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Hello, my name is April L. Turner. Today, we are about to embark on a journey of learning. On this journey we will learn about John Mezirow’s Transformational Learning Theory and before we begin, let me tell you a story. Give a brief story about how I began to personal journey into education…
In this presentation we will see an introduction to John Mezirow, a brief historical background of the Transformational Learning Theory, look at two approaches to the theory, learn about the 10 phases to transformational learning, understand some different aspects of the theory, current trends and learns way of applying the theory in both a formal and non-formal setting.
John Mezirow developed the Transformational Learning Theory because he was concerned with how the adult makes sense of their life experience after returning to school after a long hiatus. Mezirow differentiates the meaning structures of the theory, frame of reference, habits of mind, and points of view.Frame of reference is a meaning perspective the structure of assumptions and expectations through which we filter sense impressions. Habits of the mind is a set of assumptions whether they are broad, generalized or orientated predispositions.Point of view is made up of meaning schemes, which are sets of immediate. Specific beliefs, feelings, attitudes, and value judgments.Mezirow believes that transformation occurs when one experiences a “disorientating dilemma, his or her reality is shaken and they way things are viewed no longer makes sense.
John Mezirow developed the Transformational Learning Theory because he was concerned with how the adult makes sense of their life experience after returning to school after a long hiatus.
The National Conference was a result of continued research and different critiques of the theory.Mezirow’s theory is still a major discussion topic during the conference as well as transformation learning in general.
Mezirow believes that transformation occurs when one experiences a “disorientating dilemma, his or her reality is shaken and they way things are viewed no longer makes sense.
The adult learner is looking at how they have felt about prior experiences.
Looking into one’s role in society and family prior to disorientating dilemma.
Acknowledging any feelings of discomfort and unhappiness during critical reflection.
Begin looking into how the new role that the adult learner fits into current life situation.
Plan a way to incorporate new role and experiences to expand the knowledge received after prior experiences.
Learning new things
Experimenting with new roles in society and home.
Learning to be confident with new role and changes in relationships.
LaurentDaloz used a psychodevelopmental approach to the Transformation Learning Theory because he views it as more holistic and intuitive versus Mezirow’s view that it is a more rational endeavor and emphasized critical reflection. Daloz’s experience as a teacher and administator helped him focus on adults who were returning to higher education. The teacher is viewed as the mentor by Daloz because they are a “teacher of adults”. The mentor may or may not teach a class but is more engage in a one on one relationship with the student. The role of the mentor is to teach, guide, challenge, support and encourage the student through their journey or trip through personal development. A journey or trip occurs throughout his or her life. It can be educational, social, mental, spiritual or physical. The journey does not take away our old experiences, as often feared before embarking, but give new meaning to the experiences. The mentor travels with the student during his or her journey and uses storytelling as a guide. Daloz believed that story telling is a good tool because it transform our vision of the possible, provides us with a map for the journey ahead, and can reconnect things when there is a loss of sense of meaning in the world. Storytelling in a form of non-formal teaching but Daloz does note that the mentor does teach in a conventional sense by offering new information, giving advice, testing and frequently stimulating their students to take issue with them. Even if there is a disagreement with what is being taught, the student is challenged to think about what is being taught in a different way.
The teacher is viewed as the mentor by Daloz because they are a “teacher of adults”.
PauloFriere’s philosophy on transformative learning was a result from his literacy work with rural Brazilian framers. Friere’s approach recognized that personal empowerment and social transformation were inseperable processes. Two different kinds of education emerged from Friere’s approach and that is banking education and problem posing education.
Reality is now seen as a process. The teacher/student relationship changes. They become coinvestigators in their common reality and the socicultural situation they live in. Problem-posing education also affirms that men and women are being in the process of becoming, unfinished and incomplete in an unfinished reality.
There are three key concepts in transformational learning: life experiences, the nature of critical reflection and the connection between transformative learning and development.
Conscientization is an ongoing process where the learner becomes more aware of the various oppressive forces in his or her life and becomes a part of the social change process. It occurs on several levels. Dialogue is very important as it helps the learner move through conscientization
Experience is considered to be an integral part of learning. Experience is defined as the process of doing and seeing things and of having things happens to you. Experiences come in different dimensions. Each dimension allows for the learner to link learning activities with prior experiences.
Critical Reflection occurs after having an experience.
Brookfield is well known for his critical approach to transformative learning.
Development happens after critical reflection of an experience has occurred. It is the process where the learner is able to expand their way of thinking and enjoy the newfound knowledge. The learner also gets a sense of direction as a result of development because it happens in distinct and recognizable leaps. Give an example….There is movement in the different dimensions of development. Dialogue is established to help the students construct knowledge and reconstruct knowledge in light of new experiences and reflectionsThe learner begins to learn who they are and that they can choose to be another way by having a dialogical relationship with themselves. The learner begins to recognize that learning is up to them. It is not forced but can be continuous.The learner moves towards recognizing they are responsible for their actions, choices and values and decisions made based off of values.The learner begins to connect with others. Maintaining their individuality but still being a part of the community.
Two current trends in transformative learning is the spiritual aspect of learning and the use of technology. Emotions and spirituality has been linked together because they both involve the body’s response to learning. Spirituality occurs when there is a sense of connectedness, a search of meaning, and an awareness of a transcendent force of energy beyond the self. Emotions such as rage, anger, joy, happiness can be felt during this time.
Technology allows for learners to have online access to have a dialogue with others to learn different perspectives on transformational learning. A concern with the online access is the feeling of not being socially connected as you would face to face, but the collaboration was valued.
Transformative learning can be applied in the formal setting through different methods. One activity is journaling. Journaling can be used as a tool so the learner can write down their experience, their reflections and what changes occurred. Creative activities can be used to have the learner link learning with current experiences, whether they are at home, at work or at school.
Transformative learning can occur in the non-formal setting in a variety of ways. Through the use of story telling. Storytelling is more holistic and intuitive because of the journey, trip or map of direction the story provides the learner. The mentor (teacher) is the story teller. The relationship between the mentor and the student is one on one interaction that results in the learner being challenge, supported, and guided through their own learning experiences and encouraged to continue through his or her journey. The journey can be personal, educational, social, psychological or financial. Most community based organizations provides non-formal settings for transformational learning due to the structure of the building and the environment. Examples of some non-formal courses could be a lecture on empowerment, nutrition or parenting. These classes may be offered one time, but may provide enough information that it changes how a person may feel about themselves and change his or her situation, change their parenting style or his or her nutritional habits.
If you think about your past experiences, you will realize that transformative learning is a continuous cycle. As a learner, you can always apply what has been previously learned or experienced with new knowledge that is being acquired or a new experience. You will reflect upon the old and the new and development will occur. You will create a meaning to the experience and add to your way of thinking and doing. Some things to consider, since transformation doesn’t always occur, does your way of thinking and doing change after each new experience? Also after seeing some examples of how to apply the transformative learning theory will you be able to do this in your teaching practices? Will you be able to get your adult learner to understand why and how they are transformed with his or her new experience?
John Mezirow’s transformational learning theory - A quick look at his theory
April L. Turner
Richard W. Riley School of Education and Leadership
o John Mezirow was interested in how adults
viewed learning after returning to college
after an extended hiatus during the 1970’s.
o Mezirow defined Transformative Learning as
“the process of using prior interpretation to
construe new or a revised interpretation of the
meaning of one’s experience in order to guide
o First National Conference on Transformative
Learning was held in 1998
o Continues to be a topic of discussion during
this bi-annual event
o A disorienting dilemma
o Sudden death, loss of job, going back to
school, moving or illness.
o A self examination with feelings of
guilt or shame
o Dealing with feelings of fear, guilt
o A critical assessment of assumptions
o Critical reflections on prior experiences
within society and family after disorientating
o Recognition that one’s discontent
and the process of transformation
o Exploration of options for new roles,
relationships, and actions
o Looking at how you can fit new
experiences and ways of thinking into
o Building competence and self-
confidence in new roles and
o A reintegration into one's life on the
basis of conditions dictated by one's
o Transformation occurs during life experiences
o It is more holistic and intuitive
o Life long personal develompent
o The teacher is the mentor
o The mentor may or may not teach a class but is
more engage in a one on one relationship with
o The role of the mentor is to teach, guide,
challenge, support and encourage the
student through their journey or trip through
o A journey or trip occurs throughout his or her
life. It can be educational, social, mental,
spiritual or physical.
o The journey does not take away our old
experiences, as often feared before embarking,
but give new meaning to the experiences.
o Story telling is a good tool because it
transform our vision of the possible, provides
us with a map for the journey ahead, and
can reconnect things when there is a loss of
sense of meaning in the world
o Focused on social change
o Illiteracy, oppression, and poverty
o Two different types of education
o Problem Posing
o Banking education - served the oppressor
because it domesticates the oppressed
o Banking education was teacher-centered and the
teacher is “all-knowing” and deposits knowledge
into passive students who are considered
receptacles for this knowledge.
o The goal was to change their consciousness but not the
situation. This is how they were able to remain
o Problem posing education
o Problem posing education allowed people to develop
their power to perceive critically the way they exist
in the world with which and in which they find
o Critical Reflection
o Knowing oppressive forces that are in your life
and becomes a part of social change process.
o Defined as the process of doing and seeing
things and having things happen to you.
o Experience is very important when it comes
o Comes in different dimensions that helps link
learning activities with prior knowledge
o Can be used as a resource for his or her
o Examining the underlying beliefs and
assumptions that affect how he or she
makes sense of the experience.
o Brookfield’s Phases of critical reflection
o Trigger event – something unexpected happens
o Appraisal – self-evaluation of the experience,
finding others with similar experiences
o Exploration – examining new an d different ways
of explaining or accommodating the experience
o Alternative Perspective – attempting new ways of
thinking and behaving about the experience
o Integration – putting the new ways of thinking
and behaving into the fabric of his or her life.
o Mezirow’s Three types of critical reflection.
o Content reflection – thinking about the actual
o Process reflection – thinking about ways to deal
with the experience
o Premise reflection – examining long held and
socially construed assumptions, beliefs, and
values about the experience or problem.
o The outcome of transformative learning
o A process of expansion of the real freedoms
that individuals enjoy
o Implies a sense of direction.
o Occurs in different dimensions
o Spiritual and Emotional
o The learner experiences an intrapersonal
conversation with the spirit.
o Emotional connection to what is being learned.,
i.e. rage, anger, sadness, happiness, joy, fear,
o Provides access to an online dialogue to learn
different perspectives of transformative learning
o Formal Setting
o Journaling – writing learning experiences and
ways thinking changed as a result of the
o Creating activities , such as simulations or role
plays, that can lead to critical reflections of the
o Non-formal setting
o Story telling – using a story to tell of a journey or
trip that changed his or her way of thinking
o Develop mentor/student relationship – a more
one on one relationship occurs and the individual
learning needs and styles of the students are
o The use of community centers and examples of
classes that can be offered.
o Transformative learning is a continuous cycle
o The learner always have experiences throughout
o After the experience, critical reflection does
o Development is a result of the critical reflection
and the change in thinking and doing occurs
o Things to consider
o After each new experience, does your way of
thinking and doing change?
o Ways that you can apply this learning theory in
your teaching practices
o Daloz, L.A. (2012). Mentor: Guiding the journey
of adult learners (2nd ed.) (pp. 17-42). San
Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
o Cranton, P. (2011). A theory in progress. In S.B.
Merriam & A.P. Grace (Eds), The Jossey-Bass
reader on contemporary issues in adult
education (pp. 321-339). San Francisco, CA:
o Freire, P. (2011). Pedagogy of the oppressed. In
S.B. Merriam & A.P. Gace (Eds), The Jossey-Bass
reader on contemporary issues in adult
education (pp.20-32). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-
o Merriam, S.D., Caffarella, R.S., &
Baumgartner, L.M. (2007). Learning in
adulthood: A comprehensive guide (3rd ed.)
(p. 130-158). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
o O'Sullivan, E. (1999). Transformative
Learning: Educational Vision for the Twenty-
First Century. London and New York: Zed