Merriam, Caffarella

“This chapter has presented a discussion of transformational learning theory. Probably more than any other approach, this theory has captured the attention of adult educators within the past decade, so much so that Hanson (1996) feels that its dominance has replaced andragogy as the primary learning theory of the moment. Whether transformational learning will remain a centerpiece of adult learning theory is, of course, not predictable. It would seem, however, that the theoretical foundations articulated in detail by Mezirow and to some extent Freire are sufficiently robust to foster continued debate, discussion, and research.

In addition to reviewing the major tenets of the theory as laid out by Mezirow and Freire, drawing from a wide range of literature on transformational learning, this chapter also included a more detailed discussion of three of its key components: the centrality of experience, the process of critical reflection, and transformative learning’s link to adult development. In the final section of the chapter, we explored four unresolved issues surrounding transformational learning: the extent to which context has been neglected, the over-reliance on rational forms of knowing, the nature of the relationship between individual and social change, and questions regarding preparation for and implementation of this type of learning.” from 338-9

Mezirow: Perspective transformation process: disorientating dilemma (or integrative experience)->self-examination (guilt, shame, sometimes religion)->critical assessment of assumptions->recognizing others have gone through same process->exploring options->plan of action->reintegration. Critical reflection (rationally) and discourse are a key part of process. “Drawing from Habermas, there are, according to Mezirow, “ideal” conditions for discourse: having complete information, being free from self-deception, being able to evaluate arguments objectively, having an “equal opportunity to participate in the various roles of discourse,” and so on (1995, p. 54) from 322. Not an argument or debate but mutual working towards.

That idea of meaning and meaning perspectives changing through dialogue rang true for me in thinking about my relationship with Leni. We often talk things out, examine out assumptions and realizations, chew over things with each other in as open-minded a fashion as we can. Perhaps there isn’t that emphasis on rational discourse, more of an affective component but I think that’s important. One thing missing from this description from my experience is the emotional component. The person you’re talking to has to be trusted. The article acknowledges that it can be a scary, uncomfortable process but to me there’s not enough emphasis on how exposed this makes the learner and the fact that, if the educator does not build some kind of trust, then the process can’t happen. There is a bit of acknowledgement at the end (and the issues of transference, etc.) of this but I think it bears repeating.

Freire: More emphasis on social rather than simply individual change. Banking vs. problem-solving. Also more explicit about “for us or agin us”-either supporting hegemony or challenging it-no neutral. “For education to be liberating, one’s consciousness must be transformed. This process Freire calls conscientization, “in which men, not as recipients, but as knowing subjects, achieve a deepening awareness both of the socio-cultural reality which shapes their lives and of their capacity to transform that reality” (1970a, p. 27).” From 325. Stages from fatalistic and unaware to critical consciousness.

For me issue is a definite theoretical perspective. How ready are people to hear it and respond. Even if they are ready to respond, as one place in the article points out—what right do educators have to mess with learners’ world views? Might argue that they’re doing it whether they will nor no, but at least conscientization gives learners a fighting chance to consider what they’re taking in. I get my back up though when people are pushing me on a view, even if I agree with it so watch out for unintended consequences.

Also, unrelated but here goes anyway—I’m interested in the point they made when they said that in the disorienting dilemma stage that people could choose to avoid or deny or face it head on. What about a time lag? There are many situations in which I have been confronted with dilemmas that I’ve avoided until much later. How are these re-kickstarted? Can the lesson be learned later?

Key concepts: life experience (not all experiences transformative—learning happens at point where experience cannot be easily encompassed in prior framework, must question why did this happen and what does it mean), stages from linking learning to prior experience, current experience, making learning itself an experience and subjecting experience to critical scrutiny), critical reflection/thinking (Brookfield’s five stages: trigger event, appraisal, exploration, developing alternative perspectives, reintegration; political component of challenging hegemony; Western emphasis on rational reflection but perspective transformation can occur without it—assimilative learning), and transformational learning and adult development (shout out to Educational Psych—King and Kitchner, Belenky, et. al.)

Unresolved issues—not enough emphasis on socio-cultural context, too Western rational?, social change vs. individual development; and educator’s role (some of the earlier concerns about how to facilitate as well as practical ones about how to work it in)

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