Further Reflection on Transformative Learning: Processes & Outcomes

The article I requested about an assessment tool for transformative learning just came in today.  It is a rich resource to further build on my post earlier this week about how to evaluate transformative learning. Which again dives further into what is transformative learning? As this article points out that transformative learning can be an over and misused term when referring to anytime a person’s reflection leads to deeper or a greater understanding of assumptions (Stuckey et al., 2013). After further investigation into this topic I believe this is a process toward transformative learning but is not transformative learning unto itself.  Once one’s assumptions are understood does not necessarily mean a change is going to occur.  One’s thoughts and behaviours still need to be re-organized to encompass this new understanding for true transformative learning to take place.

This article defines transformative learning in three different categories which are quite distinct and from which this standardized transformative learning assessment tool was derived from. Stuckey et. al (2013) explains that while they are distinctly different they are also complementary to one another.

  • Cognitive/rational perspective: This one is based off of Mezirow’s work. “This is a constructivist and universal view of learning, explaining a process of constructing and appropriating new or revised interpretations of the meaning of one’s experience with a goal of greater personal autonomy and independence” (p. 213)
  • Extrarational: Dirxx being a leader in this conception. it emphasizes the emotive, imaginal, spiritual, and arts-based facets of learning, those that reach beyond rationality (Stuckey et al., 2013).
  • Social critique perspective that emphasizes ideological critique, unveiling oppression, and social action. This view emphasizes social transformation over personal change. (Stuckey, p.213)

The authors created a survey based on two main categories:

(a) outcomes of transformative learning (this included acting differently, having a deeper self awareness, having more open perspectives, experiencing a deep shift in worldview) and (b) processes of transformative learning that transfer across the 3 theoretical perspectives (as per above) in the survey (a cognitive/rational: critical reflection, action, experience, disorienting dilemma, discourse; extra-rational: arts based, dialogue, emotional, imaginal, spiritual, soul work; social critique: ideology critique, unveiling oppression, empowerment, social action) (Stuckey et al., 2013, p.217)

This helps us understand the processes of transformative learning and by learning how transformative learning comes about helps us, as educators, understand how to promote that with our students. It also helps us understand the outcomes of transformative learning so we can help out students to dicern if they have indeed experienced transformative learning. I believe there is never a clear path to transformative learning but as an educator I don’t really need to know that exactly. I am just happy if transformative learning occurs for even some of my students.

When I reflect on my university education, which included one year in the General Arts program and the 4 years in the Nursing program I realize this was a truly transformative learning experience. I never looked at the world the same way again and had a new way of thinking, I was able to critically reflect on any given issue and was much more open minded. I developed emotionally and spiritually as I witnessed deep tragedy and faced life and death up close.  I formed new perspectives and I was more aware of social justice issues and more motivated and empowered to act on these.  Really this university education encompassed all three of those facets of transformative learning.

For my nursing students to pinpoint when exactly the transformative learning occurred would be difficult. There were likely some events that stick out but I believe that transformative learning can be a slow and subtle process. Certain stories, ideas and thoughts get implanted in the brain, and remain dormant or grow very slowly. Sometimes a big event occurs that really nurtures those seeds and the flowers become abundant at that time.

Reference: Stuckey, H.L., Taylor, E.W., & Cranton, P. (2013). Journal of Transformative Education, 11(4), 211-228.

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.
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