Synthesis and Application of Transformative Learning in Nonprofit Management

Synthesis and Application of Transformative Learning in Nonprofit Management

Taylor Danielle Bunn
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-4023-0.ch010
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Understanding how adults learn could help nonprofit leaders more effectively attract and engage stakeholders and supporters of diverse backgrounds. Without clients, volunteers, and donors, nonprofit organizations cease to exist. Authentic connection with potential stakeholders is critical. In the nonprofit field, all outreach efforts—client events, volunteer opportunities, grant applications, and board meetings—are an opportunity to educate the audience about a mission, critical needs, and ways to engage in social impact activities. This chapter seeks to provide nonprofit leaders with an introduction to applying transformative learning principles to their work to deeply connect with and engage supporters of various backgrounds. The first section offers an overview of transformative learning for adults, followed by direct application of select tenets to stakeholder engagement. Each subsection includes a scenario with a suggested application of the transformative learning framework.
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When we think of traditional education—rooms of children with no prior knowledge, empty vessels waiting to be filled with the knowledge of their teachers in a protected, prescribed environment—we are thinking of pedagogy. Children and adults, however, learn in different ways and have different needs. Where pedagogy succeeds in helping classroom teachers transfer knowledge to students, andragogy offers a solution for traditional and non-traditional education for adults with different developmental, academic, and psychological needs. Adults seek relevance and importance. They have experiences and values that should be respected. They understand the importance of learning when their circumstances have changed and for deep understanding of specific situations, and they take ownership of their learning. They learn because they want to learn (Chacko, 2018). Transformative learning for adults, therefore, requires a guide-on-the-side rather than a sage-on-the-stage. This section explores transformative learning as one model of andragogy and considers how nonprofit leaders can facilitate transformative learning as a stakeholder engagement and management strategy across diverse stakeholder groups.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Andragogy: Adult education, differentiated from pedagogy (children’s education).

Disorienting Dilemma: An experience of crisis that causes an individual to question their assumptions and leads to a transformation.

Hegemony: Persistent control of a dominant group over marginalized groups.

Collective Efficacy: A group’s beliefs in their collective ability to accomplish a goal or complete a task.

Privilege: A system of unearned advantages benefiting dominant groups.

Transformative Learning: A constructivist theory of learning in which an individual deeply explores their assumptions and perspectives to meaningfully change to their frames of reference.

Jack Mezirow: American sociologist and adult educator who created the theory of Transformative Learning.

Norma Nerstrom: Created an emerging model of Transformative Learning based on a continuous cycle of experience, assumptions, challenging perspectives, and transformation.

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