Transformative Learning Theory

Transformative learning theory explains the process of constructing and appropriating new and revised interpretations of the meaning of an experience in the world. Transformative learning is the cognitive process of effecting change in a frame of reference although it is recognized that important emotional changes are often involved. These frames of reference define our view of the world and we have a tendency as adults to reject or deem unworthy any ideas that do not ascribe to our particular values, associations, concepts,etc. Our frames of reference are composed of two dimensions: habits of mind and points of view. Habits of mind, such as ethnocentrism, are more fixed and influence our point of view and the resulting thoughts or feelings associated with them, whereas points of view may change over time as a result of influences such as reflection, appropriation and feedback. Transformative learners utilize discourse as a means of critically examination and reflection “devoted to assessing reasons presented in support of competing interpretations, by critically examining evidence, arguments, and alternative points of view.” When circumstances permit, transformative learners move toward a frame of reference that is more inclusive, discriminating, self-reflective, and integrative of experience. Transformative learning leads to autonomous and responsible thinking which is essential for full citizenship in democracy and for moral decision making in situations of rapid change.