Transformative Learning & Mezirow, MDDE612

I was first introduced to Mezirow's Transformative Learning Theory in unit one of MDDE611. The word transformation transfixed me. I was drawn to this theory that was to explain how transformations occur, when transformations occur, why transformations occur, and with whom transformations occur. I felt like this knowledge was going to be empowering. If I were to able to understand the Mezirow's Transformative Learning Theory, then I could potentially direct myself to engage in more transformations.

In MDDE 612 we were asked to write a review of two stories with respect to transformative learning. (5.6) The first question I had to answer in writing this paper was what I thought was simple a simple question, "what is the difference between a change and a transformation?" Little did I know that it would take the duration of three courses (MDDE 611, MDDE 613, and MDDE 612) to understand the answer to this seemingly simple question. (5.1) I read the readings from the courses about Mezirow's Transformative Learning Theory. I scoured Athabasca's Library and used Google Scholar to find papers written by others about Mezirow's Transformative Learning Theory. (5.3, 5.10) I made diagrams and summaries to help me try and understand the concepts, all the while adding new revelations to my wiki. I refused to leave this theory without achieving deep learning about transformative learning. (5.2, 5.4, 5.6)

A diagram that I made to help me understand Mezirow's Transformative Learning Theory.

While reading papers about Mezirow's theory, I would come across Mezirow using different terminology and modified versions of his theory, which made it confusing to try and understand everything that he was trying to express. For months, I struggled to understand his theory. However, slowly, I came to discover that Mezirow had been simply revising his theory over time. I also discovered that, published papers would reference different versions of his theory, rather than just referencing his most recent version. So, I learned to first check a paper's references to see which version of Mezirow's Transformative Learning Theory the author was basing their paper on before I would read the paper. In the initial stages of learning about Mezirow's Transformative Learning Theory, I made the diagram to help me understand his theory; however, as I progressed through MDDE 611, MDDE 613, and MDDE 612 the above diagram, which is taped to the wall of my home office, became quite annotated. (5.6)

Transformative Learning Theory, annotated.jpg
The annotated version of my diagram of Mezirow's Transformative Learning Theory diagram that is taped to the wall of my home office.

To be truthful, I was mesmerized by Mezirow's Transformative Learning Theory. I thought of his theory as if it was the tool of all tools--a holy grail. I would often think that if everyone could take the time to understand his theory, we would all have the tools to engage in deep critical reflection and potentially discover our distorted or underdeveloped assumptions that limit our other ways of seeing and thus become transformed.

I started apply his theory to my own life, to critically reflect on my habits of mind, and with great humility I discovered that so many of my beliefs that I had held as truth were just constructs of my culture. As an educator, I have worked only in cultures (Inuit and Qatari) that emphasize the collective more so than the individual; their societal values tend to collectivism rather than individualism. I started to reflect on what it meant for me to have individualistic beliefs and how my beliefs could potentially conflict with the more collectivist beliefs of my students. Also, how could I purposefully place a greater focus on individuals as members of communities, self that is formed through interactions with others, and develop the capacity of the community (within the classroom and outside of the classroom) as a whole rather than focusing on the individual. Slowly, I made the following changes in my classroom: no one sits alone, all work must be done in teams (including assignments), and everyone must help everyone. These rules reflect components of collectivism: the “we” or team is valued, including cooperation or collaboration, self-sacrificing towards others on the team, and prestige is achieved by team members’ contributions and helpfulness. (5.8)

But then I wanted to know more Mezirow's Transformative Learning Theory and so in order to understand the theory at a much deeper level, I started to research the criticisms of the theory. Was Mezirow's theory really the holy grail of all theories? Should I be holding it in such high regard? Over time, I discovered that many people had issues with
his theory and I created the following diagram that outlines the various criticisms.
A diagram that I made of the criticisms of Mezirow's Transformative Learning Theory

With this new-found knowledge, I took the theory off the pedestal with which I placed it; however, rather than disregard the theory altogether because it is not perfect, I hold it dear and it has become a pillar in my life. Now, because of this theory, I continuously consider my views in light of new information and I am no longer humbled when I discover distorted or underdeveloped assumptions that limit my other ways of seeing, but celebrate that I have been given a gift that gives me the skills to engage in deep critical thinking. It is not often that I discover distorted or underdeveloped assumptions; however, this habit of continuously engaging in critical reflection helps me engage with new
thoughts and ideas in a new way and in more times than not I end up holding the same opinions as I had previously, but a more ‘thoughtful’ way. (5.6, 5.8)


Related Competencies

5. Research
5.1 Frame research questions.
5.2 Apply theoretical considerations to proposed research.
5.3 Access and critically evaluate sources and content for quality, applicability and relevance.
5.4 Critically review literature both broadly and in-depth.
5.6 Summarize and synthesize information with a view to pursuing deeper understanding.
5.7 Effectively communicate information, arguments, and analyses in the discipline of distance education, in a variety of forms, to suit different contexts and audiences.
5.8 Critically analyze the issues and discuss the wider implications affecting the use of information.
5.10 Demonstrate the use of communications and other technology-based research tools.