What Is Transformational Learning? (Definition and Importance)

Transformational learning is the process of deep, constructive, and meaningful learning that goes beyond simple knowledge acquisition and supports critical ways in which learners consciously make meaning of their lives.

Transformational learning is an ongoing process of gaining knowledge and skills that leads to personal growth, change, and improvement. By engaging in activities such as reflection, problem solving, and critical thinking, an individual can develop the skills necessary to navigate life’s challenges. As transformative learning takes place, it can bring about a shift in understanding and behavior, which can lead to improved performance in a variety of areas. This blog post explores the various aspects of transformational learning, including its benefits and opportunities for implementation.
Transformational learning has the potential to profoundly improve both individual and organizational performance. By engaging in regular and meaningful reflective activities, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their environment, helping them to identify areas for improvement and to create action plans for addressing those issues. In addition, transformational learning can foster personal growth and development, allowing individuals to expand their knowledge and skillset. Furthermore, organizational transformation can be achieved through the use of transformational learning activities, such

introducing transformative learning theory

What is the transformational learning process?

In order to help a learner achieve awareness and undergo metamorphosis, an educator guides them through the following 10 stages of transformational learning:

1. Experiencing a disorientating dilemma

When a person encounters a situation or idea that conflicts with their prior knowledge and, as a result, their current preconceptions, they are in a disorienting dilemma. Here, the learner either learns what they thought they knew to be false or experiences a disruptive event. This shock to their preconceived notions serves as the catalyst for transformation.

In the case of adults going to college, their environment and expectations have undergone a significant change. Many of them may have previously worked in professional environments with their own expectations of them, but now they are in an academic environment where they are required to perform entirely different tasks and pursue foreign objectives. Additionally, they are receiving ideas that might be in conflict with knowledge they previously acquired. Both situations initially go beyond their current capacity for comprehension, driving them to seek a solution.

2. Conducting a self-examination

At the self-examination stage, the learner considers their preconceived notions and existing beliefs to see how they relate to the current situation. They might reflect on past experiences and wonder if they are relevant to the situation now. An associated event at this stage is an emotional response. It’s common for students to respond to the situation with fear, rage, guilt, or shame, and dealing with the emotion is a crucial step in the transformational process.

3. Critically assessing present assumptions

In the third stage, the learner starts to critically examine their current preconceptions and beliefs. They make an effort to get past prejudices, put ideas to the test, and see which ones stand up to close examination. They’re also willing to admit that their current beliefs could be wrong and are thus open to considering new information. Thus, their existing beliefs begin to become past assumptions.

4. Recognizing shared experiences

Recognizing shared experiences helps the learner realize they’re not the only ones who have struggled with problems during this transformational process. Others have also struggled, and are still struggling, to accept the limitations of prior knowledge while attempting to replace outdated beliefs with new information. This moment of motivation can come from the discovery of shared experiences because it helps the learner comprehend two revelations. The first is that since others have had success undergoing transformation, the learner can too. The second is that they are not alone and can seek advice from others.

5. Exploring options for new roles, relationships and actions

The learner now starts to question what roles, relationships, and actions are compatible with their developing understanding. They are able to imagine, at least in part, how they will live and think once they have undergone transformation, and how they will go about living in that new way. When forced to adopt a new employment model, such as switching from remote to onsite work, an employee might, at this point, consider their ability to succeed in the new setting, even if they had previously been resistant to the change.

6. Planning a course of action

After recognizing the flaws in their previous beliefs, feeling empowered by the realization of shared experiences, and imagining a possible future in a different way, the learner is capable of formulating a plan of action to carry out their transformation. Here, they start to assess what additional education might be necessary to get them through the process’ remaining steps. Once that is completed, they can plan a course of action that will help them succeed.

7. Acquiring knowledge

Knowing that they need more knowledge to finish their transformation, the learner starts to carry out their plan of action by obtaining pertinent knowledge and abilities. At this point, theyre capable of actively seeking new perspectives. The new viewpoints help the learners’ development rather than creating new conundrums.

8. Trying out a new role, relationship or behavior

The learner can now put their new skills to use by putting new roles, relationships, or behaviors into practice as opposed to just exploring them in their minds as before. The learner converts theoretical knowledge into practical knowledge during this phase. Actively engaging in a new role, connection, or behavior can support someone’s transformation.

9. Building competence and confidence in the new role, relationship or behavior

The learner continues to practice their new role, relationship, or behavior at this stage of the process. They get better at it and feel more confident about their ability to embody it as they go. Because they worked hard to earn their belief and as a result understand it, they also grow more independent in it.

10. Reintegration

The change is finished when the new information has fully permeated the learner’s understanding and worldview. With the new knowledge they’ve acquired and developed, the learner can now reintegrate into their life. As a result, they adopt a fresh viewpoint and perceive the world differently.

What is transformational learning?

The learning theory of transformational learning, also referred to as transformative learning, deals with how individuals interpret their life experiences. It is an extension of constructivism, a theoretical framework that holds that each learner creates their own meaning based on how new information interacts with prior information. In particular, transformational learning holds that learning experiences fundamentally alter a person’s way of thinking, changing their entire perspective on an idea or situation. These shifts usually result from sudden flashes of insight, prompting the learner to consider the revelatory information they’ve learned and how it impacts their comprehension.

The transformational learning theory comes from American sociologist Jack Mezirow. He found that adult subjects who’d decided to pursue a college education after a break didn’t just apply previously acquired perspectives to their new endeavor but instead needed entirely new perspectives to frame their current situation. They had to reconsider and reevaluate what they had previously learned in order to change their perspective on the world.

Why transformational learning is important in teaching

In education, transformational learning is crucial because it fosters growth and offers benefits from that growth. Some of these advantages are:


What is transformational learning theory?

Transformative learning phases according to Mezirow
  • Disorienting dilemma. …
  • Self-examination. …
  • A critical assessment of assumptions. …
  • Recognition that others have shared similar transformation. …
  • Exploration of new roles or actions. …
  • 6. Development of a plan for action. …
  • Acquisition of knowledge and skills for implementing the plan.

What are the 5 elements in transformative learning?

Jack Mezirow created the Transformative Learning Theory, which focuses on in-depth, constructive learning. This way of learning transcends simply acquiring knowledge. For students to consciously give meaning to their lives, it provides constructive and critical methods.

What are the characteristics of transformational learning?

The four phases of the Nerstrom Transformative Learning Model are: (a) experiencing learning; (b) making assumptions; (c) posing challenges to perspectives; and (d) engaging in transformative learning. Transformative learning then becomes a new experience.

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