Educational Experiences and Transformative Learning in Higher Education in Greece: A Case Study with Student Teachers

By Liodaki, Niki; Karalis, Thanassis | International Journal of Education, April 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Educational Experiences and Transformative Learning in Higher Education in Greece: A Case Study with Student Teachers


Liodaki, Niki, Karalis, Thanassis, International Journal of Education


Abstract

This article explores the educational experiences involving students as well as which of those had contributed to their perspective transformation. The research tools used were the questionnaire (Learning Activities Survey) and the semi-structured interview. The results showed that the learning activities contributed to a larger degree over the changes to the personal lives of students during the course of their studies.

Keywords: reflective practice; beginning teachers; experiential learning; attitude change; Greece

1. Introduction

In recent years the research in the field of Transformative Learning has focused on ways and the practices of promoting it such as the creation of a safe learning environment, the learning activities conducted in the classroom, the role of the instructor, the emphasis on the experiences of trainees drawn from their personal lives, etc. Despite their research interest, these surveys do not offer us with further understanding over these practices nor do they authenticate their validity (Taylor & Snyder, 2011).

However, "creating a climate designed to maximize transformative learning may help undergraduate students adjust more readily to a fast-changing workplace» (Wills, 1994, as cited in Brock, Florescu & Teran, 2011, p. 59). The aim of higher education should be the transformation of students in their perceptions about learning and in their way of thinking, rather than just acquiring new skills and information (McGonigal, 2005).

2. Framework

2.1 The process of perspective transformation

Transformative Learning refers to the process during which the adult transforms his dysfunctional frames of reference and realizes the nature, the source and the consequence of the assumptions that have been internalized by others, aiming to make the frame of reference once again functional and reliable to produce reasoned interpretations. In order for the person to manage to transform a previous perception and create a new one, one should first critically ponder in regards to the assumptions and, when he reaches transformation, be able to justify his new understanding through dialogue. Critical reflection and dialogue are integral parts of the process of transformation which includes ten stages. It begins with a disorienting dilemma, a situation or an event that triggers the experience and consequently the process of transformation. Then, the person examines his feelings. In the third stage she critically evaluates assumptions, while in the fourth, she recognizes the source of discontent and shares the process of transformation with others. In the fifth stage, explores his options for new roles, actions and relationships. In the sixth stage, she plans a course of action and in the seventh he acquires knowledge and skills for implementing his plan. In the eighth stage she tries new roles and in the ninth builds competence and self-confidence in order to take up new roles and relationships. In the final stage of the perspective transformation, the person re-enters life based on conditions dictated by his new perspective (Mezirow, 1991, 2000, 2003, 2009).

2.2 Promoting transformative learning

In this process, factors such as educators, learning activities and personal experiences of the students seem to be able to influence the process of perspective transformation and promote Transformative Learning. Specifically, the aim of the educator should be to create opportunities through which the students will have the opportunity to gain direct experience that will help them to fully transform (Feinstein, 2004; King, 2004; McLeod et al., 2003; Mallory, 2003; Pohland & Bova, 2000, as cited in Taylor, 2007, p. 182).

Moreover, the practice in professional education (e.g. teaching) can lead learners to change the way they view themselves in relation to their profession. Through life experiences, the educator using a range of strategies (such as encouraging learners to ask each other questions) can help the learner's transformation (Cranton, 2006). …

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