Transformative learning – or is it transformative teaching?

Posted in: Comment, New Publications

In a discussion paper for the HEA, ESD and Inter-disciplinarity: focus and trajectories, written in preparation for yesterday's seminar: Inter-disciplinary Sustainability Education: Insights, Momentum and Futures, Alex Ryan writes:

Following the work of Mezirow and developments by other educationalists, transformative learning processes generate shifts in the perspectives and frames of reference of learners, as well as their beliefs, attitudes and reactions, through the use of critical reflection, challenges to existing assumptions and the creation of alternative meaning schemes ... .

I was hoping to attend this seminar, virtually at least from my desk, but delayed travel home from an overnight event got in the way, so the brief comment that follows isn't informed or qualified by any of the discussion.

To me, Alex's text sounds like a descriptor of transformative teaching processes (or pedagogical contexts perhaps), rather than learning.  That is, what a teacher plans and sets up and hopes to achieve.  I say this because whilst teachers may propose, it is always potential learners who dispose.  In other words, all there ever are, are experiences, some of which give rise to learning, with some of these, in turn, transpiring to be transformative to one extent or another, perhaps in the way outlined above – and by no means all such experiences are found in formal education.   Liberal educators know all this in the very quickness of their being, and tend to be clear about the distinctiveness of preferred pedagogical means and possible learning ends.

Mezirow, J (1991) Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Posted in: Comment, New Publications


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