Transformative Learning in an Online Environment

Transformative Learning in an Online Environment

Patricia Cranton
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0252-6.ch005
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The purpose of this article is to explore the potential for fostering transformative learning in an online environment. It provides an overview of transformative learning theory, including the variety of perspectives on the theory that have evolved as the theory matured. Strategies and practices for fostering transformative learning are presented, followed by a description of the online environment and how strategies for encouraging transformative learning might be carried into that environment. Students’ voices are brought in to corroborate and to question the importance of these strategies. The article concludes with a discussion of how an educator’s style and strengths can be brought into online teaching, especially with a view to helping learners examine their meaning perspectives.
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Overview Of Transformative Learning Theory

Transformative learning is a deep shift in perspective during which habits of mind become more open, more permeable, and better justified (Cranton, 2006; Mezirow, 2000). According to Mezirow, the process centers on critical reflection and critical self-reflection, but other theorists (e.g., Dirkx, 2001) place imagination, intuition, and emotion at the heart of transformation. Generally, transformative learning occurs when a person, group, or larger social unit encounters a perspective that is at odds with the prevailing perspective. The discrepant perspective can be ignored or it can lead to an examination of previously held beliefs, values, and assumptions. When the latter is the case, the potential for transformative learning exists, though it is not called transformative until there is a deep shift in perspective and noticeable changes in actions as a result of the shift.

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