Jack Mezirow his created transformative learning theory in 1978 and has been developing it since. It was based on work he did with women returners in the US. It was developed to help educators understand the nature of powerful learning that changes the learner in powerful and long lasting ways.
Everyone has a set of meaning perspectives that they develop from their own experiences. These are specific beliefs, attitudes, and emotional reactions. Mezirow’s theory of reflective practice comes from the school of thought of constructivism, the belief that the way you see the world affects the world. Peoples own experiences therefore affect their learning. People tend not to analyse their own meaning perspectives and this is just the way things are. New knowledge is filtered through people’s meaning perspectives and therefore doesn’t transform how we see the world.
Transformative learning occurs when we get new knowledge that doesn’t fit into, or challenges our existing meaning perspectives. These are called disorientating dilemmas. They can shake our sense of the world or our certainties about knowledge. This forces us to change our former meaning perspectives. For learners to change their meaning perspectives, "they must engage in critical reflection on their experiences, which in turn leads to a perspective transformation" (Mezirow, 1991). This can be difficult, as we need to give up on certain beliefs and requires a lot of thought and critical reflection.
The theory is based on two ways of learning, communicative and instrumental. Communicative learning is about how people talk about their needs and feelings. Whereas instrumental learning is about how people learn through doing tasks or solve problems.
The Mezirow model of transformative learning involves critically evaluating your assumptions and deep reflection. It provides a framework that helps users to understand the relevance of, and develop strategies for, ideas such as self-directed, experiential, practical, and applied learning. It allows users to become more self-critical and to be independent learners. The more you use the ideas of reflection developed by Mezirow the more open and emotionally adept at change you can become. If different people in a group are able to employ the model, then the group, whether it is a school or a university, will function better.
Mezirow's model of transformative learning allows for practitioners to become better at their work through changing their perspectives on the world. If their meaning perspectives are more inclusive and accepting, they are able to better work with different people. It also encourages uses of the reflective model to think critically about their life and actions.
Good when person is motivated for self directed learning.
As it requires a lot of effort, it is only be suitable if you have the self motivation and time to integrate the learnings from using this model into you own behaviour, so it is a very long term model and not suitable for short term learning
It can fundamentally change your perspective on the world, making it more accepting and inclusive
It focuses too much on rational and not emotional aspects
Mezirow reflective practice model is primarily used in teaching. It is useful for teachers, whether in schools or higher or further education. It is also useful for students, particularly university students, as it allows for more critical thought.
You need to follow the 10 step process developed by Mezirow. You need to go through an experience or situation which has affected you. You then need to critically examine yourself and your assumptions. You then have to consider how thinking about this event is part of the process for developing yourself, even if it is difficult. Following this, you plan your next steps and acquire the tools and knowledge to complete the tasks. The final process is to accept that your view on the world may have changed and to actively integrate the new behaviours into your life.
Mezirow, J (1997). "Transformative Learning: Theory to Practice". New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education. (74), pp. 5–12.
A child swore at me during a lesson and then refused to apologise.
This made me feel angry with the child and a little hurt. It also made me feel ashamed as I lost the respect of the students.
I made the assumption that this event was about me, but it could be about the child and things that are going on in their life.
I understand that these bad feelings are part of the process of transformation
I need to think about how best to deal with the child.
I will speak to the child away from the other students and ask questions about their personal life
I will speak to other teachers to see if they have also had problems with the child
I will practice this discussion with the child with experienced members of staff
I learn to understand that there may be more behind bad behaviour and I must consider this in the future with other interactions with students
This new awareness becomes more ingrained in my behaviour and actions and I learn to act in this more understanding way
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