TransformativeLearning TheoryClass Session 4 – ADLT 671Theory and Practice of Adult Learning for Medical Educators
Mezirow’s TransformativeLearning Theory (1978,1991)In childhood, learning is formative (derivedfrom formal sources of authority andsocialization)In adulthood, learning is transformative, asadults are more capable of seeing distortions intheir own beliefs, feelings, and attitudes
“We are caught in our ownhistories” (Mezirow, 1991)• We individually assimilate the culture of whichwe are a part• We uncritically adopt idiosyncrasies fromprimary child care givers in childhood.• We have many intentionally andunintentionally learned theories about theworld, some of which may no longer be servingus well
Mezirow’s Definition ofTransformative Learning“The process of using a priorinterpretation to construe a new orrevised interpretation of the meaningof one’s experience in order to guidefuture action”Mezirow, 1991
Human Communication andthe Learning Process• Human beings share a defining need tounderstand the meaning of their experience• We seek agreement on the meaning andjustification for our understandings and beliefs• We seek more functional beliefs• We want to act on our beliefs
Two Domains of Learning inMezirow’s Theory• Instrumentallearning is learningto control andmanipulate theenvironment or otherpeople, e.g., task-oriented learning• Communicativelearning is learningwhat others meanwhen theycommunicate withus. This involvesfeelings, intentions,values, moral issues,and meanings.
Points of View• Consist of meaning schemes• Specific attitudes, knowledge, beliefs, valuejudgments, and feelings involved in makinginterpretations• Are more changeable than habits of mind orframes of reference• Are transformed when we become criticallyreflective on the content of a problem or theprocess of problem-solving
Habits of Mind• Older TL language referred to these as“meaning perspectives”• Clusters of meaning schemes which constitute anoverarching view or a rule system for guidingbehavior and action• Habits of mind are transformed when webecome critically reflective on the premise of aproblem
Frames of Reference• Mindsets of orienting assumptions and expectations.They predispose us to view the world in a certain way.• Frames of reference include:• Values, affective dispositions, moral and aestheticpreferences, paradigms, learning preferences, andsense of self• They involve orienting habits of mind and resultingpoints of view. They shape, delimit, and often distortthe way we make meaning of our experience• Frames of reference are derived from the culture,language, and the idiosyncrasies of principalcaregivers
Learning becomestransformative when meaningstructures are revised or re-framed to include perspectivesthat are more inclusive,differentiated, and permeable,in the sense of being open toalternative viewpoints.
Learning Occurs in Four Ways• Learning within existing points of view(expanded meaning)• Learning/developing a new point of view• Revising or re-framing points of view(meaning scheme transformation)• Revising or re-framing habits of mind orworldview (perspective transformation)
Perspective Transformation• Requires critical reflection on the content,processes, and premises underlying our untestedassumptions of reality• Results in a revised “world view”• Can be dramatic and epochal: a disorientingdilemma• Can be incremental through gradual accumulationof changes to meaning schemes
Mezirow’s Early Conception ofthe Ten Phases of a PerspectiveTransformation
Mezirow’s Ideal Conditions forDiscourse (from Habermas)• Have accurate and complete information• Be free from coercion and distorting self-deception• Be able to weigh evidence and assessarguments “objectively”• Be open to alternative points of view and tocare about the way others think and feel
Ideal Discourse, continued• Be able to become critically reflective of assumptionsand their consequences• Have equal opportunity to participate in the variousroles of discourse• Be willing to accept an informed, objective, and rationalconsensus as a legitimate test of validity until newperspectives, evidence, or argument are encounteredand established as yielding better judgments.
Development in Adulthood• Mindful learning process• Phased and transformative• Meaning clarification through expandedawareness and reflection• Movement towards fuller realization of agency
Mezirow’s Assumptions aboutthe Education of AdultLearners• There is no such thing as a value freeeducation• Adult educators are never neutral• The most insidious effects of power arewhen people feel insecure enough not tohave a voice---and therefore do notparticipate
Role of the Adult Educator• To support and encourage transformative learningthat creates more inclusive, discriminating, andintegrative perspectives for the adult learner• How?• Challenge untested assumptions• Encourage critical reflection and critical self-reflection• Create ideal conditions for discourse
How viable is Mezirow’sview of TL in medicaleducation?… for the education of physicians?… for the education of graduate students?