“some suggested strategies for engaging in critical reflection possibly leading to transformative learning are modeling and peer learning, storytelling and dialogue, coaching, and action learning conversations.” (p. 93)
The emotion that have come up for me is “familiarity”.
My work place is the source of a great amount of satisfaction but also a source of great frustration. I have experienced most or many of the phases of transformation learning as outlined by Jack Mezirow of Columbia University. For the past ten months I have been actively engaged in course work and upgrading, along with a new job, I have found myself at the place where I am in the disoriented (frustrated), in deep reflection, critical thinking and self-examination. I do not experience guilt or shame but more feelings of questioning my self-worth; do I belong, or I am out of place or out of my depth? I finally feel, as part of, that I belong , I have a place here, and I am learning to learn.
Transformative learning theory says that the process of “perspective transformation” has three dimensions: psychological (changes in understanding of the self), convictional (revision of belief systems), and behavioral (changes in lifestyle).
Transformative learning is the expansion of consciousness through the transformation of basic worldview and specific capacities of the self; transformative learning is facilitated through consciously directed processes such as appreciatively accessing and receiving the symbolic contents of the unconscious and critically analyzing underlying premises.
A defining condition of being human is that we have to understand the meaning of our experience. For some, any uncritically assimilated explanation by an authority figure will suffice. But in contemporary societies we must learn to make our own interpretations rather than act on the purposes, beliefs, judgements, and feelings of others. Facilitating such understandings is the cardinal goal of adult education. Transformative learning develops autonomous thinking.
Part of my ‘Aha” moment has come from realizing the connection between the strategies of transformative learning and my personal experience with 21st Century Leadership. These strategies though described in different terms were using the same core elements; analysis, reflective thought, evaluation, creation and pear feedback. 21st Century Leadership dealt specifically with ‘being more present’, presentation dynamics (being authentic) and how people react to you and how to react to them or to other external stimuli (that rattle as you drive down the road). That how we act, re-act, present ourselves or respond to others is a choice and that we, as thinking, creative, emotional beings have far more choice as to how we ‘are’ in the world or to transform our experience than most of us believe. 21st Century Leadership used ‘modelling’ to facilitate critical reflection, ‘peer learning’, where there was ongoing direct feedback with regard to perceived levels of engagement and authenticity, ‘coaching’ as well as ALC’s, action learning conversation. The key ideological take away that has stayed with me, that I use on a regular basis is, ‘what am I pretending not to know’. In many ways this directly ties into ‘being in the now’, as it requires a level of self-awareness with regard to authenticity, and the innate nature of people to drift off into some other place instead of fully experiencing the time and space that they actually occupy at any given moment.
I have personally observed the successful implementation of the strategy of an action learning conversation in a lesson where students were learning about a variety of saws and their uses. As you can imagine, this experience started as being disorientating for those students who had never held a saw before, as it is no coincidence that these tools feature largely in horror films, for obvious reasons. The students picked up the saws, checked out the safety features and the different blades and discussed their feelings of hesitation based on their individual comfort levels in handling such equipment. I deliberately asked a female student whom I knew was experienced in the use of construction equipment, to be the group coach. She easily recognized and shared how she had initially felt uncomfortable and in a kind of role-lock as a female in a primarily male work environment working with tools requiring specific skills and knowledge that were the traditional domain of men. The other women came to see the option of a new role for themselves as achievable, and began asking questions and exploring in a way that they likely would not have, had this been a man, standing at the front of the room, demonstrating his expertise.
The transformative experience as out lined in Mezirow’s Ten Phases of Transformative Learning, Brooks (1989) supported Mezirow’s definition of critical reflection, but broadened it. Critical reflection was found to be not just rationally based, but relied on intuition, empathy and other ways of knowing.
The insight I have gained from reflecting on this quote and how it will influence my teaching in the future shall include strategies that promote critical reflection, such as conversations to determine barriers to learning. Reflective questions to explore the knowledge, skills, attitudes, beliefs and values in order to determine the needs of the learners. Reflective questions that strengthen learning practices such as, why are you learning this and what do you expect to achieve? I will foster open discussions of critical thinking and self-examination as a mechanism to facilitate understanding of the transformational learning process.
Barriers to learning from experience, Eric Marsden, ‘‘Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so. — Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Trust, respect, openness, and an overall feeling of safety is paramount in order to facilitate transformational learning.