Jack Mezirow (1994) provides a theoretical foundation for the learning that occurs in a professional development context. He defines learning as the social process of construing and appropriating a new or revised interpretation of the meaning of one’s experience as a guide to action (p.222). This theory of adult learning postulates that learners experience personal and intellectual growth when they grapple with disorienting dilemmas, examine their assumptions related to the contradictory information, seek out additional perspectives, and ultimately acquire new knowledge, attitudes, and skills in light of these reflections.
The purpose was to explore teachers’ learning experiences which in turn, would provoke ideas to enhance classroom educational practices.
This research is qualitative in nature in the form of an action-research. Both the ESL teachers and the researchers became the participants of the study. The development of knowledge involved cycles of reflection, awareness, and taking action. As part of the workshop we offered, the teachers defined the concept of social issues and their experiences of using these topics in the classroom. This exchange of ideas led to our presentation of how we integrate discussions of social issues. For example, we discussed ways to create awareness of world wide issues, learn more about the consequences, and how students can be part of the solution. The participants worked in small groups, determined topics, and a procedure to discuss issues with their students, and then presented the ideas to the rest of the group. In doing so, each of us would have an opportunity to further expand our ideas. As the teachers shared their views, we took notes of their comments, topics and techniques in an observation journal to later on recapitulate the ideas behind their efforts. Once concluded the workshop, the participants completed an evaluation form and placed it on the desk. As we analyzed these anonymous documents and the literature on adult learning, the information implied that participants transformed their previous knowledge with the one acquired and suggested a link between discussions of social issues and participation in a democracy.
Because of the valuable data we observed throughout the participants’ reflections, our observation journal and the evaluation forms, we organized the information using paper and pencil, categorized the emerging themes on a tabulation sheet, and analyzed the data following Wolcott’s (1994) ideas of description, analysis and interpretation. Through an interpretive analysis, we found answers to our inquiries that ESL teachers were constructing a new meaning for using social issues as part of classroom discussions. Thus, we decided to investigate What does it actually mean for teachers to discuss social issues in their classrooms?
In this research, the culture of the professional development activity provided the space to reflect on their previous knowledge with the one acquired to become changed by what they learned. Thus, the more they critically analyzed their teaching practices, the more transformed their learning experiences.
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK Jack Mezirow (1994) Transformative Learning Theory Learning is the social process of construing and appropriating a new or revised interpretation of the meaning of one’s experience as a guide to action. Mezirow postulates that learners experience personal and intellectual growth when they Grapple with Examine their disorienting assumptions dilemmas Learning Seek out Acquire new additional knowledge perspectives
SIGNIFICANCE OF USING SOCIAL ISSUES INCLASSROOM DISCUSSIONS Author Significance Bomer (2004) Teaches active participation in a democracy. Johannessen (2003) Promotes reflection and high levels of critical thinking. Clark (2000) Requires making sense of the complex world. Cummins (2000) Encourages the transformation of social realities. Harwood & Han (2000) Prepares for authentic dialogues. Angell & Avery (1992) Refines cognitive abilities to deal with complex issues. Hurlbert & Toten (1992) Explores the conditions affecting this time. Johnson, et al (1992) Deepens involvement and understanding of course content. Toten (1992) Assists in the development of citizenry that is knowledgeable.
INTRODUCTIONCONTEXTUNIVERSITY OF PUERTO RICO AT BAYAMON Outreach Professional Development Conference Classroom Discussion • Communicative • In the context of competence• Multifacete social issues • Perceptions of the d activity Workshops Reflect
PURPOSE To explore the teachers’ learning experiences which in turn, would provoke ideas to enhance classroom educational practices.
METHODOLOGYQUALITATIVE ACTION RESEARCH ESL Teachers Presenters Participants Reflection Awareness Observation journal Evaluation forms Action
DATA ANALYSIS Paper & pencil Tabulation sheet Categories Wolcot (1994)
Grapple with disorienting dilemma. Mezirow (1994)RESULTS Deepened Perspectives means involves •Headline talking •Determine Importance •Top-story •Assign presentations Forms •Grading system
Examine their assumptions. RESULTS Mezirow (1994) •Become aware of issues. •Learn about the Discussed learners consequences. ways •Engage in becoming part of the solution. •Bounced off each other Worked Referred •Exchanged & compared.Collaboratively to ideas •Reviewed & valued. resources •Willingly shared. •Lined up on paper. Reached •Know what students have to sudden means say realization something •Learn about students’ real-life more problems . •Discover feelings & fears. •Put together all ideas. •Do something different for our students.
Seek out additional perspectives.RESULTS Mezirow (1994) Develop Understanding reflect retain “Right topics” discussing “Right moment” Writing process
Seek out additional perspectives.RESULTS Mezirow (1994) Transformative Broadened Perspectives pedagogy Lesson Devised a new way plan Goal Technique Approach Procedure•To practice •Address •Emotionally •Whole & smallspeaking issues students involve students to groupskills might be express their discussions: experiencing. feelings & fears. feelings & fears. •Use these •Guide them to see •Analyze discussions as the consequences. a pre-writing consequences, crit •Think deep phase. ically think about a about a solution. solution, & contribute to help •Contribute to solve the issue. society.
Seek out additional perspectives.RESULTS Mezirow (1994) Broadened Perspectives: Needs Devised a new way awareness Become changed by Ongoing support what they learned •More training on how to address social •Change the •Discuss with issues. way of seeing others to agree life. on something. •Materials & equipment. •View life in a •Solve problems better way. without fighting. •Learn to •Become better confront real- human beings; a life issues. better person.
A Reflection on Transformative Learning in a Professional Development Context Previous Knowledge knowledge TL acquired Become changed by what they learned