouted, “Eureka!” too, if it could utter anything more than simple grunts.
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In the world of academia, there are many other theories that relate to adult learning. One that I thought would be of interest to you and that I wanted to explore in more depth is transformative or transformational learning. It is now one of the dominant theories in the world of adult learning even though it was introduced decades ago.
Many of the current theories on adult learning stem from the work of Jack Mezirow and, earlier, Paulo Friere. The later’s work with reading skills for illiterate adults informed many of the educators and educational psychologists that came after, including Stephen Brookfield. Mezirow posited all of the criteria above, and put particular emphasis on discourse/telling/teaching. His view was that adults not only learned more from relating their own experiences, they learned new ways of looking at those experiences through the act of sharing them. A great deal of research is available on transformational learning in online learning (as noted mostly at the academic level, where there are plenty of guinea pigs!), which is easily extrapolated to the corporate environment. Those interested in further readings on transformational and transformative learning should look into the work of Jack Mezirow. This article gives a good overview: https://www.usm.maine.edu/olli/national/postConference/2012_confWorkshops/workshopMaterials/Jon%20Neidy/The%20Evolution%20of%20John%20Mezirow’s%20Transformative%20Learning%20Theory.pdf