Mini Workshop Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Transforming learners in a changing world (#132)

Karin Strehlow 1 , Angela Ebert 2
  1. Centre for University Teaching and Learning, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia, Australia
  2. School of Health Professions, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

The world is changing at a rapid rate and becoming increasingly more complex. Responding to the emerging challenges requires both learning and learners that are flexible and adaptive. Content- and skills- based teaching, while building competencies and knowledge, are by themselves not sufficient to foster adaptive capacity. So, what then facilitates learning that builds adaptability and resilience? We argue that Transformative Learning bears the key to these crucial elements.

This workshop will explore how knowledge and practices rooted in change psychology and neurobiology inform Transformative Learning Theory practice assisting in developing adaptability, flexibility and resilience in students. It is aimed at educators who are interested in transformative learning in general and who would like to discuss strategies and techniques designed to facilitate and encourage transformative learning. The workshop will comprise a discussion on Transformative Learning Theory and Resilience, followed by interactive group activities focusing on the importance of authenticity and congruence of the educator; the role of reflective practice in developing congruent educators and self reflective students; the creation of dissonance (Mezirow’s “disorienting dilemmas”) to produce change; the creation of safe spaces for transformation; and ways of assessing change through self-reflection.

It is anticipated that at the end of this workshop, participants will have a better understanding of the complexity underpinning transformative change and learning. They will have examples from different disciplines that will enable them to develop teaching materials, activities and assessments relevant to their own discipline. In addition, participants will be better equipped at discerning whether they are suited for teaching for transformative learning.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

Transformative Learning Theory proposes that individuals, when confronted with a disorienting dilemma, may undergo a complex process of transformation which results in a change in attitude, behaviour, belief, understanding – which ultimately translates into a change of personhood. Thus transformation transcends learning skills or acquiring knowledge, as these do not necessarily lead to change.

In addition, research in psychology and neurobiology demonstrates that people who repeatedly undergo transformative experiences develop greater resilience in dealing with and adapting to change. They are also more willing to positively engage with change. One discipline that actively fosters change is Counselling and many of the underlying principles used in counselling can be incorporated into teaching practice to facilitate transformative learning. We argue that by encouraging transformative learning, we also develop resilience to change, which is a key requirement to successfully navigating the challenges of this complex and ever changing world.