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Transformative Learning is a type of learning that is supposed to innately create understandings for participatory democracy by developing abilities of critical reflection on assumptions taken for granted that support contested viewpoints and participation in dialogue that disregards frictional threats to the values those rights and freedoms are intended to protect.
This paper argues that the concept of transformative learning is elastic enough to adapt to other knowledge systems. In as much as transformative learning is viewed as a process rather than a technique, it is intrinsically evident in various studies involving different knowledge systems.
Adapting transformative learning to different knowledge systems
As the word suggests, transformative learning is about transforming or changing. Whatever is being changed has not been clearly defined, but it can be argued that the change involves many aspects such as viewpoints, traditions, cultures, behaviors and policies among others. This assumption alone renders transformation learning an adaptation to many contexts of learning.
The learning systems are also defined by the same aspects and any paradigm that attempts to change them is quite relevant. Yet, those who argue that transformative learning is rooted to enlightenment assumptions escape the very fact that the assumptions per se are problematic.
Transformative learning is adapted to learning systems across cultures. According to Merriam and Ntseane (2008), the many studies on transformative learning were based on Western rationalism and cognitive orientation where individuality, autonomy and rationality were accepted as cultural values.
Hitherto, their study on African culture indicated that culture shaped transformational learning and not the other way round. Indeed, the disorientation issues that elicited the transformative learning process were life happenings common to people everywhere across the world.
Transformative learning is flexible enough to adapt to knowledge systems rooted to traditional knowledge and perceptions. In his study on the context of Hawaiian traditional ecological knowledge, Feinstein concluded that people from western and indigenous worldviews can learn from each other (Feinstein, 2004).
The curriculum and instruction methodologies designed to enable transformational leaning to take place allowed student-constructed knowledge (p.119). All human beings have an inherent thirst to learn new ideas other than those rooted in the traditions which can be evoked through transformational learning.
Transformative learning is adaptable to knowledge systems across ages. It is a fact that both old and young people must embrace changes in order to learn. Young people would require changing in order to be in a better position to meet future challenges while older people might require transforming the lingering experiences that largely control their lives.
Shilling (2002) suggests that the adult experience as a result of oppressive and abusive policies that undermined the social, economic, political and cultural functions of indigenous nations could be eliminated through transformative learning. In fact, other systems of learning have a vast collection of resources that can assist in transformative learning process.
Despite criticizing the reality of different worldviews on and generalization of transformational learning, Brooks acknowledges that “the multicultural worldviews enrich our resources and is the obligation of individual to facilitate own transformation irrespective of his/her background” (Brooks, 2000, p.170).
As a process, transformative learning is flexible enough to adapt to other education system. Although many of the previous studies concentrated on the western cultures and views, it is now evident that the paradigm can fit in various contexts. Transformation learning can adapt to learning systems across cultures, ages and traditional knowledge and perceptions.
Brooks, A. K. (2000). Cultures of transformation. In A. L. Wilson & E. R. Hayes (Eds.), Handbook of adult and continuing education (pp. 161-170). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Feinstein, B. C. (2004). Learning and transformation in the context of Hawaiian traditional ecological knowledge. Adult Education Quarterly, 54(2), 105-120.
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Merriam, S. B. & Ntseane, G. (2008). Transformational learning in Botswana: How culture shapes the process. Adult Education Quarterly, 58(3), 183-187.
Shilling, R. (2002). Journey of spirits: Challenges for adult indigenous learners. In E. O’sullivan, A. Morrell & M. A. O’commor (Eds.), Expanding the boundaries of transformative learning: Essays on theory and praxis (pp.151-158). Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.