I have been very interested in the concept of transformative learning (or is it transformational?) for some time, and I am planning to collate all my notes and writings and pull together some piece (an essay, perhaps!) that captures my views and those of others. This may take a while. In the meantime…

Stephen Covey once wrote:

“If you want to make incremental improvements and minor changes, work on practices, behaviours or attitudes. But if you want to make significant, quantum improvement, work on paradigms… i.e., perceptions, assumptions, theories, frames of reference or lenses through which you view the world.” (Source unknown)

He was talking about transformative learning, learning that results in significant personal (and often social) change of some sort – a change of “structural integrity” (O’Sullivan page 209).

Transformative learning is different from other forms of learning and it is not something we do every day although our daily activities may cumulate in the drive for transformation. And it is not something that everybody experiences. Many people prefer to stay in an entropic state or in equilibrium:

But if the fluctuations in the system reach a critical level, the system becomes sufficiently turbulent so that the old connecting points no longer work: the system transforms itself into a higher order, one with new and different connecting points…The parts re-order into a new whole… (Ibid p 209)

Although we may be accumulating the experiences for our next transformation we also learn in less dramatic ways. Apart from anything else constant transformation would be exhausting! We develop skills and we practice and hone them and we accumulate knowledge and apply it. Sometimes we reflect on our experiences, skills and knowledge, question underlying values and assumptions and make some changes as in Schoen’s double-loop learning model. There are times when it is appropriate to remain in single loop learning, just moving through a simple feedback cycle.

Reference: Edmund O’Sullivan, 2001, Transformative Learning: Educational Vision for the 21st Century, Zed Books, London