19 Αυγ 2010
Epistemology of Transformative Learning
Ανακτήθηκε από transformativelearning.org
Abstract: This paper briefly examines the metacognitive process of transformative learning by which we critically assess taken-for-granted assumptions and expectations that support our beliefs, feelings and judgments and validate new meaning perspectives.
Keywords: Transformative learning, Frames of reference, Epistemology, Metacognition,
“. . . ‘[R]ational action’ on the common-sense level is always action within an
unquestioned and undetermined frame of constructs of courses of action and
personalities involved and taken for granted by the fellow-man. From this frame of
constructs, forming their undetermined horizon, merely particular sets of elements stand out which are clearly and distinctly determinable. To these elements refers the commonsense concept of “rationality.” Alfred Schultz (1967, 13-14)...
Transformative learning may be understood as the epistemology of how adults learn to
think for themselves rather than act upon the assimilated beliefs, values, feelings and judgments
of others. An epistemology of evidential rationality involves reasoning—advancing and
assessing reasons for making a judgment. Central to this process is critical reflection on
assumptions and critical-dialectical discourse. Influences like power and influence, ideology,
race, class and gender differences, cosmology and other interests may pertain. However, these
influences may be rationally assessed.
Rationality is embodied in evolving traditions that hold that issues are resolved by
reference to reasons, the governing principles of which evolve and change. As these traditions
evolve, so do principles which define and assess reasons. Principles which define reasons and
determine their force may change, but rationality remains the same—judgment and action in
accord with reason, (Siegal, 1988, 135)
Our experiences of persons, things and events become realities as we typify them. This
process has much to do with how we come to associate our experiences with our personal need
for justification, validity and a convincing real sense of self. Expectations may be of events or of
beliefs pertaining to one’s own involuntary reactions to events—how one subjectively expects to
be able to cope. Our expectations powerfully affect how we construe experience; they tend to
become self-fulfilling prophecies. We have a proclivity for categorical judgment.
The process by which we tacitly construe our beliefs may involve taken-for-granted
values, stereotyping, highly selective attention, limited comprehension, projection,
rationalization, minimizing, or denial. That is why we need to be able to critically assess and
validate the assumptions supporting our own beliefs and expectations and those of others.
Learning to decide more insightfully for oneself what is right, good and beautiful is
centrally concerned with bringing into awareness and negotiating one’s own purposes, values,
beliefs, feelings, dispositions and judgments rather than acting on those of others. If our human
sense of freedom is associated with reflection and the self-modifying power of thought, then
central is the process by which we assess or reassess the reasons supporting the way we think,
feel and act, validate resulting transformations in perspective, and take action to implement them.
This requires that we understand how and why we, and others who communicate with us,
have acquired our orienting habits of mind and resulting points of view and the nature of the tacit
assumptions that support them.
Transformative Learning—a Summary
A. cannot fully trust what they know or believe because there are no fixed truths and
circumstances change. Yet we urgently need to understand the meaning of our
experience. To do so, we engage in deliberate learning—using prior interpretations to
construe a new or revised experience as a guide to future action. We may also engage
in incidental and assimilative learning.
B. make meaning of their experience by imaginatively projecting value-laden symbolic
models - images and conditioned affective responses—to interpret through analogy.
This process operates tacitly through our acquired frames of reference—mindsets of
orienting assumptions and expectations—predispositions with cognitive, affective and
conative dimensions. Frames of reference include our values, affective dispositions,
moral and aesthetic preferences, paradigms, learning preferences and sense of self.
They involve orienting habits of mind and resulting points of view. They shape,
delimit, and often distort the way we make meaning of our experience. Frames of
reference are derived from the culture, language, and the idiosyncrasies of principal
C. are intrasubjective—accepting others as agents with interpretations of their
experiences that may prove true or justified.
D. search for more dependable beliefs and understandings—those producing
interpretations and opinions that are more true or justified—by assessing the
intentions, experience and character of others communicating with us, and by
becoming critically reflective about the assumptions supporting the beliefs, values,
feelings, and judgments of those others, as well as about their own.
E. validate contested beliefs pertaining to instrumental learning by empirically testing to
ascertain whether an assertion is as it is purported to be—a truth claim. Instrumental
learning involves controlling or managing the environment, improving performance
F. validate contested beliefs pertaining to communicative learning through discourse.
Communicative learning involves understanding what others mean when they
communicate with us. Discourse is that type of dialogue in which we participate with
others whom we believe to be informed, objective and rational to assess reasons that
justify problematic beliefs. Discourse leads to a best tentative judgment that is always
subject to new insights, perspectives, evidence or arguments. The quality of this
assessment is, itself, enhanced through free, full participation in a continuing
discourse involving critical reflection on assumptions with an increasingly broad and
more diverse group of informed and open minded participants having the widest
range of views possible.
G. participate more freely and fully in discourse when they:
1. have more accurate and complete information,
2. are freer from coercion and distorting self deceptions,
3. are more open to alternative points of view—empathic and caring about how
others think and feel,
4. are better able to weigh evidence and assess arguments objectively,
5. are able to become more aware of the context of ideas and critically reflective
of assumptions, including their own,
6. have more equal opportunity to participate in the various roles of discourse,
7. are more willing to seek understanding and agreement, and to accept a
resulting best judgment as a test of validity until new perspectives, evidence
or arguments are encountered, then subsequently validated through discourse
as yielding a better judgment.
These ideal conditions of discourse also represent ideal conditions of adult
learning and adult education. As such, they constitute an epistemic grounding
for a philosophical commitment to social and cultural action by adult
H. may transform their taken-for-granted frames of reference—when they become
problematic—to make them more inclusive, discriminating, open, emotionally able to
change and reflective so that they may generate beliefs and opinions that will prove
more true or justified to guide action.
Within this context, mindful transformative learning about a change of belief
1. recognition that an alternative way of understanding may provide new insight
into a problem,
2. context awareness of the sources, nature and consequences of the old belief,
3. critical reflection on its supporting assumptions,
4. validating the new belief by an empirical test of the truth of its claims, when
feasible, or by a continuing discursive assessment of its justification in order
to arrive at a tentative best judgment and,
5. taking action on the validated new belief.
The process of change just described enhances one’s disposition for making meaning
through transformative learning. Critical reflection, then, may involve intuition or
discernment. Transformative learning may also be mindlessly assimilative.
I. may have transformations that are epochal or incremental. And, these transformations
may involve objective (task oriented) or subjective (self-reflective) reframing. In
objective reframing, points of view are transformed when we become critically
reflective on the content of a problem, or on the process of problem solving. Habits of
mind are transformed when we become critically reflective on the premise of the
J. when engaged in subjective reframing, often require the support of others, a positive
self-concept and freedom from immobilizing anxiety. The transformative process
occurs across the following phases in the clarification of meaning:
1. a disorienting dilemma;
2. self- examination with feelings of fear, anger, guilt or shame;
3. a critical assessment of assumptions;
4. recognition that one’s discontent and the process of transformation are shared;
5. exploration of options for new roles, relationships and actions;
6. planning a course of action;
7. acquiring knowledge and skills for implementing one’s plans;
8. provisional trying of new roles;
9. building competence and self-confidence in new roles and relationships; and
10. a reintegration into one’s life on the basis of conditions dictated by one’s new
K. are expected, as participants in a democracy, to be able to reflectively negotiate our
own purposes, values, feelings and meanings rather than to simply act upon those of
others. The goal of adult education is to assist learners to more fully realize their
capability for autonomous thought while pursuing their own learning objectives.
Learner objectives may be personal, occupational, or involve collective social action;
they may be to earn a higher education degree, learn a language, gain self-confidence,
influence public policy, teach a child to read, keep intellectually active—among many
L. as educators concerned with transformative learning, assist learners to understand
why they think, feel and believe as they do by:
1. critically assessing the validity of their own assumptions and those of others;
2. analyzing and assessing the source, nature and consequences of assumptions;
3. empathizing and providing emotional support for others to engage in
4. learning to participate more fully and effectively in reflective discourse to
assess the reasons for a belief or perspective;
5. anticipating the consequences of acting upon a transformed perspective and
planning effective action; and
6. developing the disposition to think critically, assess one’s own assumptions,
and those of others, participate fully and freely in reflective discourse, and
engage in cultural or social action to improve the conditions necessary to
encourage adult learners to share these insights.
Schutz, A. (l967). Collected papers: 1. The problem of social reality. The Hague: Martinus
Siegal, H. (l988). Educating reason; rationality, critical thinking and education. N.Y: Routledge