Transformative learning challenges learners to reflect on how past experiences and beliefs have shaped them. It has the power to fundamentally alter your worldview, as well as your feelings, thoughts and actions. It changes the way you perceive and interact with the world. When transformational learning occurs, it can challenge your daily activities, relationships and even your visions for the future. Jack Mezirow, Emeritus Professor of Adult and Continuing Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, has been credited with the emergence of the study of transformational learning in 1981.
Write on the board the three levels of thinking: first-order, metacognition, and transformative. Discuss how the three are different and write examples next to them. For example, first-order involves memorizing, reading and computing; metacognition involves products of first-order thinking; transformative learning involves considering the limits of the first two levels of thinking, and reflecting on the criteria, points of reference and other factors that can influence the first two levels of thinking. Discuss the many meanings of the word "transformative" such as change of perspective, habits and worldview. Consider why this level of thinking generally doesn't emerge until later adolescence.
Write on the board the four stages of transformative learning and address each one separately with a brainstorming session and class discussion. Ask the students to think of a personal example for each stage and make a note of it on a piece of paper as you review the stages.
Review the first stage of transformative learning, which is elaborating existing frames of reference. Ask the class what this means and use the metaphor of a newborn baby who's just entered the world and is not yet aware of his surroundings. This can also be referred to as "unconscious incompetence."
Review the second stage of transformative learning: learning new frames of reference. Discuss what that might mean. Use the baby again as an example. Tell the class this is like "conscious competence," when a baby begins to focus and observe the world around him, but hasn't yet developed the skills to interact with it.
Review stage three -- transforming points of view -- by again going back to the example of the baby. This is when the baby takes his first steps in the world, literally and figuratively. He begins to interact in a physical and verbal way, altering his point of view and changing it to a "conscious competent" learner.
Identify stage four as the transformational stage where habits of the mind are forever changed. This is "conscious competence" where the baby can communicate and walk on his own. Learning is second nature or unconscious.
Engage students by asking them to share their own personal anecdotes or stories that relate the four stages of learning. Some will have life stories to relate, while others may have a hard time making the connection and you will have to help them along. Finish the discussion by asking the students to consider if they've completed the four stages of the transformational process.
- “Learning as Transformation;” Jack Mezirow; 2000
- Holistic Education Network: Transformative Learning: What is Transformative Learning?
- Mentoring for Change: “Transformational Learning;” Mike Munro Turner
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