Transformative learning

Table of Content

The theory and essence of transformative learning

Transformative learning is usually considered to be the type of education that is very essential for people when they are creating their own future.  This topic appears to be very important in the field of education cause it doesn’t only include simple study in class, but it includes life experience. The significance of it can be explained by the fact that the sense creating process can easily transform our views at occupation, relations, and the surroundings.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

There is not very much information concerning transformative learning available in the corresponding literature. One of the most famous specialists in this field is a researcher Jack Mezirow. Mezirow began to implement the investigations in this field in 1970s. He defined several conditions that we usually undergo when practice transformation. They are the following;

having a difficult choice
decisive evaluation of supposition
understanding that other people experienced the same situation
searching for opportunities
creating a direction to follow

Actually, it is important to realize that transformation is always initiated by an important problem to solve. Usually it is very difficult to us to go thought it, as through the important change. When the problem is defined, we undergo the stage of reaction to the issue

we never met before that is why it takes much time to communicate to others to advise. In this stage, we often realize that we should change our mind concerning many things. The next stage implies our action. It means that if the person gets a necessity to finish his relations or change his job or do something else. Moreover the transformational process can take rather long time. A person can react to something for months or years till he recognizes his new values and ideas.

“Transformative learning is the process of effecting change in a frame of reference. Adults have acquired a coherent body of experience associations, concepts, values, feelings, conditioned responses frames of reference that define their life world. Frames of reference are the structures of assumptions through which we understand our experiences. They selectively shape and delimit expectations, perceptions, cognition, and feelings. They set our line of action.” (Mezirow 1997)

Transformative learning does not imply “slight” learning. When we study the material in a whole that means that we study it “slightly”. For instance, if the person just decided to receive second education or improve the first, will that change anything in his vision? This is a difficult issue to consider and the reply can not be the same for every person. Mezirow states that study “can consist of a change in one of our beliefs or attitudes” (Merriam 1999); however he does not consider it to be transformational learning. It takes place only if the person transforms his whole viewpoint on some fact. Thus for instance, if the person communicated with foreigner and after that started thinking in another way about his state and culture, this is a real transformative learning. Mezirow states that a person participates in all the stages of change asking himself important questions and this consequently result in transformation.

Three kind of reflection by Mezirow

Having defined reflection to be the most important part of the process of change Mezirow provides us with three types of it:

Content Reflection
People can think about situation or explanation of the issue. (Cranton 1996).

Process Reflection
Includes considering the tactic applied to resolve the issues, not the content of the problem itself–this is quite a rational and orderly kind of reflection that does not incorporate intuition.

Premise Reflection:
Makes us consider the significance of the issue itself–the suppositions, viewpoints, or principles it is based on are studied. This procedure differs from the issue resolving process and may result in transformative learning (Cranton 1996). If the thinking process results in the understanding of unacceptable, not fully formed, or unclear implication system or viewpoint, if this system or viewpoint is then re-considered and if the person accepted the re-considered idea and acts accordingly, the progress can be called transformative (Cranton 1996).

Another scholars’ opinion

It is quite natural that a lot of people declined Mezirow’s thoughts of transformative learning. Usually they say that his theory of stages is not clear, because they believe in the opportunity of instant change and change without decisive thinking as such. Many scholars

decline Mezirow’s ideas because he speaks a lot about individuals while a person is a part of whole society, so it is the society that is to be transform, not the separate person. Others state that transformative learning must be implemented through the analyzing of a definite situation to be actually treated as change. Fundamentally, what’s essential to realize is that this problem is not widely discussed, and while many people treat Mezirow as the expert of

transformative learning, he reflect only his own thoughts in his works because of the absence of the thoughts of others.

It is important to discuss the meaning of transformative learning for teachers. It must be mentioned that considering definite situation is again very important here. However, the main thought is the following: “by challenging our abilities to communicate, understand, and learn” (Merriam, 1999), trainers get the opportunity to get rid of their own old-fashioned concepts. This is considered by many to be the main task of transformative learning.

Ethics in Transformative Learning

As a teacher or instructor, one must build up his own viewpoint and this point of view must not be the purpose of adult learning. On the other hand, teacher always must know what he teaches to his audience. At times teachers establish different projects or tasks that make students significantly react to something. For instance the teacher can ask his students the question why they did not unite if they were all not satisfied with their employer’s attitude. Such questions make people think. This is a useful process but sometimes it can be destructive because transformative learning is very often appears to be rather painful procedure.  Certainly we speak about adult learners who usually make their own conclusions and it is not very easy for teachers to trace the process.

The fact is that sometimes trainers appear in such situations when they are to cause some decisive thinking and that must be done very carefully. Simultaneously, educators can’t make students decisively react and surely it is almost impossible to plan the transformational process. Generally speaking, it is necessary for trainers also to think over:

·         the way they instruct

·         the purposes they and their students have

·         if decisive thinking is necessary to be

If the answers to these questions are found, it became possible for instructors to create their own views on the total process of transformative learning and its place in the whole process of education.


From the point of views of theory of changing, the essence of adult education is a number of definite situations for their complete understanding. These situations can be considered as patterns to evaluate the real value of adult learning and the social environment that makes the process of leaning easier. The main idea is that is there is a natural judgment, and principle in the transformative education practice. The practice includes changing positions by means of decisive thinking; confirmation of definite ideas through discussion, acting accordingly, and critically evaluating actions. This comprehension of the essence of important adult education gives the teacher with a underlying principle for choosing proper leaning practice and dynamically opposing different factors that deform and destroy adult learning process. (Mezirow 1997)

Merriam, S. ; Caffarella, R. Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide, 2nd Ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 1999

Cranton, P. Professional Development as Transformative Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.1996

Mezirow, J. ‘Transformative Learning: Theory to Practice’, in P. Cranton (ed.) Transformative Learning in Action: Insights from Practice, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass 1997

Cite this page

Transformative learning. (2016, Jul 06). Retrieved from

Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront