Transformative Learning The Rational and the Spiritual Transformative Learning A meta-cognitive process used to transform old assumptions and judgments into new meaning-making perspectives. Originally rooted in Mezirow’s Transformative Learning Theory. It potentially leads to: •Transformation which can occur suddenly or over time. •Deciding for yourself what has value and what is right. •Thinking on your own instead of operating from old habits of mind. •Integrating deeper aspects of yourself into consciousness. Rational vs. Spiritual / Emotional Transformation Learning Mezirow’s Transformative Learning Theory: Spiritual / Emotional Contributions: A rational learning process within conscious awareness. Focus is on an intuitive, emotional, or spiritual learning experience. A meta-cognitive process that applies critical thinking to frames of reference that are based on judgments, beliefs, values, and cultural influences that are taken for granted. Learning involves soul or inner work, often making the unconscious become conscious. To integrate our inner world with our experiences in and from the outer world. A transformation in which the resulting point of view is a new frame of reference, which is more open-minded, reflective, meaningful, and inclusive. Learning is intimately connected to the sacred and involves the spiritual as part of who we are. Transformation involves transcending ego and integrating spiritual experience, creating new frames of reference, Ego plays a main role in this process. Mezirow’s transformative process involves… a disorienting dilemma or feelings of fear, shame, guilt, or anger. recognition that another way of thinking is possible and perhaps better. context awareness of the conditioned beliefs and concepts. critical reflection and assessment of assumptions and beliefs. critical-dialectical discourse with others to understand the shared nature of the problem. validation of the new frame of reference or belief. exploring new ways of taking action within the framework of the new belief. Spiritual or emotional transformative process involves… reclaiming and restoring “the soul to the world of education, to advocate an education of the soul.” (Dirkx 2006, p.128) understanding the ways we make sense of our lives and how we interact in the world, to learn to focus on meaning as it is within the heart and spirit. To do this we need to understand ourselves. becoming aware of and integrating powerful unconscious feelings and images within the educational context of intellectual and cognitive growth. increasingly tuning into this aspect of ourselves and gaining a more substantial respect for the intensity and beauty of our everyday lives, and allowing it to transform our sense of who we are and our place in the world. “The path of understanding the inner world leads through the outer world.” (Dirkx 2006, p.129) Spiritually transformative learning requires that: We must understand and incorporate a holistic view in order to fully understand how adults learn and how educators can effectively facilitate the process of learning. These experiences potentially cause radical shifts in a person’s consciousness. [Akin to Mezirow’s “disorienting dilemma”] We must experience relevance and personal meaning. Learners must be deeply engaged even in mundane learning experiences. Deeply meaningful learning experiences challenge our old habits of thinking and feeling at a very deep level, to where they become troubling and cause our frame of reference to become obsolete and irrelevant. But also… It is the everyday experience that is the context for our meaning. Move toward “the enchantment of everyday life.” Finally… Outcome It is only in the outcome of a learning experience that we can distinguish between a nontransformative learning experience and a transformative one. They are transformative when there is a radical change in one’s cognitive, emotional, and/or spiritual way of being. Although Mezirow and Dirkx are on seemingly different tracks in terms of rationality and spirituality, both make concessions to the other. Mezirow concession: the spiritual aspect of living and learning is an “elusive but obviously significant dimension of transformative learning.” But Mezirow believes that the outcome must also involve “a rational process of critically assessing one’s epistemic assumptions as a critical dimension of the process involved in transformative learning…that it is this process, within awareness, that saves transformative learning from becoming reduced to a faith, prejudice, vision, or desire.” “…the full process of transformative learning includes both this mode of learning as [Dirkx has] described it and, once this dimension of learning is brought into awareness, the transformative actions may be understood to feature a rational process involving critical reflection of epistemic assumptions as a basis for transforming a frame of reference…any insightful theory of transformative learning in adult education should include both dimensions of the learning process.” Dirkx’ concession: Dirkx’ concession: “one of the outcomes of transformative learning is a fundamental change in what [Mezirow refers] to as a frame of reference. Furthermore, I would agree that transforming our frames of reference involves both rational and extra-rational processes. In the perspective I have described, the unconscious is recognized as a powerful source of creative and potentially constructive force within our lives. “These unconscious dynamics are expressed symbolically…in our dreams, fantasies...these unconscious energies represent the language of the self and its journey toward wholeness. They are the source and driving force for fundamental transformation within our lives. Whether we consciously participate in this process or not reflects the degree to which the process will be transformative.” In addition… “…the kinds of transformative learning we are talking about might be different and that it may be important in the scholarship of transformative learning to preserve those differences.” “…the (spiritual / emotional) frame of reference is informed largely by unconscious psychic energy that is largely unaddressed through the critical reflection process.” “Becoming aware of the influence of this energy and working through the issues it represents requires not only conscious attention but a methodology that allows these powerful energies gradual expression within conscious awareness.” “…this energized cluster of relational experience becomes available to conscious awareness, and we are able to gradually incorporate it into our sense of who we are…we are seeking an integration of mind and soul.” Fostering Transformative Learning Use of narratives and story-telling Coaching Use of the arts in the educational process Creating a sacred learning space and fostering the contemplative mind Use of Narratives / Story-telling (Clark & Rossiter, 2008) Use of narratives allows us to make sense of experiences and to create coherence out of chaos. It is a meaning-making endeavor. When our personal narratives no longer help us to make sense of our life experience, we must change it. Transformative learning becomes a matter of rewriting one’s personal narrative / life story. (Kenyon and Randall, 1997; Randall, 1996) A narrative is subjective, and it attempts to relate learning and development from the inside as opposed to outside observation. From this point of view, creating a life narrative is the main focus of adult development. (Rossiter, 1999) Narrative learning is largely constructivist learning, which means learning through experience. Adult learning is also widely considered to be deeply connected to experience. Narrative contexts are social and cannot be separated from this aspect; therefore, narratives need an audience (similar to Mezirow’s discourse). A narrative makes experience accessible, “conceptualizing the learning process.” 3 Modes of Narrative Learning: (Clark & Rossiter, 2008) 1. Journaling: this form of writing presents all characteristics of narrative learning if it is sustained over a period of time or through the duration of a class. Students “create a conversation between themselves and the material they’re learning, and they construct a text which itself becomes the object of reflection.” (p. 67) Students are engaged cognitively and connecting with prior learning. 2. Concept-Focused Autobiographical Writing: another mode of selfreflection, it is used to delve into a topic from one’s personal point of view, inductively, constructing a narrative from life experience that must conform to a topic or concept until it fully illuminates it. 3. Instructional Case Studies: used often in textbooks to illustrate a point or concept, one can create these as real or as fiction. In it, an issue must be addressed or corrected. The story is simple, but students’ engagement to it is complex because they must write the ending to the story while linking it to prior experience. Coaching (Fisher-Yoshida, 2009) Often used in corporate environments to develop and support staff members when there are perceived weaknesses or differences of opinions with employees. It is used to provide input and feedback to allow employees to correct behavior that is considered inadequate or problematic by getting them to become aware of their operating assumptions. It might involve discussion, modeling behavior, confrontation, assessments, building trust and rapport, and/or considering different perspectives. It is hoped that a shift in perception will result, which in turn will create a shift in behavior. The concept and possibility of change must be embraced by those being coached, or the intended shift will not be possible. The Use of Arts-Based Approaches (Butterwick & Lawrence, 2009) The arts communicate social narratives in a cultural context. By creating or performing their own artistic projects, students or clients can engage in the artistic process of discovering insights not usually accessible in everyday modes of learning and expression. Forms of artistic expression can be poetry, painting, sculpture, photography, weaving, quilts, writing, or performing in theater-like environments. The arts can communicate those concepts that are difficult to define or discuss and can become the “teachable moment.” Caution must be used so that people are not forced into participating and experiencing a traumatic event. Although a disorienting dilemma is desired, it is recommended that classroom or training experiences be safe for those participating. Creating Sacred Spaces / Using Contemplation (Hart, 2004) Developing Interiority in Education: developing a “spaciousness” in order to “meet and take in” the world around us, which involves developing discernment, imagination, virtue, reflection, balance, and presence. The four dimensions of consciousness related to learning are presence, clarity, detachment, and resilience. Presence: being open to ourselves in a non-defensive way, being flexible, curious with a sense of wonder and curiosity. Here one can be accommodating and willing instead of simply assimilating information. There is simple attention and flow, and shifting can occur without resistance. This ability often leads to peak or transcendent experiences. Clarity: achieved through silence and often through the use of imagination and creativity, ideas and solutions cannot be willed but realized through emptiness, surrender, and receptivity. It can be considered listening. Scientifically described as alpha, theta, and gamma wave brain activity, which are associated with creative breakthough. Creating Sacred Spaces / Using Contemplation (cont.) Detachment / Witnessing / Metacognition: develops a capacity for watching thoughts arise without judgment, clinging, or resistance. It builds the capacity for reflection, impulse control, acceptance, and tolerance; it can also potentially lead to metacognition. Resilience / Balance / Well-Being: helps to create psychological and physiological changes that positively impact well-being to counteract the stresses of living, which potentially affects the capacity to learn. Summary: neurophenomenological data appear to show changes in the mind and brain that result from contemplative practice. The effects include shifts in states of mind, long-term trait patterns, and changes in brain structure. Studies also show improvement in cognitive performance. Other Classroom Ideas for Fostering Transformative Learning Creating / Forming authentic relationships within the classroom (Cranton, 2006; Taylor, ed) Teaching racial, gender, culture, and sexual orientation inclusion (Merriam, 2009) Using fiction (Jarvis, 2006) Empowering learners (Cranton, 2006) Using assessments, models, and checklists to help determine progress and resistance (King, 2005) Providing ways to turn shifts in frames of reference into action (Merriam, 2007) REFERENCES Dirkx, J. (1997). Nurturing soul in adult learning. New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education. 74, 79-88. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com Dirkx, J., Mezirow, J., & Cranton, P. (2006). Musings and reflections on the meaning, context, and process of Transformative Learning: a dialogue between John M. Dirkx and Jack Mezirow. Journal of Transformative Education. 4, 123-139. Retrieved from http://jtd.sagepub.com Hart, T. (2008). Interiority and education: exploring the neurophenomenology of contemplation and its potential role in learning. Journal of Transformative Education. 6, 235-250. Retrieved from http://jtd.sagepub.com Hart, T. (2004). Opening the contemplative mind in the classroom. Journal of Transformative Learning. 2, 28-46. Retrieved from http://jtd.sagepub.com Merriam, S., Caffarella, R., & Baumgartner, L. (2007). Learning in adulthood: a comprehensive guide. San Francisco, CA: John Wile & Sons. Mezirow, J. (2003). Epistemology of Transformative Learning. Unpublished manuscript retrieved from XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. Copyright 2003 by Jack Mesirow.