Academic journal article Adult Learning

Learning for Transformation in a Changing Landscape

Academic journal article Adult Learning

Learning for Transformation in a Changing Landscape

Article excerpt

Abstract: This article argues that transformative learning becomes increasingly essential for educators in the changing landscape of the adult and higher education institutions of the United States that has continuously hosted highest numbers of international students among other countries. First, it presents a context discussing learning for transformation. Then, it talks about Confucian core values and their influences of teaching and learning, and uses international students from this tradition as an example to illustrate different ways of teaching and learning, and life in general. Finally, it shares some experience, observations, and recommendations toward future development of adult and higher education educators, who will learn while teaching and interacting with international students, through possible transformative learning.

Keywords: transformative learning in the global context, international students, future of adult and higher education, Confucian cultural values, learning for transformation, international and comparative education


Globalization has dynamically changed the future landscape of adult and higher education institutions, especially in the United States. Current trends show significant increases in international students on U.S. campuses (Institute of International Education [IIE], 2012). International students help provide a global context on campuses and in local communities and provide opportunities for American students to interact with and understand students from other nations. Through expenditures on tuition and living expenses, international students contribute huge sums of money to the U.S. economy (IIE, 2012).

Along with these benefits, international students present critical challenges to adult and higher education institutions, specifically, how to effectively facilitate learning. Western and non-Western educational traditions and practice are valuable with different ways of learning and knowing and people from different cultures teach and learn differently (Alfred, 2003; Merriam & Associates, 2007; Reagan, 2005). Educators can choose to teach without regard for students' cultural experiences--expecting students learn the right (our) way. Or, educators can realize Western approaches are not the only right way, thus enriching their teaching through understanding foreign concepts. The former continues colonization while the latter leads to an international and comparative perspective. This international perspective provides improved knowledge of the Others, respect, mutual understanding, and willingness to learn from each other (Reischmann, 2004).

This vision of teaching and learning "transforms problematic frames of reference--sets of fixed assumptions and expectations (habits of mind, meaning perspectives, mind sets)--to make them more inclusive, discriminating, open, reflective, and emotionally able to change" (Mezirow, 2003, p. 58). Transformative learning is needed in this context as instructors, administrators, and international students encounter alternative perspectives where "prior habits of mind are called into question" (Cranton, 2006, p. 23). Thus, the new goal of learning is to alter beliefs or attitudes (point of views), change perspectives (habits of mind), and move toward new frames of reference that may generate new understandings, opinions, and justified actions toward teaching and working with international students (mezirow, 1991).

Consciousness, Challenges, and Learning for Transformation

With more international students on U.S. campuses, issues and challenges in teaching and learning transactions become evident. Multiple studies have examined the transformative learning of international students, how the complexity of language barriers, cultural differences, new roles, and novel contexts make international students' life and study challenging and stressful (Erichsen, 2009; Gu & Schweisfurth, 2006). …

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