Transformative Learning: Pieces of the Puzzle and Knowing when the Puzzle is Complete

This past week I was privileged to have been in the student role.  I got to do my own experiential learning as the student. Whenever I step into the student role I learn so much about myself and about teaching and learning.

It was a wonderful nursing workshop in San Francisco.  The workshop utilized all levels and types of Bloom’s taxonomy (cognitive, affective and psychomotor).  I would say that most of the course was in the affective domain, at least for me.

At the end of this course I was asked to evaluate the course.  While I think this kind of evaluation is important for teachers to be able to modify certain things in the course and delivery of it but it got me thinking about the limitation of this type of evaluation for this type of course.    What was the best way to evaluate if/how transformative learning occurred?

One question posed in the evaluation was “what was the most valuable professional or personal insight that you gained?”  A wonderful question but one I was still formulating at the end of this three day workshop.  As all the work of the course was settling within my mind I was still figuring that piece out.  I wanted to see how this was going to show up in my life (both professional and personal, as I was sure it would way in one form or another).

It got me thinking about how we know if transformative learning occurs.  Some of the outcomes I came across for transformative learning was an increase in self confidence, empowerment and an increase in personal power (Scott, 1991 as cited in Calpro, 2016).  Certainly things I was starting to feel already.

It also had me thinking that a standardized assessment method before and after a course could help demonstrate what shifted for that individual.  However, I feel that some time needs to elapse, especially if the course is taken in a short burst of time, as this one was.  Time to let the dust settle, as transformative learning tends to stir things up.  Mezirow (1991) says that with transformative learning, meaning structures (perspectives and schemes) are either refined, elaborated on, or completely changed to something new (as cited in Culatta, 2016).

In the literature this is what was crucial to creating transformative learning (Calpro, 2016):

  • courage (to be, feel, believe and act)
  • significance of relationship (including the element of trust)
  • critical reflection
  • affective (that which evokes emotions)
  • risk taking
  • intuition driven
  • readiness to change
  • experiential
  • a community of learners is built
  • learner-centered
  • time

In my hypnotherapy practice we ask clients prior to a session if they have noticed any changes in their thinking (cognitive), in how they are acting (behaviour), or in their emotions (affective).  Often times, people are more in tune with behaviour changes then the more subtle cognitive and emotional changes I find.  Behaviour seems like a more tangible and measurable thing.  Some people may need time and some will just transform at a quicker rate or be more aware of subtle changes. So I believe the evaluation of transformative learning should have a focus on behaviour but still measure for the cognitive or affective changes as well.

This course certainly had all these elements and I do notice a shift in my spirit and emotions.  There is new hope and faith, less anger and shame.  As time passes these changes can be further reflected on and I feel a re-evaluation of transformative learning would elicit more meaningful data.

At that same token, we can’t always pinpoint exactly what caused a transformative change because often it is multi-factorial or there is not a clear defined path.  An interesting idea I cam across was having students create a perspective timeline to define the path to transformative learning.  Learning often time is not obvious but a timeline would help to tease that out (Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning, 2016).

Transformative learning is a complex phenomenon to evaluate. A standardized assessment of cognitive, affective with a focus on behavioural focused questions with re-assessment at different time intervals I believe is integral to generating the most meaningful data.


Calpro (California Adult Literacy Professional Development) (2016). Appendix B Overview of the Empirical Studies of Mezirow’s Transformative Learning Theory.  Available at

Culatta, Richard. (2016).  Transformative learning: Jack Mezirow.  Available at

Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning (2016).  Teaching for Transformation: From Learning Theory to Teaching Strategies.  Available at



About turnera2014

I am a Nursing (RN) Instructor taking the Professional Instructor Diploma Program at Vancouver Community College in hopes to challenge my current teaching modalities and inspire me to be the best teacher I can be.
This entry was posted in Inspirations and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s