Introduction to Transformative Learning


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Created for EDDE 801, Ed D at Athabasca University, Canada on August, 2009

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  • This slide is meant to be an outline of the presentation that will follow. I changed the titles a bit because I didn’t think we needed something separate for history. - - - Rebecca
  • So that’s the definition but what does Transformative Learning look like on the ground?I’d like to start with an illustrative story about a former student of mine who I’ll call Doug. Doug is an attractive, athletic, social and academically high achieving student and all-around nice guy, who was enrolled in a summer course I was teaching a few years ago. It was a blended-delivery course on Leadership with the theory portion delivered on-line and the practicum portion delivered through a five-day, 42 km alpine hike which ended at an ice-berg filled, glacier fed lake. Here is Doug going for a quick dip in the lake. During the hike the class was divided into groups which function as teams and are assigned responsibility for various tasks such as cooking, providing entertainment, etc. Considerable time is spent in these teams every evening discussing some assigned questions and debriefing on the events of the day as it relates to leadership theory.At the start of the first day of the hike I had told the students they could probably count on 8 hours of actual hiking. In fact, we reached our first night campsite in only six hours of hiking by travelling at a pace I had only encountered when training with expedition teams. Doug was very pleased with having reached the campsite is such a short time, and having exceeded what he perceived as my performance expectations, commenting “We did pretty well getting here so quickly” I replied “Maybe, Why don’t you ask your group this evening.” He was obviously puzzled since he was a very competitive, achievement oriented individual in performance situations and wondered how anyone could not be pleased with exceeding expectations. That evening he was surprised to discover that some of his group members didn’t care that they had covered the ground so quickly, and indeed felt pressured to hit a pace beyond their comfort level and they were actually a handicap to the group. Further, they challenged him for setting such a pace and that it violated a key principle of the leadership model they had decided to use, Servant Leadership, which was focusing on the needs of followers. And to add an exclamation point, one student pointed out that Doug’s achievement orientation had put him in the habit of only working with “A” students in other classes and he was becoming labeled as exclusionary. All of this was very troubling to Doug as he is, as I said a nice guy, just very competitive and assumed that everyone else shared this mindset. The discussion went on well into the evening, at times very heated as the student’s discussed related topics of group purpose, processes, individual giftings. I suspect Doug did not sleep well that night. However, the next day Doug made sure he was always at the back of the line of hikers; walking with the slowest members, offering encouragement, taking some of their weight, helping them over precarious sections. And he stayed at the back of the pack for the rest of the trip. That year in university, he made a conscious effort to bring diversity into the project work groups he formed for various classes. He was sometimes frustrated with others who weren’t doing their share of work and continued to discuss with his peers how to find a balance between achievement accountability and being reasonably accommodating to diverse gifts. So, Doug’s learning was not at what some have referred to as the instrumental level (learning for control and manipulation of one’s environment) such as learning to operate the backpacking stove, but was at the transformative level – at the level of fundamental worldview, premise, value, habit of the mind. That is, recognizing his competitive values were detrimental at times and needed to be reined in and substituted with other values.
  • The Transformative Learning Theory was first articulated by Jack Mezirow of Columbia University after researching factors related to the success, or lack of, of womens’ reentry to community college programs in the 1970’s, with the resulting conclusion that a key factor was perspective transformation . He went on to describe a 10 phase transformation process which emerged as common to many of the women who successfully re-entered community college. The first phase was a disorienting dilemma. This dilemma represents the first of three key themes of Mezirow’s TLT, experience – Doug had an experience which did not fit with his pre-existing meaning structure, causing a disorienting dilemma. As long as our experiences fit, or can be fit, into our existing meaning structures we tend to not engage in transformative learning. These dilemmas can be epochal (all at once) such as Doug’s “Ah-ha, or lights-on experience”, or incremental, that is, a gradual recognition over time of a disconnect between our meaning structure and our environment.The next two phases are important aspects of the second of the theory’s themes – critical reflection. After experiencing a disorienting dilemma- A self examination with feelings of guilt or shame- A critical assessment of epistemic, sociocultural, or psychic assumptions- Doug experienced this discomfort with his epistomology and reviewed it’s validity given his experience on the hike.The next phase represents the third of the theory’s themes, rational discourse. Exploring with others the newly discovered “misfit” between your premises and your environment. Specifically:- Recognition that one’s discontent and the process of transformation are shared and that others have negotiated a similar change- Exploration of options for new roles, relationships, and actions- Doug’s discussions with his group allowed him to explore this “misfit” how competition wasn’t always the best approach to performance situations and explored other potential roles or approaches.
  • Planning a course of action - Acquisition of knowledge and skills for implementing one’s planProvision trying of new rolesBuilding of competence and self-confidence in new roles and relationshipsA reintegration into one’s life on the basis of conditions dictated by one’s perspectiveThese phases of the TLT process were evident in Doug’s learning as he clearly developed a plan for implementing a course of action by staying with the slower members of the group. He acquired knowledge and skills for his plan through the on-going discussions with his group on how to respectfully ascertain other group members needs, and he would try out these new roles in different ways beside just walking with slower group members. He began offering help on how to pack tents, load backpacks for better weight distribution, etc. He gradually gained confidence in his ability to respectfully assist others and include them. He had his wrist slapped a few times for being overbearing and not letting people do things on their own, but he gradually, both over the course of the hike and throughout his final university year, began to find a balance between competitiveness and patronizing others.
  • Where does Transformative Learning Theory sit within the broader landscape of learning theory. Let’s take a very brief look at this landscape to get our bearings.There is generally assumed to be three main schools of contemporary learning theory (Knud 2003) or the approaches that describe and predict sustained change in capacity, i.e., learning:Behaviourism – focusing on the external interaction and resulting change in behavior leading to stimulus-response, positive/negative reenforcement methodologies. (Pavlov cartoon)Cognitivism – moves inside the learner’s head, beyond observable behavior, and theorizes about the relationship between learning and the internal knowledge schema and the brains processing. Leading to methodologies configured to work with these schema’s and processes, such as emphasis on repetition, and meaning creation. Constructivism – learning is an active collaborative process constructing mental (emotional, psychic, etc) truth structures from personal experience and interpretation that has, usually, a shared meaning (Merrill, 1991) LEARNING DOMAINSWhile many epistemological structures exist for the purposes of this presentation we will adopt one of Merizow’s (1994) earliest structures which he borrows from Habermass, in which he differentiates between information to “control or manipulate the environment” which requires instrumental learning, and learning which is communicative or in the domain of values, intentions, feelings, normative concepts, or as he later refers to as premises, habits of the mind. It is in this second domain that transformative learning abides and since these premises or assumptions are constructed through social transference, Transformative Learning is often closely associated with social constructivist learning theory. As well, since Transformational Learning is primarily concerned with change, or transformation, or these learned premises, not the initial transference of the premise ( which often occurs in childhood), Transformational Learning Theory is generally assumed to be an adult learning theory. Knud, Illeris “Towards a contemporary and comprehensive theory of learning”, International Journal of Lifelong Education, Vol 22, No 4, July-August, 2003 p396-406Merrill, M. D. (1991). Constructivism and instructional design. Educational Technology, May, 45-53
  • Edward Taylor (2007) of Penn State University published a critical review of the empirical research on transformative learning theory covering the period of 1999-2005 that involved a review of 41 peer-reviewed journal studies. Most of these studies were conducted in a higher education context in a variety of disciplines, including distance education, and most focused on understanding how to promote transformative learning in teaching practice. Most of the studies used a qualitative research design using longitudinal studies, action research, scales, surveys, and content analysis of emails, journals, and portfolios. Stimulated recall using video recordings and photos was incorporated in some of the studies to stimulate reflection and to assist participants in describing their beliefs, values, and feelings.  Taylor’s review of the research on transformative learning focuses on the themes of reflection, relationships, perspective changes, teaching practice, and the role of context.In the research review, Taylor notes that reflection is acknowledged as essential in the process of transformative learning and several studies explored the nature of reflection, factors that influence reflection, and indicators of reflection.  Mezirow identifies three levels of reflection: content, process, and premise (critical reflection). Critical reflection is defined as deeper reflection that is more authentic than content or process reflection.  As an example, reflection by teachers on instructional design, pedagogy, and curriculum is content and process reflection, whereas reflection on why they teach is critical reflection. Taylor notes that shortcomings in the research to date include ways to identify and record events of critical reflection and discriminating among the different levels of reflection.Relationships with others is essential in transformative learning, and the research review indicated that these relationships are complex, and the essential components of the relationships and the stages of development may vary depending on the context of the learning experience and the individual characteristics of the learners. However, equalization of power, trust, social interaction, and dialogue are identified as common components to foster transformative learning relationships. (Susan makes note of this in the implications for distance education)Taylor notes that perspective transformation is the most abstract concept in Mezirow’s Transformative Learning Theory.  Perspective transformation is a change in a frame of reference or meaning scheme that results when previous assumptions and ways of understanding no longer fit with current knowledge.  It is a psychological view of change.  Significant aspects of perspective transformation is that it is irreversible, it goes beyond an epistemological process of change (ways of knowing) and is also an ontological process (change in relationship with the world), and the transformation leads to action. Taylor notes that a significant finding of the research review is that support (encouragement, validation) and guidance (specific steps, direction) may be necessary before individuals can act on the perspective transformations that have occurred. Regarding practices to foster transformative learning in higher education, Taylor’s review notes that active learning experiences (experiential learning), use of varied media (writing, visual cues to prompt reflection), and learner support are necessary.  He notes that active learning experiences are “one of the most powerful tools” and writing is a very significant tool (journaling, writing theses, asynchronous writing in an online setting).  Learner support is fostered through creating a sense of trust and validation (feelings of “being in good company,” empathy, encouragement). However, Taylor notes that more than instructional strategies are needed to foster transformative learning, specifically, being aware of student attitudes, personalities, and preferences.Context, both personal (prior life experiences) and sociocultural (historical events) are significant factors that affect transformative learning. However, certain individual characteristics not related to context (such as self-directedness, assertiveness, self-confidence, and self-esteem) also affect transformative learning.  Taylor notes in his review that most of the studies failed to critically evaluate previous studies or Mezirow’s theory itself. He notes that further research is needed in the areas of the possible negative consequences of perspective transformation, the role of culture and transformative learning, the role of the student, the impact on learner outcomes, the role of affective learning and emotions, the relationship between cognitive development and critical reflection, and studies of transformative learning outside formal settings such as universities and workshops.
  • Taylor notes in his review that most of the studies failed to critically evaluate previous studies or Mezirow’s theory itself. He notes that further research is needed in the areas of the possible negative consequences of perspective transformation, the role of culture and transformative learning, the role of the student, the impact on learner outcomes, the role of affective learning and emotions, the relationship between cognitive development and critical reflection, and studies of transformative learning outside formal settings such as universities and workshops.
  • Do we need to distinguish between normative psychological development (normal progress through expected life cycle stages or phases and the developmental shift implied by perspective transformation? (Tennant) The developmental process in adulthood involves the process of transforming meaning structures.
  • Both F2F and distance contexts can produce transformative learning but each has its own strengths and weaknesses to which an instructor/facilitator must accommodate. Previous studies show that computer-mediated online learning environment is a good setting for transformative learning. In face-to-face classroom, learners participate in discussion using spoken words and nonverbal cues to assist their expression. It is a fast-moving interaction.In asynchronous, text-based platform, learners do not need to reply or respond to questions immediately. Learners are allowed to have more time and mental space to read materials & other students’ responses and organize what they want to reply. Researchers also found “written communication tends to be both more complex and more explicit than oral communication.”Another benefit of this documentary nature of communication is that the discourses are transparent to all participants. Therefore, the influence could be one-one or one-multiple, or multiple-multiple. That forms an effective way of sharing discourses. All participants can explore various reactions even when they did not join a discussion synchronously. Asynchronous discussion in online setting provides an opportunity for those who live in isolation from learning communities to participate in and be supported by teachers and learners. The less stressed and flexible environment helps produce reflective discourses and rational critical reflections. In an open, relaxed, and flexible context, learners are more likely to make connections with past experience, and potentially formulate new frames of reference. With text-based discussion, participants can get back to previous discussion record and obtain profound data for self-exam.
  • Educational technologies have made a rapid progress in supporting constructivist assumption of teaching/learning pedagogy.For example, virtual world technology, such as SecondLife, open stream media, such as YouTube, can create like-real situation that help learners recall their previous experiences, examine their taken-for-granted frame-of-references, or explore newly acquired meaning schemes. They are good tools for inviting sense of disorientating dilemma.Transformative learning tends to occur more often in group, collaborative learning environment. Learning management systems such as Blackboard & Moodle have shown their capability of constructing a collaborative learning platform on which most of the learning activities, e.g., reading, synchronous or asynchronous discussion, role playing, debating, group working, can be performed at a distance effectively.Synchronous conferencing tools such as Elluminate, Adobe Connect, and WebEx, provide a F2F-like environment for effective discussion.
  • According to Mezirow, although critical reflection may occur either in group interaction or independently. However, to try the validity of a transformed frame of reference in communicative learning requires critical-dialectical discourse. That stands out the importance of the community of inquiry. In this final slide of my presentation, I would like to examine Transformative Learning using a distance education learning theory to see if they are compliant to each other. This Community of Inquiry Model developed by Garrison, Anderson, & Archer illustrates the elements of an educational experience in CMC. Among these three elements of online learning, Cognitive presence, Social presence, and Teaching presence of COI model, Transformative learning is more related to Cognitive Presence.
  • We tried to match the descriptors and indicators of Community of Inquiry Model with the 10 phases of Transformative Learning Theory and found them supporting each other’s claims.The brown texts are indicators of Cognitive Presence, the black texts are phases of Transformative Learning. You may find them emphasizes on similar areas of learning elements.Other than Cognitive Presence, Transformative Learning Theory also related to a portion of Social Presence and Teaching Presence.From this comparison, we obtain confidence that Transformative learning can be applied in online learning. Now I will pass to Mary. She will continue to discuss the roles and responsibilities of online instructors and learners when applying transformative learning theory to online setting.
  • Previous studies have been given to various subjects, including course topics of cultural differences, positions in race, class, gender, loyalty, democratic citizenship responsibility, teacher development, etc.The results revealed that critical reflections and reflective discourses can be completed through technologies such as online discussion, web conferencing, chat room, email, etc. With the support of technologies, distance education can create an environment where students open their mind and discuss about negative emotions, questioned prejudices, reframed underlying premises, and linked experiences to previously learned habits.For instance, in Boyer, Maher, & Kirkman’s study on a graduate level, Educational Leadership courses found the phases of transformative learning were repeatedly evident in students’ reflective discussion comments and that fundamental changes in preconceived ideas, beliefs, habits, or assumptions had occurred for approximately one fourth of the participants.In Ziegahn’s study to the topic of inclusive community building found that the asynchronous online environment has helped both students and instructors to abandon many false starts and random associations. Finally, students were able to make rational discourses and constitute new meaning schemes or new perspectives.(4 reflective orientations emerged as (1) students struggled with emotional reactions to discussion topics, (2)search for the conceptual labels that helped explain experience, (3) connected with past values, or (4) reflected on assumptions underlying their worldviews.)
  • Through supplementary online technologies, transformative learning becomes possible in online setting. From previous case studies and our interpretation, we have concluded several teaching strategies and technologies that are potentially capable of fostering different phases of transformative learning. In this table, the left column shows 10 phases of transformative learning identified by Mezirow. On the middle column, we listed teaching strategies that could be used in online teaching for supporting TL. On the right column, are technologies that could be used to support corresponding teaching strategies in online setting. Those logos are example technologies. “Different media have different potential to address cognitive, social and teaching presence”, as addressed by Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, in year 2000. For example, …Individuals often share personal and reflective stories using open multimedia like YouTube, ODEO, & Blog. In online teaching, instructors can use these resources to create situation-based case studies that potentially would recall learners’ disorientating dilemma.Synchronous conversation tools, such as Skype, MSN, Google Chat can support F2F-like discussions. When webcam is launched, participants can even use nonverbal cues during the conversations.Web conferencing and threaded discussion tools, such as dimdim, allow participants to share desktops and whiteboard at a distance. Web-based concept mappting tools like MindMeister, co-editing tools like Wiki, allow participants’ to share ideas or thoughts in real-time basis.Research showed that social networking sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, have expanded teacher-student relationship and increased motivation to learn. (Thomas, 2008)Thomas, M. (2008). Handbook of Research on Web 2.0 and Second Language Learning. Information Science Reference.  
  • We can find many many more tools that support teaching for transformative learning. Such as Discussion forum, internet searching, e-calendar, Learning management systems, RSS/Feed, social tagging tools, computer conferencing, virtual world, simulation gaming, social networks, etc.
  • Educators must be prepared assist and support students.Must be familiar with various technologies in order to use the ones best suited for their purpose (pre-supposes continued research as to effectiveness of technologies for various outcomes).Must be open to various consequences of Transformational Learning.
  • As a part of a community knowers, learners share the responsibility for constructing and creating the conditions under which transformative learning can occur. (Imel, 1998)Students also need to be ready to support other students regardless of their decisions regarding their actions.
  • Is Transformative Learning for everyone? Is it an androgogical imperative?Some societies are not receptive to Transformative Learning and put a great deal of effort into keeping it from it’s citizens. (e.g. Promoting Equity Through Teacher Empowerment ( Web-assisted Transformative Action Research as a Counter-Heteronormative Praxis) Bedford, 2009)Is Transformative Learning a tool for governments to promote certain types of thinking and acting (Alberta Education Social Studies Program of Studies )?
  • DeBono’s work has achieved a high level of transformation among the men who have had his training in thinking skills e.g. 12 different languages no literacy skills took teams out of production for 15 days of training grievances dropped from 7/day to 4/month Dramatically fewer fights: 7 tribes working together – average fights per month dropped from 210 to 4.
  • Kitchenham mentions educational technology as an area of possible study.Taylor raises ethical questions – are these consequences teachers are prepared to bring about?How does TL fit with the idea of life-long learning and deBono’s success with thinking strategies?
  • Introduction to Transformative Learning

    1. 1. Transformative Learning<br />Su-Tuan Lulee<br />Mary McNabb<br />Gordon Preston<br />Rebecca Walker<br />EDDE 801 Group #4 Presentation at Athabasca University<br />
    2. 2. Transformative Learning<br />Overview<br />Research survey<br />Criticisms of TL theory<br />Implications for distance education<br />Summary and conclusions<br />Resources<br />
    3. 3. Definition of TL<br />Transformative Learning is “The process of using a prior interpretation to construe a new or revised interpretation of the meaning of one’s experience in order to guide future action&quot; (Mezirow, 1996: 162). <br />Idealized model of adult learning<br />Learners who are actively engaged vs. learners as receptacles<br />Critical reflection, discourse, and relationships<br />New perspectives guide actions<br />
    4. 4. Doug’s Transformative Learning<br />
    5. 5. Mezirow’s Ten Phases of Transformative Learning<br />Disorienting dilemma<br />Self examination<br />Critical assessment<br />Shared discontent<br />New roles, relationships, and actions<br />
    6. 6. Mezirow’s Ten Phases of Transformative Learning<br />Planning action<br />Knowledge/skill acquisition<br />Role experimentation<br />Role competency<br />Reintegration<br />
    7. 7. Cognitivism<br />Instrumental Learning<br />Behaviorism<br />Constructivism<br />Transformative Learning<br />
    8. 8. Research Survey<br /><ul><li>Jack Mezirow (1994, 1996 - unit B)
    9. 9. Adult Education Quarterly
    10. 10. Journal of Transformative Learning
    11. 11. John M. Dirkx, Jack Mezirow and Patricia Cranton (2006)
    12. 12. Andrew Kitchenham (2008)
    13. 13. Edward Taylor (1997, 2007)</li></li></ul><li>Empirical Research on TL<br /><ul><li>Conducted in a higher education context
    14. 14. Most studies used a qualitative research design
    15. 15. Reflection is essential in the process of TL
    16. 16. Relationships with others is also essential
    17. 17. Context, both personal and socio-cultural are significant factors </li></li></ul><li>Empirical Research on TL (cont’d)<br /><ul><li>Most studies did not critically evaluate previous studies
    18. 18. Most studies did not critically evaluate Mezirow’s theory itself
    19. 19. Process can be gradual or epochal
    20. 20. Process is irreversible</li></li></ul><li>Criticism of TL<br /><ul><li>Need to distinguish between normal life cycle stages and TL (M. Tennant, 1993)
    21. 21. Perspective transformation not always dependent on critical reflection (Taylor, 1993)
    22. 22. Transformation may not be positive
    23. 23. Transformation is irreversible</li></li></ul><li>Criticism of TL (cont’d)<br /><ul><li>TL should suggest a more integrated and holistic understanding of subjectivity, one that reflects the intellectual, emotional, moral, and spiritual dimensions of our being in the world. (Dirks, 2006)
    24. 24. Too much emphasis on a rational approach ignoring the importance of intuition, imagination and emotion. (Boyd & Myers, 1988; Gravov, 1997)</li></li></ul><li>Criticism of TL (cont’d)<br /><ul><li>Some individuals may never move beyond the intense emotions of the disorienting dilemma
    25. 25. Since TL is an “idealized” model of adult learning, is it over-prescribed in teaching?</li></li></ul><li>Resources<br />Transformative Learning Theory Web site<br />Journal of Transformative Education<br />International Transformative Learning Conference<br />Adult Education Quarterly<br />Group 4 Transformative Learning Web site<br />
    26. 26. Can TL be Applied to Online Distance Learning ?<br /><ul><li>More open and relaxed than F2F
    27. 27. Asynchronous discussions allow time and mental space  
    28. 28. Documentary nature allows reflection & discourse structurally and allows iteration and reiteration of concepts</li></li></ul><li>Technology and TL in Online Distance Learning<br /><ul><li>Technologies (virtual world, Blog, stream media) can create life-like situations
    29. 29. Collaborative learning platform (LMS, social software) provides an opportunity for those who live in isolation to participate
    30. 30. Web conferencing simulates F2F learning experience</li></li></ul><li>Examining TL Using Distance Education Learning Theory <br />Transformative Learning<br /><ul><li>Community of inquiry is important in higher-order thinking
    31. 31. Community of inquiry is a valuable context for critical thinking</li></ul>By Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000<br />
    32. 32. Examining TL Using Distance Education Learning Theory <br />Transformative Learning<br />Recognizing the problem - disorienting dilemma<br />Sense of puzzlement - self examination<br />Inquisitive Divergence, Information exchange – Exploration of options for new roles…<br />Tentative Convergence, Connecting ideas – Planning a course of action, Acquiring knowledge and skills<br />Committed Vicarious application to real world, Testing solutions – Trying new roles, Building competence & self-confidence in new roles …<br />Defending solutions – Reintegration new perspective into one’s life.<br />By Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000<br />
    33. 33. TL in Online SettingsCase Studies<br /><ul><li>Case studies on various course topics, e.g., cultural differences, loyalty, teacher development
    34. 34. Phases of transformative learning evident … ¼ have fundamental changes in preconceived ideas, beliefs, habits, or assumptions (Boyer et al, 2006)
    35. 35. Many false starts and random associations in CMC … Able to make rational discourse (Ziegahn, 2001)</li></li></ul><li>Technology in Practice for TL<br />
    36. 36. Technology in Practice for TL (Cont’d)<br />
    37. 37. Pedagogical Implications for Educators<br /><ul><li>Facilitate and support learning (Cranton, 1994)
    38. 38. Build safe, open, and trusting environment for
    39. 39. respectful, civilized dialogue (Taylor, 2000)
    40. 40. Post questions to stimulate reflection on target topics and to model process (Ziegahn, 2001)
    41. 41. Structure feedback to learning objectives (Boyer, Maher, & Kirkman, 2006) </li></li></ul><li>Implications for Students<br /><ul><li>Be a part of a community of learners
    42. 42. Responsible for constructing and creating the condition for transformative learning</li></li></ul><li>Implications for Societies<br />
    43. 43. Transformative Learning by Any Other Name . . .<br /><ul><li>DeBono – Thinking skills training for mine workers in South Africa
    44. 44. Average fights 210/month 4 month
    45. 45. Post-training grievances 7/day 4 month</li></li></ul><li>Summary & Conclusions<br />Areas for further study:<br /><ul><li>Kitchenham: applicability of TL in other disciplines.
    46. 46. Taylor: is TL something to be encouraged?
    47. 47. Personal and social negative consequences of perspective transformation.
    48. 48. Is TL theory the most effective method of bringing about changes in the way people view their world? </li></li></ul><li>Summary<br />Transformation Learning process uses prior interpretation to construct new meaning and guide action<br />