The Paradox of Transformative Learning Among Mid-Career Professionals

The Paradox of Transformative Learning Among Mid-Career Professionals

Niels Agger-Gupta, Catherine Etmanski
DOI: 10.4018/ijavet.2014010104
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Royal Roads University (RRU) is a special purpose university in British Columbia, Canada. Since 1995, this university has focused primarily on multi-sectoral and interdisciplinary graduate education for working professionals. Most programs are offered in a blended online and face-to-face format, which enables adult learners to continue in their professions while they pursue their studies. While one might not expect a primarily distance education degree to be transformative, feedback from learners consistently points to the experience of transformative learning. This article explores the Master's of Arts in Leadership Studies (MA-L) program. It is proposed that there are at least three elements of the design of this program that contribute to experiences of transformation. First, the RRU Learning and Teaching Model creates a framework that can allow many learners to learn how to learn in a new way. Second, the MA-L program itself has its own competency framework that begins by priming learners to look inward before they seek to lead others. Third and finally, the first year two-week residency, completed after one month of online preparation, provides an embodied experience in what, for many, is a new way of being. This embodied experience creates an awareness of what is possible for human relationship and communication, not only in the context of their particular graduate learning cohort, but also with colleagues, family members, and friends. Taken together, these create an often unexpectedly, and somewhat paradoxically, transformative experience for mid-career professionals.
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Theoretical Framework

Liberation is thus a childbirth, and a painful one. The man or woman who emerges is a new person, viable only as the oppressor-oppressed contradiction is superseded by the humanization of all people. Or to put it another way, the solution of this contradiction is born in the labor which brings into the world this new being: no longer the oppressor nor longer oppressed, but human in the process of achieving freedom. (Freire, 2003, p.49)

This section introduces readers to the theory of transformative learning. In particular, it draws from Mezirow’s (1978; 1991) idea of ‘perspective transformation’ then provides an overview of four frequently cited traditions of transformative learning.

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