Transformative Learning: From Theory to Practice

Transformative Learning: From Theory to Practice

Laura Landry-Meyer, Su Yun Bae, John Zibbel, Susan Peet, Deborah G. Wooldridge
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/IJAVET.2019100101
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The aim of this article is to connect transformative learning theory with the practice of teaching in higher education. Connecting theory to effective active learning pedagogy is good practice in teaching adults, andragogy. Using transformative learning theory as a guide, this article describes the historical evolution of transformative learning theory and describes specific application in higher education using Chickering and Gamson's principles of undergraduate education. The discussion of teaching and learning examples from face-to-face, online, service-learning, and short-term study abroad contexts provide the reader with concrete applications.
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Transformative Learning Theory

This section describes the historical development of transformative learning theory. The purpose is to highlight contributions that theorists have made in the development of the theory. Transformative learning theory is a relatively ‘new’ theory when compared to social learning theories and human development theories. Transformative learning theory focuses on how adult learners learn, specifically the integration of new knowledge with existing knowledge. Adults use critical thinking and questioning as they process new learning (Boyd & Myers, 1988, Mezirow, 2012, 2003, 2000, 1985; Taylor, 2007).

In 1968, educator Paulo Freire published Pedagogy of the Oppressed based on his experience in teaching adults. Using the analogy of the banking model of education, in which students are an empty piggy bank that need filled with knowledge, Freire (1968) proposed a paradigm shift to the co-creation of knowledge. Freire (1968) opposed the traditional banking education worldview and believed that transformation of education takes place by students being actively involved in the teaching-learning process. Transformative theorists, such as Paulo Freire advocate that rather being educated to pass tests, students should be educated to solve problems. Freire (1968) believed education to be a partnership between the teacher and student for the co-creation of knowledge. This paradigm shift from a banking view to co-creation of knowledge view in educational approaches contributed to the critical pedagogy movement. Critical pedagogy proposes that learners become active and build knowledge. Education becomes an act of cognition rather than a transmittal of knowledge.

In the 1970’s, Malcom Knowles (1975) introduced andragogy, commonly referred to as adult education to continue the view that education is an act of cognition for adults. Andragogy contributes to transformative learning theory as the science of supporting adult learning by connecting learning to relevance in adult life. Knowles (1975) believed that an adult’s experience should be a learning resource as experience creates the foundation for relevance. He believed that adults must connect the relevance for learning based on their experiences. Knowles (1984a, 1984b) emphasized that adults are self-directed learners and responsible for their learning and decisions about their learning. Using andragogy to guide pedagogy, when instructors create relevance, then adults are more apt to be self-motivated and self-directed about the learning process.

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