Transformative Learning Theories


Transformative learning is a phrase used in learning theory to depict a process that makes the learner reassess past beliefs and occurrences previously understood within postulations obtained from other people. It is defined as learning that brings about big changes in the learner as compared to other forms of learning. The learner is shaped through learning experiences. It is a learning process involving being aware of one’s implicit assumptions and anticipations and comparing them with those of others (Cranton, 1994). Their relevance is then assessed to interpret.

Transformative learning is classified into three stages; critical considerations, reflective conversations, and achievements. It occurs when an individual observes some world facets in a new way and finds new senses to these aspects. The theory of transformative learning is three-dimensional. These include changes in one’s self-understanding, improvements in belief systems and changes in one’s way of life. Perspective conversion leading to transformative learning rarely occurs.

It is argued that transformative learning typically results from disorienting predicaments, which are generated by major life changes. Less dramatic dilemmas, such as those created by instructors also encourage transformation. The process of transformative learning is fundamentally coherent and logical. The most important part of transformative learning is for persons to crucially reflect on their beliefs and assumptions and execute plans that bring about new changes in their lives. Since transformative learning involves learning about people’s lives, it is widely held in adult education.

Team (group work in a classroom setting)

Team or group work is a transformative learning method. My reflection based on these is an experience in my high school Mathematics classroom. Teamwork can be composed of a small or a large group. It has been discovered that many students do well while working in small groups. The performance of any team depends on the motivation and responsibility of the students involved.

Lively exchange of ideas within students increases their concern and improves critical thinking among them. Students working as groups retain information for a long time as compared to those working individually. They perform much better than those studying individually. The multiplicity of different students in terms of knowledge and life experiences has a constructive impact on the learning course. Teamwork learning method enhances problem-solving tactics since the students are faced with different understandings of a given condition. The learners can put together external knowledge and reasoning skills and translate them into tools for logical functioning.

Teamwork helps students to recognize other customs better. They learn to work with many types of people since they are not allowed to choose their team members. These make the students learn how to work with different characters, settle differences and come to agreements. Working with students who have different strengths and weaknesses also improves the effectiveness of teamwork. The provision of contribution opportunities to each student helps build up his self-worth. Group work helps enhance the communication skills of the students since most group work involves final presentations of the results to the other students. These build up the communication skills of the learners.

The critiques of teamwork as a transformative learning process involves the fact it places a great burden on some students. Bright students are left to do most of the group work and also to teach the weak students. It entails inequities especially as a result of race and gender. Specific areas of the syllabus such as science may be termed as less equitable for females. They may support certain stereotypes that some courses involved in learning are a male realm. This is most likely to discourage women from taking part in specific curricular activities. Group learning on its own may lead to an ineffective learning environment for females. Group formations that evade these diversities whether racial or gender-related are quite productive (Totten, Sills, Digby & Russ, 1991).

Placing people in groups to ensure that transformative learning is effective may be difficult. Allowing the students to make their own groups might be quite dangerous. The teachers should ensure that groups are properly assigned. Each individual in the group should be given a specific role. This allows the teacher to assess individual work and prove that every learner is actively participating.

Use of lectures in transformative learning

Lectures are used in transformative learning in cases where transfer of knowledge is very important and in subjects requiring easily and realistically measurable learning. They make use of human nature in learning. They are mostly applied when the knowledge gap between the teacher and the learner is highly significant and when the knowledge to be communicated is theoretical.

Their effectiveness can be attributed to the fact they exploit the impulsive human ability for spoken communications. Lectures are conveyed by persons present in reality and these generate an interactive societal condition making lectures difficult to miss. It also helps the students to center their concentration on what is being taught by the lecturer. My learning experience strongly suggests that a well-structured lecture is one of the best teaching methods in transformative learning. Lectures remove the difficulties involved in learning especially to the less naturally talented population who form the mass number in education societies.

Intellectuals, however, regard the use of lectures as a way of spoon-feeding the students since it discourages the students from working hard for their fundamental knowledge. Lectures are also criticized as instilling a passive approach to learning. Lecture-based learning requires the students to attend the lectures as stipulated. For lectures to be effective, the communication process needs to be run by the lecturer. Repeated and uncontrolled questions from the audience destruct the flow of communication and this undermines learning.

My experience strongly proposes that lectures should be provided as a whole course and by a specific lecturer rather than a group. This appears to work better by enhancing trust between the lecturer and his students. Since lectures effectively utilize human psychology, they are naturally a form of imposition hence safety measures are important to prevent their use for unsuitable purposes. The lecturers should overcome the temptation of making lectures to be amusing. This is mostly through the excessive use of visual aids. They should only try to be enjoyable. Lectures should be unforgettable not averting. Lectures are possibly the best practicable transformative learning methods.

Use of storytelling by the teacher to explain a point

In transformative learning, teachers use storytelling to explain their points. Storytelling involves the use of different techniques and juggling them together. The teacher should be able to make meaningful correlations with his students relating to the discussion topic. A combination of reading and storytelling is used to learn new things in a classroom setting. Storytelling is however uncommon and is mostly used by language teachers (Garczynski, 2003). Teachers employ different teaching techniques in storytelling. These range from simple to complicated teaching techniques. The techniques all have similar objectives of keeping the class understandable, interesting and effective. To keep in touch with the students, the teacher should always use words that the students understand. He should speak slowly to give students more time to digest the information.

Storytelling as a transformative learning method is divided into steps. The first step involves establishing the meaning whereby the teacher introduces the topic of discussion. This emphasizes the learning of new materials hence giving the learners a sense of self-confidence. The teacher then teaches the new topic by use of gestures. This allows the learners to get used to the new topic and maintains a cool atmosphere for the class. Personalized question and answer method is then employed by the teacher. Here the teacher makes inquiries about the students using a variety of techniques. The details obtained by the teacher thus form the center for the class story. The story is usually brief, straight forward and interesting. The teacher fills out the story using information provided by the students hence making the story personalized.

Advanced teachers in narrative telling can make their narratives based on the students’ responses to the questions. To make illustrative and emotional connections to the topic of discussion, the actions in the story are performed by volunteers from the class.

Classroom arrangement

Transformative learning can take place either inside or outside a classroom. It does not require any limitations to a specific discipline. Organizing transformative learning objectives in the curriculum helps to produce an environment in which clear reflection is the rule. The teacher should ensure that the classroom is well arranged to create an environment that promotes reliance and good care.

The classroom arrangement should be in such a way that it makes easy the development of mutual relationships among learners. Transformative learning classrooms should be in such a way that they facilitate knowledge sharing between the teacher and the student. The students should be grouped heterogeneously without putting into consideration their experiences. This provides students with an opportunity to learn from one another. A good classroom arrangement should thus discourage segregation in terms of accomplishments, abilities and students’ interests. Classroom arrangement should be in such a way that it facilitates mediated learning. It should provide an atmosphere of honesty, security, and emotional support. There should be no coercion between the instructors and the learners.

Transformative learning theory and practice

Transformative learning theory concentrates on issues such as how people learn to cooperate and operate on their own values, emotions, and meanings. The aim is to acquire better control over their lives as socially reliable and critically thinking decision-makers. Transformative learning has until recently been the major component of adult learning theory. Several reasons have been put forward to ascertain transformative learning theory and practice for students in academic institutions especially teenagers.

Students who recognize transformative learning can realize better the steps of transformative change and are well equipped with the necessary tools to assist them if such changes occur. While requesting students to develop critical thinking skills, some may find it necessary to possess some degree of personal or social changes (Jossey and O’Sullivan, 2003). For them to be successful change instruments, they need transformative learning tools. Without these, the students may feel disempowered, develop negative attitudes towards the future and be afraid of change. Transformative learning also endows students with the perceptions and understandings necessary for a successful transition to adult life.

Process of being creative

Creativity is a phenomenon whereby people create new solutions associated with some kind of significance. The increased interest in creativity is as a result of applications of the existing resources in promoting the efficiency of learning and teaching processes. Some people are more creative than others. Ingenuity may come up because of personal desires such as eminence and luck.

The process of being creative consists of five stages: The preparation stage is the first stage and involves problem exploration. This is followed by the incubation stage whereby the problem is put in mind with nothing happening outwardly. The intimation stage is the third stage during which the creative person develops a feeling that an answer to the problem is on the way. The creative idea then openly breaks into conscious awareness at the illumination stage. Finally, the idea is validated, expanded and verified (Burbules and Berk, 1999.)

Creativity allows people to easily adapt to changing environments. Measurements of creativity include self-assurance, complexity attractions, artistic orientations and one’s ability to take risks. Creativity is important in transformative learning since it assists the students in pinpointing problems where other students have been unsuccessful. The teachers should provide a creativity friendly environment for their students.

To support creative thinking, the instructors need to identify what inspires their students and focus on teaching around such issues. The students should be provided with alternative activities and these make them creative in finalizing these tasks. Students’ creativity can also be promoted by teaching them how to solve problems lacking well-defined answers. The students are allowed to investigate and redefine problems. At first, the knowledge they draw may be unrelated to the problem and this help enhance their creativity (Mark, 2009).

Ecological understanding

Ecological understanding refers to the science of appreciating the relationships between organisms and their surroundings. It is a field of communal interactions that investigates the connections between humans and their environments both socially and materially. It is very important in transformative learning since it studies the destructive effects of modern evolutions on the environment with an outlook towards prevention mostly through conservation. Ecological understanding helps students to deal with transformational changes and their effects on individuals, teams, corporations, and nations.


Transformative learning occurs when students run into optional points of view and perceptions. Disclosure to this encourages students to examine their postulations and beliefs and these lead to changes in the way they understand things. During transformative learning, it is recommended that the teacher chooses a style of teaching which best suits the needs of the students and which is likely to yield the necessary results. Transformative learning can be upheld by using approaches and activities that make alternative points of view available to the learners. Models, Videos, field practices and the use of challenging queries all direct to transformative education.


Burbules, N.C. and Berk, R. (1999). Critical Thinking and Critical Pedagogy: Relations, Differences, and Limits. New York: Routledge. P. 247.

Cranton, P. (1994). Understanding and Promoting Transformative Learning: A Guide for Educators of Adults. San Francisco; p 148.

Garczynski, M. (2003). Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling: Are TPRS students more fluent in second language acquisition than Audio Lingual students? Chapman: Chapman University. P 122.

Jossey, B. and O’Sullivan, E. (2003). Bringing a perspective of transformative learning to globalized consumption. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 27 (4), 326–330.

Mark, A. (2009). Understanding the relationship between mood and creativity: A meta-analysis. Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes 100 (1): 25–38.

Totten, S. Sills, T. Digby, A. & Russ, P. (1991). Cooperative Learning: A Guide to Research. New York: Garland. p. 300.