Transformative Learning: Moving Beyond Theory and Practice

Transformative Learning: Moving Beyond Theory and Practice

Norma Nerstrom (Harper College, Palatine, IL, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/ijavet.2017010104
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Events or experiences that have a transformative effect on people's lives can have an even greater impact if they are documented and disseminated through books, articles, or other forms of media. Whether one learns of such episodes through personal interaction or published sources, these personal stories enrich and inform one's own life, providing unique insights that help one to understand oneself and others. Scholars have studied transformative learning for 40 years, but Michael Kroth and Patricia Cranton, in their 2014 book Stories of Transformative Learning, expanded the world's understanding by focusing on firsthand accounts of this phenomenon. Using Kroth and Cranton's work as a backdrop, this article presents stories of adult learners who set out to earn graduate degrees but also discovered a renewed sense of themselves along the way. The stories shared here illustrate how learners' beliefs were constructed, challenged, and then transformed, enabling them to overcome prejudices, increase their self-confidence, and experience a new sense of personhood. The participants' transformative learning experiences were authenticated through interviews, writings, and artistic expressions. Notably, these stories were collected many years after the individuals featured had completed their programs, validating the claim that transformative learning has a long-term effect and that truly transformed people do not eventually revert to their prior ways of thinking and being. A brief literature review is also included.
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What might we learn from in-depth personal stories of transformative learning? Hopefully, we would learn much about how adult beliefs are constructed, challenged, and transformed. In addition, we might discover the long-term effects of this phenomenon. These assumptions formed the foundation of my doctoral research of transformative learning.

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