Transformative Learning & FOC08

There has been some rather loud sharing of alternate perspectives this week in our Facilitating Online Communities (FOC08) course. I commented in an email to the class:

I think these related discussions are quite interesting. It is very difficult to tolerate differences in worldview or educational perspective (among other things), and I think that courses that promote giving voice to alternative perspectives can in turn open learners to a world beyond their own comfort levels. This is one of the features that attracts me to Mezirow’s Transformative Learning.

I do wonder, though, at what point does a discussion sink to a level where facts (though not their meanings) begin to get clouded. Perhaps I am musing myself into a new blog post about this . . .

I am not overly interested in the discussions, but I think Leigh, the class facilitator, handled the increasing tensions exceedingly well. Learning happens differently for different people, and making and encouraging a space for that to happen is a good lesson for us educators.

The situation recalled when I first studied Jack Mezirow, who defined his concept of Transformative Learning as:

“the process by which we transform our taken-for-granted frames of reference (meaning perspectives, habits of mind, mind-sets) to make them more inclusive, discriminating, open, emotionally capable of change, and reflective so they may generate beliefs and opinions that will prove more true or justified to guide action”  (Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning to think like an adult: Core concepts of transformation theory. In J. Mezirow & Associates (Eds.), Learning as transformation (pp. 3-33). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass).

In other words, when our we face something that does not fit into our previously-constructed worldview, we can either shrink back and take comfort (or hide) in our assumptions or face the fact that how we previously saw the world no longer fits; we must grow and in the process enlarge our worldview. This is the core of transformative learning as Mezirow describes it, and it is interesting how Leigh’s email has started me thinking about previous learning that is so fitting in this context.

BTW, transformative learning is a very painful experience; any time our values and beliefs get challenged and we run out of excuses for them can cause quite a stir.

6 thoughts on “Transformative Learning & FOC08

  1. Jeffrey, this is a process I felt most strongly in the EVO session OpenwebPublishing with Bee in 2007.
    I think that by learning to accept alternative perspectives, we give oursleves more depth of being (not just learning), but the way to opening up for this kind of process can be painful.
    I see my kids living in the digital world, accepting certain changes as given, yet they are also in a mind set and are often more than a little inflexible and unwilling to accept different approaches, ideas or thinking outside of the box.

    If kids are like this already, how hard it becomes as an adult who has stuck with just one way of thinking, learning, communicating, etc to make this change!

  2. @Illya

    You know, Illya, I think what you described about how kids accept technology and the like has always been the approach that each new generation had. Everything from dancing like Elvis to the Beatles to color tv to hair bands–young people grow up (often) without enough of a frame of reference to believe anything could be different. Ever.

    This becomes tremendously problematic when, as adults, we still see the world in the same way. Politics, economics, religion, literature, technology, culture–I do not think it matters; if we see the complexities of the world with its almost endless possibilities in the same way as we always have, I wonder how much growth and maturation happens.

    This is especially problematic with educators . . .

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