Transformative Learning

Transformative Learning

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2062-9.ch018
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The theory of transformative learning has been explored by different theorists and scholars. However, few scholars have made an attempt to make a comparison between transformative learning and Confucianism or between transformative learning and andragogy. The authors of this article address these comparisons to develop new and different insights to guide Web-based teaching and learning. Indeed, as Web-based teaching and learning has become popular in the 21st century, the theory of transformative learning should help Web-based teaching and learning. The authors of this article demonstrate different ways whereby the theory of transformative learning can be used to stimulate critical self-reflection and potentially transformative learning.
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Mezirow’S Theory Of Transformative Learning

Jack Mezirow’s (1991, 2000) perspective reflects a rational approach to transformative learning emphasizing a critical and objective analysis of an interpretation of experience. The discussion in this section draws on Cranton and Taylor (in press). Transformative learning is seen as a process whereby previously uncritically assimilated habits of mind are called into question and revised so as to be more open, permeable, and better justified (Mezirow, 2000). Based to some extent on Habermas’ communicative theory, the theory assumes that there is need among all humans to understand and make meaning of their experiences. The theory is constructivist in nature, so the assumption is made that there are no fixed truths and change is continuous. People cannot always be confident of what they know or believe, so they look for ways to better understand their world and themselves. As Mezirow (2000) puts it, adults have a need to understand “how to negotiate and act upon our own purposes, values, feelings and meanings rather than those we have uncritically assimilated from others—to gain greater control over all lives as socially responsible clear thinking decision makers” (p. 8). Over time, this leads to better justified beliefs about the self and the world external to the self.

In transformative learning theory, a person’s frame of reference includes the assumptions and expectations that underlie his or her thinking, beliefs, and actions. A frame of reference is composed of two dimensions, habits of mind and a point of view. Habits of mind are habitual means of thinking, feeling, and acting influenced by underlying cultural, political, social, educational, and economic assumptions about the world. The habits of mind get expressed in a particular point of view. They often develop uncritically in childhood through socialization and acculturation with family, teachers, and through other significant relationships. Over time, in conjunction with numerous congruent experiences, a frame of reference becomes reified, providing a rationalization for an often irrational world. It offers criteria for evaluating the world adults interact with, based on a set of cultural and psychological assumptions. These assumptions give meaning to experience, but they are subjective, and they can distort thoughts and perceptions, skewing reality.

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