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Jack Mezirow

Transformational Learning
Isaiah Beekman 2014

Jack Mezirow, A short bibliography:
He was born in 1927, and is an American
sociologist and Emeritus Professor of Adult
and Continuing Education at Teachers College,
Columbia University.
Mezirow is influenced by Paulo Freire and
Jrgen Habermas.
Mezirow is also widely acknowledged as the
founder of the concept of transformative
One of his main areas of work on
transformation learning has been the division
of knowledge into three distinct categories:
1. Instrumental
2. Communicative
3. Emancipatory
Instrumental learning is the simple attainment
of skills and knowledge.
Communicative knowledge depends on students
understanding the meaning of what is being
Emancipatory knowledge is much deeper and is
based on the idea that everyone has the potential
to break free from the limitations of their own
situation to transform their own life.
It aint what you do, its the way that you do it..
Transformative Learning Theory:
Transformative learning is the process of
effective change in a frame of reference.
Adults have acquired a coherent body of
experience- associations, concepts, feelings,
values, conditioned responses- frames of
reference that define their world. Frames of
reference are the structures of assumptions
through which we understand our

They selectively shape and define expectations,
perceptions, cognition, and feelings.
According to this theory, they set our line of
action. Once set, we automatically move from
one specific activity (mental or behavioral) to
We have a strong tendency to reject ideas that
fail to fit our preconceptions, labeling those ideas
as unworthy of consideration.
When they are able to, transformative
learners move toward a frame of reference
that is more inclusive, discriminating, self-
reflective, and integrative of experience.
The frame of mind includes conative,
cognitive, and emotional components. It is
made up of two components, habit of mind
and point of view .

Habits of Mind
Habits of mind are broad, abstract, orienting,
habitual ways of thinking, feeling, and acting
influenced by a assumptions that make up a set
of codes.
These codes can be cultural, educational, social,
economic, political, or psychological.
Habits of mind shape a particular interpretation.
An example of a habit of mind would be
ethnocentrism, the predisposition to regard
anyone outside of ones own group as inferior.
Point of View
Points of view are subject to continual change
as we reflect on the way we process by which
we solve problems and identify the need to
modify previous assumptions.
Points of view allow us to try out anothers
point of view and use it.

Transformational Learning
We transform our frames of reference through
critical reflection on the assumptions upon
which our beliefs, interpretations, and habits
of mind or point of view are based.
Self-reflection can lead to significant personal
There are four processes of learning that
Mezirow expands on within Transformational
The four ways of learning
(In regards to the ethnocentric example earlier)
1. Elaborate on an existing point of view- We can seek further
evidence to support our initial bias regarding a group, and expand
the range of our point of views.
2. Establish new points of view- This can be both positive and
negative. If we encounter a new group we might create new
negative meanings about them based on our inclination for
3. Transform our point of view- We may have an experience in
another culture that causes us to critically reflect on our
misconception of this group. This can cause a change in our point of
4. Become aware and critically reflective of our generalized bias-
This type of transformation is less common .
We do not make transformative changes in the way we learn unless
what we learn does not fit well in our existing frames of reference.

Facilitation of Transformative learning
To facilitate transformative learning, educators
need to help learners become aware of their
own and others assumptions.
Learners need to practice recognizing frames
of reference and using their minds to redefine
problems from a different perspective.
Learning with this theory is a social process
because discourse is necessary to affirm what
and how one learns.
According to Mezirow in order for effective
discourse to occur the educator must provide full
information to those participating, and that they
have equal opportunity to take on different roles
of discourse.
For the transformative learning to have meaning,
the learner must incorporate new information
into their already well-developed frame of
The learner may also need help in transforming
their frame of reference.
Educators need to assume responsibility for
setting objectives that include autonomous
thinking. This requires experiences designed to
foster critically reflectivity and experience
through discourse.
The educator needs to frame questions at the
learners current level of understanding in order
to facilitate learning.
Transformative learning requires that the learner
critically reflect on experience in order to frame a
new point of view and frame of mind.
Transformational learning tries to foster self-
directed learning. To do this educators must
create an environment in which learners
become increasingly good at learning from
each other and helping each other in
problem-solving groups.
One of the goals of transformative learning is
to help the individual become a more
autonomous thinker by learning to convey
their values, meanings, and purposes rather
than uncritically act on others.