Transformative Learning Group Presentation, International Issues in Adult Education November 2011
Transformative Learning Theory Group Presentation Resource Material
Referred to as: -The “transforming of meaning perspectives” (Mezirow, 1978) -“The process of making meaning from one’s own experiences” (Taylor, 1998) -Kitchenham (2008) quotes the Transformative Learning Centre (2004) it is “a deep, structural shift in basic premises of thought, feelings and actions”.
After his early empirical work with women returning to college he concluded that the participants in the study could undergo ten phases or dynamics: 1. A disorientating dilemma 2. A self-examination with feelings of guilt or shame 3. A critical assessment of epistemic, sociocultural, or psychic assumptions 4. Recognition of one’s discontent and the process of transformation are shared and that others have negotiated similar change 5. Exploration of options for new roles, relationships and actions 6. Planning of a course of action 7. Acquisition of knowledge and skills for implanting one’s plans 8. Provisional trying of new roles 9. Building of competence and self-confidence in new roles and relationships 10. A reintegration into one’s life on the basis of conditions dictated by one’s perspective. (Mezirow 1978) Mezirow added another dynamic in 1994: “re-negotiating relationships and negotiating new relationships” (Kitchenham, 2008 p.113).
Major Elements: Two major elements of transformative learning theory are critical reflection, or critical self-reflection on assumptions and critical discourse, where the learner validates a best judgment (Mezirow, 2006) and the process one evokes to monitor the epistemic nature of problems and the truth value of alternative situations. (King and Kitchener, 1994 p.12)
Mezirow (2000) states, “As there are no truths or definitive knowledge, and because circumstances change, the human condition may be best understood as a continuous effort to negotiate contested meanings” Mezirow also suggests transformations come about in one of four ways: • • • •
Elaborating Existing Frames of Reference Learning New Frames of Reference Transforming Points of View Transforming Habits of the Mind
Critical (self) Reflection and Rational/Reflective discourse: Critical Reflection and rational/reflective discourse are two core elements to transformative learning. First: Critical reflection is a critical assessment of “sources, nature and consequences of our habits of mind” (Mezirow, 2006 p.28). Second: in order for transformation to occur one must participate fully in a process of Rational/Reflective discourse that is free and provides a judgment of problems with or of knowledge. (Mezirow, 2006 p.28).
On Power in Educational context: In reference to Freire, Belenky and Stanton (Mezirow, 2000 p.92) state that “also important is a conscious strategy for dealing with inequalities of power and epistemological developments in the classroom.” The emphasis for educators should move away from hierarchy and a competitive environment. Rather, the emphasis of educators practice should aim towards participant’s individual strengths and experiences. Critical Reflection is focused on uncovering and demystifying power dynamics and relationships. Mezirow and others approach Adult Education with the stance that the power dynamics of Adult Education must be identified and critiqued. (Mezirow, 2000 p.136) Brookfield shows the approach he deems necessary for understanding the power dynamics in adult education: “The flow of power can be named and redirected or made to serve the interests of the many rather than the few, but it can never be denied or erased” (Mezirow, 2000 p.136) Seen in this this way, the adult education environment is a concentrated and contested arena. Not separate from society, but subject to the same oppressive power dimensions. Brookfield also states that it is not enough for adult educators to think of themselves as the same as learners in the classroom. We must work to engage with the power that we do indeed hold. We should make attempts to dismantle the power of our position with the group of learners, to acknowledge and analyze our position of power in order to lead the group to understanding of fundamental power structures out with the classroom setting and actively challenge these assumptions. Critical reflection is the tool with which we firstly investigate and externalize power relationships. The second purpose is to uncover hegemonic assumptions. Critical reflection becomes transformative when learners and educators begin to challenge hegemony. Transformative learning is active in this way. Reflection is the starting point and it becomes transformative when we develop actions that go against hegemony.
Possible questions to bear in mind: Why do I think what I think? How do I know what I know? Why do I do what I do? (Why do I buy what I buy?) How can I design my workshop/class plan to engage participants in these questions for themselves? In what ways does power flow in this situation? Influences: Major influences on Mezirow (Kitchenham, 2008 pp. 106-109): Kuhn’s (1962) Paradigm: A worldview of theories and methodology e.g. gravity is a paradigm of science. Adapted by Mezirow as “frame of reference” Freire’s (1970) Conscientization Developing critical awareness of oppression, learning outside the traditional classroom setting, growth of consciousness/critical consciousness. Habermas’s (1971, 1984) Domains of Learning Importance of communicative action, Distinction between Instrumental Learning and Communicative learning. Domains of learning: 1. The technical (rote learning, rule following) 2. The practical (actions, involves social norms) 3. The emancipatory (freeing, self reflective knowledge of one’s self)
References: Belenky, M. F. and Stanton, A. V., 2000. Inequality, Development and Connected Knowing. In: Mezirow, J., 2000. Learning as Transformation: Critical Perspectives on a Theory in Progress. Ch.3. San-Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Brookfield, S. D. 2000, Transformative Learning as Ideology Critique. In: Mezirow, J., 2000. Learning as Transformation: Critical Perspectives on a Theory in Progress. Ch.5. San-Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Kitchenham, A., 2008. The Evolution of John Mezirowâ€™s Transformative Learning Theory: Journal of Transformative Education. Volume 6, Number 2., 104-123. Mezirow, J., 1978. Perspective Transformation. Adult Education, 28, 100-110 Mezirow, J., 2006. An Overview of Transformative Learning. In Sutherland, P. and Crowther J. (eds.), Lifelong Learning: Concepts and Contexts (pp.25-38). London and New York: Routledge. Mezirow, J., 2000. Learning as Transformation: Critical Perspectives on a Theory in Progress. San-Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Taylor, E.W., 1998. The Theory and Practice of Transformative Learning: A Critical Review. Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career and Vocational Education.
Consciousness-raising: Paulo Freire (1984) developed his theory on 'conscientisation' from literacy work with Brazil's poor, which fostered critical consciousness (while teaching people how to read). Critical consciousness is where learners develop the ability to analyse, question and take action on the social, political, cultural and economic influences on their lives. Freire argues that education fosters freedom by enabling them to reflect on their world and change it (Dirkx, 1998). This ‘social-emancipatory’ view sees people as subjects, not objects, who reflect and act on their world, to make it more equitable. Its aim is social transformation by ‘demythicizing’ reality, where the oppressed develop a critical consciousness or ‘conscientisation’ (Taylor, 2008). (I agree, although worth remembering that at this time in Brazil, if you could not read and write, you were not allowed to vote - therefore literacy work had a much bigger impact on learners’ ability to change their world, than it would in, say, Scotland). Perspective Transformation: Jack Mezirow's 'Perspective Transformation' involves critical reflection on our experiences and it changes (transforms) our 'central meaning structures' (perspectives). Perspectives are our beliefs, values and assumptions, which are acquired through our life experiences, and will limit or distort what we are able to understand. With critical reflection we can identify, assess and transform our limiting or distorted perspectives (Dirkx, 1998). Both Freire and Mezirow view knowledge as something that is constructed by the learner in relation with others and therefore reflection and dialogue are key elements of the learning process. But Mezirow also attempts to articulate the psychological cognitive characteristics of this, describing 10 phases to the transformative process. The outcomes will be individuals who are more inclusive in their perceptions of their world, open to other points of view, and for Mezirow therefore, transformative learning is the core of adult development (Dirkx, 1998). (Adults come to a learning environment with many more experiences than children and these experiences have shaped their outlook on the world. These outlooks (perspectives) may be limiting or distorted, or they could also be positive and enhancing to the learning group).
Psychoanalytic View sees transformative learning as 'individuation', a journey of coming to understand oneself, by reflecting on the psychological structures that make one's identity. This involves discovery of new talents, a sense of empowerment and confidence, a deeper understanding of one's inner self and a greater sense of self-responsibility. Psychodevelopmental View sees transformative learning as a lifelong continuous progressive growth. Central to this view is change in how we make meaning, rather than just behavioural change or quantity of knowledge. Also, there is an appreciation for the role of relationships, personal contextual influences and holistic ways of knowing in transformative learning. This has often been overlooked in Mezirow’s rational emphasis on transformation. Neurobiological transformation suggests that the brain structure changes during the learning process and sees learning as ‘volitional, curiosity-based, discovery-driven and mentor assisted’ (Janik, 2005 in Taylor). This also suggests that transformative learning (1) requires discomfort prior to discovery; (2) is rooted in learners’ experiences, needs and interests; (3) is strengthened by emotive, sensory, and kinaesthetic experiences; (4) appreciates differences in learning between males and females and (5) demands that educators acquire an understanding of neurobiological systems. (Taylor, 2008) Teaching Approaches (Taylor, 2008): Critical Reflection is very important to rediscover power and help learners develop an awareness of structures in society, contributing to inequality and oppression, and an awareness that they can transform their own lives and society as a whole. This is a developmental process rooted in experience, giving credence to Merriam’s position (2004) that ‘mature cognitive development is foundational to engaging in critical reflection and rational discourse necessary for transformative learning’ (it is better suited to adults than children). It is therefore important for educators to engage learners in classroom practices that will develop critical reflection, e.g. reflective journaling, peer dialogue and critical questioning (also see below). This of course requires time and continuous practice. The resulting perspective transformation is found to be an enduring and irreversible process (Courtenay, Merriam and Reeves, 1998 in Taylor) but without
experiences to test and explore new perspectives, possibly outside of the classroom, it is unlikely that learners will fully transform. This is a liberating approach to teaching, based in ‘acts of cognition, not in the transferal of information’ and with ‘problem-posing’ and dialogue (Freire (1984) in Taylor). A (more) horizontal student-teacher relationship, where the teacher works on an equal footing with students (student-teacher relationship becomes more student-student relationship). References: Courtenay, B., Merriam, S. B., and Reeves, P. M. “The Centrality of Meaning Making in Transformational Learning: How HIV-Positive Adults Make Sense of Their Lives.” Adult Education Quarterly, 1998. Dirkx, J. M. “Transformative Learning Theory in the Practice of Adult Education: An Overview.” PAACE Journal of Lifelong Learning, Vol. 7, 1998. Freire, P. “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” New York: Continuum, 1984. Janik, D. S. “Unlock the Genius Within.” Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield Education, 2005. Merriam, S. B. “The Role of Cognitive Development in Mezirow’s Transformational Learning Theory.” Adult Education Quarterly, 2004. Taylor, E. W. “Transformative learning Theory.” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, No. 119, 2008.
Context and Transformative Learning
The purpose and function of knowledge construction and learning in different cultural contexts is important to reflect on and gain awareness of. ‘Truth’ in western contexts emerge from a rational, scientifically validated evidence base, and commonly concepts of truth in non western cultures are based on ‘felt ‘, communal, inter- relational, indigenous knowledge. The focus of learning in non western systems, rather than individual advancement, is often to contribute to the development of the community (Merriam & Kim 2008). In order that learning and teaching
does not in itself become oppressive to these paradigms, educators should carefully consider the context in which they are working. There are power relationships in all knowledge construction. Foucault argues that power "reaches into the very grain of individuals, touches their bodies and inserts itself into their actions and attitudes, their discourses, learning processes and everyday lives" (Foucault 1980,30).
Cultural contexts in Transformational Learning: Case study of Botswana Mezirow recognises the importance of context in learning. ‘It is within the context of relationships, governed by existing and changing cultural paradigms, that we become the persons we are. (Mezirow 2000: 27) Merriam & Ntseane (2008) suggest this is a western-centric view, which fails to offer a detailed examination of the need for culturally sensitivity teaching and learning. An Afro-centric perspective: Botswana Perspective transformation in an Afro-centric paradigm has occurred in the context of significant social change consequent of colonialism, imperialism, & global capitalism. In African context, learning takes place as a collective rather than individualistic argument based process. This is reflected in this Batswana proverb. Motho ke motho ka batho ba bangwe, which means “I am because we are,” Ntseane 2011:307 (as opposed to the Descartes ‘I think, therefore I am). Learning is not an activity separated from community. Indeed the notion of an independent self is challenged. - motho ke motho ka batho ba bagwe : there is no self without the collective Ntseane 2011:308) In addition to the importance of the collective context in learning, account must be given to the ‘interconnected relationship between the
individual, community, and other forces such as nature and ancestral spirits’ (Ntseane 2011:310) Indigenous, embodied knowledge systems have been devalued and are often disregarded by researchers. Knowledge is traditionally produced and communally owned and disseminated through story telling, poems, songs and dance. An Afro centric paradigm then does not reflect the rational individualism that is a central organising principle of ‘Western’ education. Mazama, argues that ‘Afro centrism also means viewing the European voice as just one among the many and not necessarily the wisest one’. (quoted in Ntseane 2011: 316) Knowledge is produced for the purpose of community liberation and so requires the support and the validation of family members and community, as well as ancestral spirits. The change process must be collective. The learner then, becomes an educator within their families and communities. This inclusive, collective process is also reflected in African feminism which emphasises the importance of challenging women’s oppression alongside men. Merriam & Ntseane (2008) examined the transformational learning experiences of 12 adults in Botswana found support for the central concepts of Meizrow's process, with only limited support for his ‘rational discourse’. This appears to be related to the importance of the communal construction of knowledge, the centrality of spirituality and the metaphysical world, and the questioning of gender roles. In a description of the centrality of learning to the development of the community in a traditional African society, learning is described as ‘a lifelong process that could not be separated from the rest of life’s activities. ….’’.Anyone who fails to learn is regarded as the living dead’’ (Avoseh quoted in Merriam and Kim 2008:75) Implications for adult educators are clear. Educators must give close attention to the role of knowledge, the ways in which knowledge is constructed and owned and consider teaching methods that reflect this.
Learning is a holistic experience – physical, spiritual, emotional and cognitive. They should become ‘culturally responsive.’ Critical review of transformational learning There is debate over the relationship between the role of individual perspective transformation and the links with socio-political change. Mezirow’s individualistic focus work contrasts sharply with Freire’s socially liberating education. Mezirow’s has been criticised for emphasing individual critical reflection in ‘meaning making’ does not account for the cultural contexts including gender, power, class, ethnicity as so ‘ignores culturally accepted collective learning experiences’ (Ntseane 2011:310). In describing the critical theory approach of bell hooks and Davies, Brookfield (2003) highlights the centrality of placing a critiques of transformative learning in parallel with a critical analysis of capitalism and ‘’ from an awareness of how race, gender and class oppression intersect to kill transformative impulses.’’ (p212). Brookfield (2009) argues that critical reflection can lead to transformative experiences, though often learning leads to an increasing awareness of power and hegemony and not the major qualitative structural changes required for a transformative experiences. Cranton (2006) suggests that critical reviews of Mezirow's ‘individualistic’ representation of transformation may be misrepresenting the importance of individual learning transformation as a core of greater social transformation. Harrisons (2008) study confirms this suggesting that as ’women became empowered; the changes affected their socio-cultural context resulting in changes with their children, family and community.’ Western conceptions of rational thinking are based on Cartesian dualism (mind/body split) and Enlightenment valuing of science. The centrality of critical reflection in transformation itself is challenging to non western group based cultures. Educators then ‘Need to develop more culturally sensitivity within transformational learning theory, which accommodates
‘other ways of knowing, value systems and understandings of reality’ (Ntseane 2011: 313) The assumption that transformational learning experiences are empowering / liberating may be questioned. In a case study of a Kurdish woman’s transformational journey Kucukaydin & Flannery (2007: 416) suggest that: ‘‘Transformative learning is not a liberator itself…everyone who goes through a (process of) transformative learning will not necessarily be empowered. They may be disempowered, may internalize the oppression, and may choose to be silent about their oppression’’. Knowledge construction does not exist outside psychosocial-political contexts. This theme also emerges in McDonald et al 1999 study who identified the centrality of power in vegans (oh the irony) transformational experiences and which highlights the ongoing power relationships of normative ideology on praxis. Indeed, vegans became ‘self silencing’ in the face of the powerful pressures of conformity Harrisons (2008) ethnographic case study of 4 women’s journeys in adult literacy suggests that it was not disorientating dilemmas that lead to transformation but instead ‘integrating circumstances‘.
Measuring and Evidence in Transformative Theory Transformative learning be documented by using a coding schema to assess Mezirow’s 10 phases. Brock (2010) quantitatively assessed business undergrads against Mezirow’s 10 phases in transformative learning using’ The Learning Activities Survey Questionnaire’ (King 1998,2009). Brock suggests that the more steps students experienced the more transformative learning had been experienced. Transformational learning was most associated with critical reflection, then by disorienting dilemma and then trying out new roles.
References: Brock, S.E. (2010) Measuring the Importance of Precursor Steps to Transformative Learning Adult Education Quarterly 60 (2) 122-142 Brookfield, S (2003) The Praxis of Transformative Education: AfricanAmerican Feminist Conceptualizations Journal of Transformative Education 1:3 212-223 Brookfield, S (2009) 'the concept of critical reflection: promises and contradictions', European Journal of Social Work, 12: 3, 293 â€” 304 Foucault, M (1980) Power/ Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977 Trans. Colin Gordon et al. New York: Pantheon. Harrison, Aline E., "The far reaching impact of transformative learning: A critical ethnographic case study" (2008). Theses and Dissertations. Paper 282. http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/etd/282 accessed 18/11/11 King, K (2009) Evolving research of transformational learning based on the learning activities survey information Age publishing Inc. Charlotte UC Kucukaydin I & Flannery D (2007) Transformative Learning of a Kurdish Woman in Turkey proceedings of Seventh International Transformative Learning Conference Transformative Learning: Issues of Difference and Diversity New Mexico 411 â€“ 418 McDonald, B., Cervero, R.M., Courtenay, B.C., (1999) An Ecological Perspective of Power in Transformational Learning: A Case Study of Ethical Vegans Adult Education Quarterly 50 (5) 5-23 Merriam S.B & Ntseane G (2008) Transformational Learning in Botswana: How Culture Shapes the Process Adult Education Quarterly 2008 58 83-197
Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning to think like an adult: Core concepts of transformational learning. In J. Mezirow and Associates (Eds.), Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress (pp. 3-34). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Mezirow, J (2009) An Overview of Transformational Learning in Illeris, k (ed) Contemporary theories of learning: Learning theoristsâ€Ś. in their own words Routledge Oxon Mezirow, J, Taylor, E., and associates (2009) Transformative learning in practice: Insights from Community, Workplace and Higher Education John Wiley & sons, San Francisco Ntseane P G (2011) Culturally Sensitive Transformational Learning: Incorporating the Afrocentric Paradigm and African Feminism Adult Education Quarterly 61(4) 307â€“ 323 Snyder, C. (2008) Grabbing Hold of a Moving Target: Identifying and Measuring the Transformative Learning Process Journal of Transformative Education 6: 159- 181 Taylor E.W (2007) An update on Transformative Learning Theory: A Critical Review of the empirical research (1999-2005) International Journal of Lifelong Learning 26:2 173-191 Criticisms: - Perspective transformations may not always be dependent on critical reflection (Taylor, 1993). - TL should also reflect the intellectual, emotional, moral, and spiritual dimensions of our existence (Dirks, 2006) and not just the rational, social aspect - "too much emphasis on a rational approach, which is ignoring the importance of intuition, imagination, and emotion." (Boyd and Myers, 1988).
- Is TL a too idealistic model of Adult learning (Lulee, 2009)? - TL lacks attention to context and can be too heavily biased towards social justice/change. - It needs to distinguish between normal life cycle stages and transformative learning. - Will the transformation be positive and is it irreversible?
Questions to consider: ARE ALL ASSUMPTIONS WRONG/NEGATIVE? DO THEY ALL NEED TO BE CHALLENGED? MAYBE ALL LEARNING IS TRANSFORMATIVE AND IT IS JUST A QUESTION OF HOW MUCH LEARNING/TRANSFORMATION OCCURRED? CAN SMALLER LEARNING/TRANSFORMATIONS LEAD TO BIGGER LEARNING/TRANSFORMATIONS? Ie. A CULMINATION OF LEARNING.
ROLE OF TEACHER - Ghost of Xmas Past . . . To foster transformative learning, To assist learners in becoming aware and critical of assumptions (their own and others). To provide learners practice in recognizing frames of reference, thereby encouraging practice in seeing problems from different perspectives (Mezirow, 1997). To provide learners with opportunities for discourse (Mezirow, 1997) which involves assessing beliefs, feelings, values (Cranton, 2006) and reasons behind competing interpretations and alternate points of view.
To encourage critical reflection and experience with discourse through the implementation of methods including consciousness raising, life histories and participation in social action (Mezirow, 1997). To encourage autonomous thinking, by fostering learnersâ€™ critical reflection and experience in discourse. To encourage equal participation among students in discourse. E.g. ask group members to take it in turns to monitor/chair the dialogue and ensure equal participation and to sometimes encourage dialogue from different perspectives via controversial statements or readings from opposing points of view, although the educator should not shape the discussion (Cranton, 2006). To be a role model by demonstrating a willingness to learn and change (Cranton, 2006). To implement such classroom methods as learning contracts, group projects, role-play, case studies and simulations and to build trust, care and sensitive relationships between learners, encouraging collaboration and therefore the acceptance/seeing of alternative perspectives. ROLE OF LEARNER - Scrooge . . . To practice civility and respect and to help each other learn. To welcome diversity and encourage collaboration (Mezirow, 1997). To be critical of their own assumptions, to transform their frames of reference - objective reframing occurs while critically assessing the assumptions of others, whereas subjective reframing occurs when learners critically reflect on their own assumptions (Mezirow, 1997). To actively participate in discourse/discussion, which provides opportunities to examine evidence, arguments and alternate points of view, and fosters collaborative learning (Mezirow, 1997).
The educator is a facilitator as the goal is for learners to construct knowledge about themselves and their environment.
Questions for consideration: DO LEARNERS NEED TO BE WILLING TO CHANGE/TRANSFORM OR AT LEAST ENGAGE IN ACTIVITIES THAT MAY LEAD TO TRANSFORMATION? DO THEY HAVE TO WANT TO ENGAGE IN TRANSFORMATIONAL LEARNING FOR IT TO OCCUR?
Critical Review In what ways are changes in perspective different from other models of change? Within addiction work there is widely used (though poorly evidenced) staged model of a change, the Transtheorectical model, (Prochaska, & DiClemente,. (1986).) which Mezirow's phases clearly form relationship with (Moore 2005). The similarities describing change are striking- “any activity that you initiate to help modify your thinking, feeling, or behavior” (Prochaska, Norcross, & DiClemente, 1994, p. 25) the transtheoretical model is to some extent at least, focused on actual behaviour/ behaviour rather than largely cognitive focus of Meizrow. Transformative learning's 10 phases and Transtheoretical models has 6 stages; there is conflicting evidence around the generalising the processes that indicate change. Indeed for many people experiencing addiction, there is support for ‘natural recovery’ with no disorienting dilemma, external support - indeed the change is spontaneous. So does all perspective transformation require input? Do all learners need the same type of educational approach? . If the processes are similar then what are the implications for ‘backsliding’ / relapse? Relapse is seen as simply a return to previous thought/behaviour patterns in The TTM, whereas Meizrow suggests that perspective change is irreversible. There is much between these theoretical positions to examine further.
Online Resources for Transformative Learning International Issues in Adult Education Nov. 2011 Link to Presentation PowerPoint: http://issuu.com/murraywason/docs/transformational_learning_group_ presentation_final
Web Pages: A good starting point for study: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transformative_learning Expanding the practical applications for educators with suggestions at the end: http://ericdigests.org/1999-2/adulthood.htm Transformative Learning Theory website with clear links and references: http://transformativelearningtheory.com/ PDFs of Journal Articles: The Theory and Practice of Transformative Learning: A Critical Review, Richard W. Taylor: http://eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED423422.pdf Towards a Critical Theory of Adult learning/Education: Transformational Theory and Beyond (paper presentation), Arthur L. Wilson and Richard C. Kiely: http://eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED473640.pdf A Critical Theory Of Adult Learning And Education, Jack Mezirow: Adult Education (Adult Education Association of the USA, Washington, 1981): http://scholar.googleusercontent.com/scholar?q=cache:gdvsdP8AVxgJ:scholar.googl e.com/&hl=en&as_sdt=0,5&as_vis=1
Video Links: Recent Developments in the Field of Transformative Learning Theory / April 8th, 2010 Part 1/ Presentations Only: http://vimeo.com/10899069