Transformative Learning


In my post a few weeks ago about creating a positive learning environment, you may have noticed that I had some not-so-nice things to say about transformative learning.  After getting off to such an eager start to the course and feeling really inspired by the first few chapters of the text book, the chapter on transformative learning was the first time where something just didn’t sit right with me.  It seemed like such a far-fetched theory that was so incredibly difficult to put into practice and required such a specific set of circumstances – and maybe even a bit of luck – to make it click.

Well that was then and this is now.

Truth be told:  I’ve been transformed.

The transformation felt like it happened pretty rapidly though the shift in paradigm may have been underway since I first decided to apply to the PIDP at VCC (the initial step of acting on my motivation to be a better instructor).  After about 5 weeks in Foundations, I had the pleasure of taking the Curriculum Development course in person when Douglas Mauger and Glen Galey were kind enough to travel to Doha, Qatar to teach 28 instructors at the College of the North Atlantic from September 4-8.  I was incredibly fortunate to be part of that group.

While the content of the course certainly helped with the transformation (there were a few major dots that were connected for me about how to get from the course outline to the lesson plan) it was the positive learning environment that was created and the instructional strategies that were used which really helped melt almost six years of resistance to being a better instructor off my shoulders.

Previous me:  “lesson plans are a stupid waste of time – why on earth do I  need to write a lesson plan when I’m already an expert and I know what I have to teach – it’s just a dumb piece of extra paper that my boss tells me I have to do and by the way I don’t even have time for it!”

New me:  *writing all lesson plans with furious vigor*

Maybe I was ready for change and it would have happened anyway.  Maybe the goal of the instruction was to transform me and the instructional strategies were all so carefully prescribed that it magically worked.  Maybe I could be an instructor that goes beyond teaching content and actually transforms the beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviours of my students.

The experience as a whole made a believer out of me.

I’ve been reading a lot more about transformative learning and constructivism. Where previously I would have sighed audibly when someone asked me to reflect on something, I now see the absolute value and importance of my students going through this process. I’m really focused on trying to create the necessary environment in order to help catalyze a transformative experience for my students.  While there’s no perfect list of criteria available, this checklist is a pretty good start:

  • Encourage students to reflect on and share their feelings and thoughts in class
  • Cultivate awareness of alternate ways of learning
  • Establish an environment characterized by trust and care
  • Facilitate sensitive relationships among the participants
  • Demonstrate reflection as an experienced mentor
  • Facilitate the questioning of reality that promotes shifts in worldview
  • Encourage rational discourse
  • Provide equal opportunities for all students to assume various roles

Looking back on that list, every one of those items can be checked off as something I experienced during my time as a student in the curriculum development course.  While I have a long, long way to go as an instructor, I feel like I’m at least on the right path and moving in the right direction.


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