Transformative learning - in action
Paper in proceedings, 2009
In this paper the author explains the theory of transformative learning (Mezirow, 1991) and argues for its use in teacher training courses for university lecturers and adult educators. The theory helps us understand how adult learners ‘make sense or the meaning of their experiences, the nature of the structures that influence the way they construe those experiences, the dynamics involved in modifying meanings, and the way that the structures of meaning themselves undergo changes when learners find them to be dysfunctional’ (Mezirow, 1991). In any clash of views, whether the struggle is internalized, or between individuals or groups of individuals, there are only a limited number of ways of resolving conflict. When the struggle occurs in the individual mind, decisions to change one’s point of view and act on that change are usually based on emotion, reason or a combination of the two. When the conflict occurs externally, that is between individuals and groups, the means of resolving that conflict usually boil down to force (verbal, physical or legal) or rational discourse. The paper uses a visit by Jack Mezirow to Australia for Adult Education week in the late 1990s to illustrate key criticisms of the theory as well as arguments that validate it. The paper also goes on to illustrate how the theory works in practice and concludes that there are beneficial effects when adult educators are helped to understand and practice it.