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” (Mezirow, 2003). It is also a process where “an education that is transformative redirects and reenergizes those who pause to reflect on what their lives have been and take on new purposes and perspectives” (Will McWhinney et al. , 2003). Jack Mezirow’s central idea is the process “to make meaning from our experiences through reflection, critical reflection and critical self-reflection “ (Dirkx et al. ,2006), Mezirow named this process perspective transformation.
According to John M. Dirkx (2006) transformative learning is emotionally driven and focuses more on a deeper learning, his view suggests a more “integrated and holistic understanding of subjectivity, one that reflects the intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual dimensions of our being in the world” (Dirkx et al. ,2006). Transformative learning is a process most individuals have experienced once in their lifetime and it is a process that I can closely relate to. My personal experience of transformative learning is closely relevant to John M Dirkx emotional approach to the process and Mezirow’s Subjective Reframing.
(self-reflective) (Dirkx et al. ,2006). To demonstrate my personal transformative learning experience, I have included my story in this essay. Education has always been an important factor in my life; unlike some of my peers I enjoy studying and learning. In high school, in year 10 I had to choose my year eleven and twelve subjects. Business studies in secondary school seemed very interesting, hence why I chose it as a year eleven and twelve subject. Throughout my entire education life, I have always had a great interest in history whether it was ancient or modern so I also chose to study modern history.
For me both subjects were very important as they made a lot of difference to my 1 1 ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank). However with the two subjects I had two completely different experiences, which is related to transformative learning. Firstly, with business studies I had a teacher who lacked discipline and she was a “vessel full of knowledge and information” and we were her bank account, where she would pour her wisdom and knowledge to us students; this method is called the banking method (personal communication, 5 August, 2013).
Her teaching method included reading information from the textbook and not explaining in detail what certain terms mean and how they relate to our learning. Personally, I would walk out of the classroom as an empty ‘vessel’ and feel like I wasted fifty minutes of my learning time. Each lesson it got harder and harder to concentrate because I did not understand anything that I was supposedly learning, so my other peers easily distracted me.
Unfortunately for me, my teacher kept thinking that I was the main source of distraction. Until today I still do not know why she strongly believed that I distracted everyone else, maybe it was because I did not interact with classroom topics – I did not learn anything and that is why I could not participate in class discussions. Each lesson, I had to sit in the front row by myself or next to a student that was not my friend; some lessons I would not even speak a word but my teacher would still pick on me for turning my head to the direction of the noise a student was making.
By the end of year eleven, I absolutely hated my teacher but I never argued with her, I just tried my best to stay focused and teach myself. My parents have always told me to respect my teachers but to also stand up for myself in cases where I felt isolated and disadvantaged.
Three months before the HSC (Higher School Certificate), I finally had enough and stood up for myself. It was a Monday morning, I had double period of Business studies and as always I had to sit in the front row and not speak a word. Towards the end of the lesson, I quietly asked the girl next to me about a word I did not understand, before I even had a chance to hear the answer my teacher started to scream at me and that is when I broke down in tears. I tried to explain what I was doing however she 2 2 refused to listen to me so I started to argue with her, I raised my voice at her and told her to stop screaming at me.
She instantly sent me to the head teacher of business studies however it backfired on her. I told the head teacher everything that had happened within a year and a half, I showed her my workbook and explained how she lacked teaching skills. Fortunately for me, one of my peers supported me and told her that the teacher kept picking on me. The next day in class we had a new seating arrangement, my teachers attitude had changed dramatically, she seemed more focus and more serious about teaching.
However, I decided to drop business studies as I felt that I could not do well in the final exam and also I could not cope with my teacher. In hindsight I am glad that I dropped that subject and stood up for myself. In comparison, modern history was my favourite subject. My passion and interest for history had a large contribution to my high grades and achievements but my teacher, she is the one who helped me receive the marks I wanted in the HSC. She applied the ‘factory learning’ (personal communication, 5 August, 2013) theory to us, at the end of each lesson we would have to stand up and explain the key points we had learnt that lesson.
Additionally, in every single class we would receive worksheets and a summary of all the important information and she would go through it, with us. If we did not understand something, she was more than happy to take time out of her lunch and carefully explain that topic to us. For two years, every single lesson was fun and interesting, she never raised her voice at us, and instead she would just say ‘shhh’ or just tap us on the shoulder if we were talking over her. In hindsight, I now realise how much my attitude and perspective has changed towards learning.
Both subjects made me realise that I have the knowledge and wisdom to achieve what I want and it also directed me to choose what I want to study in University, which is teaching. Mezirow’s states his perspective on transformative learning by describing it as an 3 3 adult learning that modifies their assumptions and clarifies them. Mezirow calls this the ‘meaning perspective’, which “selectively shapes and delimits perception, cognition, feelings and disposition” by inclining our motives, goals and expectations (Dirkx et al. ,2006).
Personally, my transformational learning experience is linked with Mezirow’s meaning perspective theory; I made meaning out of my experiences by defining and reflecting on my journey. Many people may not associate a negative and positive experience with transitional learning and meaning perspective but for me those two diverse experiences have transformed my views. I now not only study to become a teacher but I also try my best to practice becoming a helpful, disciplined, understanding and caring teacher, so my students can enjoy my classes and endure positive learning. My personal experience is described as transformative learning as I have changed and learnt about my learning environment and even more importantly about my strengths and weaknesses.
My experience closely relates to both Mezirow’s and Dirkx’s theories. Mezirow’s idea of subjective reframing and meaning perspective and also Dirkx’s emotional approach to the being in the world (Dirkx et al. ,2006). John Dirkx’s approach to transitional learning focuses more on the inner self and inner world. Dirkx’s first point is that we as adults keep our “personal and private thoughts, beliefs and values” close to our chest and “only allow a few, if any, others to know”, he further concentrates on our inner voices, the ones that “lend a felt presence” (Dirkx et al. ,2006).
According to Dirkx, these inner voices are not alone, he highlights that our consciousness joins our inner voices, which eventually lead to individual’s thinking why they think of how others perceive them as (Dirkx et al. ,2006). Joining Dirkx on his idea is Willis Harman who states that human consciousness should be given full recognition “to the primacy of inner conscious awareness…” (O’Sullivan et al. , 2004). Both Dirkx and Harman’s ideas links back to my experience as a high school student. 4 4 Looking back, I kept my true thoughts private and I allowed my inner voices to get the better of me. Similarly to what.
Harman suggests, I soon started to recognise my consciousness after I stood up for myself and critically assessed myself for not taking actions earlier. In contemporary society, now, if something similar was to happen I would use my brain and consciousness rather than concentrate on my inner voice. However, Mezirow challenges Dirkx’s idea by highlighting that transitional learning occurs within ones awareness and that the outcome must involve a “rational process of critically assessing one’s epistemic assumptions…” (Dirkx et al. ,2006).
Mezirow further adds to his critique, that the reason why transitional learning is stopped from being reduced to a “faith, prejudice, vision or desire” is because; he believes that it happens within awareness and consciousness (Dirkx et al. ,2006). Furthermore, my transformational learning experience allowed me to have a better understanding of myself, I was able to self reframe (self reflect) on my journey and observe the situation that I endured and finally recognise the main reason that factored to having a transformative experience.
Hence, why I believe that both Dirkx and Mezirow’s theories relate to my personal experience. In addition to Mezirow, Dirkx and Harman’s ideas, Roslyn Arnold argues that in order for effective learning to take place an effective teacher should be put in place (Arnold, 2005)John Hattie who studied ‘America’s very best teachers’ highlights that the key ingredient for the most effective teaching is not reducing class sizes or introducing new technology or asking for parent help or tutoring or concentrating on certain students, it is finding a classroom teacher that has an impact on children.
He further adds that our focus should be shifted to higher quality teaching rather than seek for other solutions (Arnold, 2005). Arnold puts forward the idea that although teaching and learning is vital in schools, teachers should also recognise that students well-being are just as important as their learning. Arnold also recognises the fact that it is not only “what we learn, but it is also about how we feel about 5 5 what we learn” (Arnold, 2005). Personally I can relate to both Arnold and John Hattie’s ideas with regards to my modern history teacher.
As previously stated, my modern history teacher cared for our well-being along with our learning, she did this by having group conversations with us about what we did on the weekend or on some days when we finished our class work early we would show her funny pictures we found on Facebook.
Most of all, she would show great interest in our studying and grades so she would ask us to tell her the best way we learn and how else she could make the HSC year a little less stressful for us. It was also the way I felt about the subject, I absolutely enjoyed every single minute of modern history, I would look forward to each lesson and I would always participate in-group discussions. In comparison with my business studies teacher I could not even ask questions that were relevant to the topic, she did not care for my well-being, she would intentionally make jokes that would hurt other students or make rude comments.
Of course no one made a complaint about it because they enjoyed wasting quality-learning time and distracting her from teaching. Both Arnold and John Hattie’s theories are extremely important, they not only suggest that learning is part of our environment and consciousness but they also look for other elements that impact students education and my experience with both teachers significantly show that their ideas are right. In conclusion, the reason why I selected to discuss both of my personal experiences is because I can relate to Jake Mezirow, John Dirkx, Willis Harman, Roslyn Arnold and John.
Hattie’s concepts and ideas significantly relate to my transition. Recognising and self-assessing your experience is essential to individuals like myself, if I did not recognise and self reframe myself, I could not have move forward or transform. Although Mezirow argues that transition happens in awareness and Dirkx argues that it happens when we are unaware, I personally believe that it is both as individuals can listen to their inner voice but 6 6 also be conscious while transforming. Arnold and John Hattie both argue strong and important points, high quality teaching will always have a positive impact on students and if teachers care for their well being then problems such as mine will not happen.
Personally, I am glad that I experienced both a negative and positive learning environment as it allowed me to change the way I think and express my thoughts and values without having to worry about being yelled at. It was also a good experience because when I do become a teacher I will always keep in mind my experiences and never treat my students the way my business studies teacher treated me. Some individual’s experiences include environmental factors, family, friends and work that allow them to transform.
My personal experience included enduring two diverse learning experiences that made me transform to the young teacher I will be, who will always put her students well being first. 7 7 REFERENCE LIST Arnold, R. , (2005). Empathic intelligence. Dean of education at the University of Tasmania (UNSW Press). Dirkx, M, J. , Mezirow, J, & Cranton, P. (2006). Musings and reflections on the meaning, context, and process of Transformative Learning a dialogue between John M. Dirkx, Jack Mezirow and Patricia Cranton. Journal of Transformative Education; 4; 123, doi: 10. 1177/1541344606287503 McWhinney, W, & Markos, L. (2003). Transformative education: across the threshold.
Journal of Transformative Education; 1; 16, doi: 10. 1177/1541344603252098 Mezirow, J. (2003). Epistemology of transformative learning. Unpublished manuscript. O’Sullivan, E. V. , & Taylor, M. M. (2004). Glimpses of an ecological consciousness. In Learning toward an ecological consciousness: Selected transformative practices (pp. 5-24). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. 8 8 BIBLIOGRAPHY Cooper, S. (n. d). Transformational learning. Theories of learning in educational psychology. Retrieved from http://www. lifecircles-inc. com/Learningtheories/humanist/mezirow. html (accessed 5 September 2013).