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Multicultural Andragogy for Transformative Learning
Date Reviewed: April 18, 2019
In the Foreword and the Introduction of Multicultural Andragogy for Transformative Learning, the editors lay out the goals and the structure of this multi-author volume. But the reader will not get past the first paragraph of the Forward before encountering one of many punctuation errors that plague the volume. In addition to multiple punctuation errors, some chapters contain so many spelling and phrasing errors that the reader is distracted from engaging with the content. Further, the quality of the research, the quality of the writing, and the author’s ability to support his/her assertions varies widely from chapter to chapter. The result is a collection of chapters that are very loosely connected, with little consistency in how each author engages with the intersection of multiculturalism, andragogy, and transformative learning.
The volume is organized into three sections. The first provides the reader with the foundations for understanding the learning theories of andragogy and transformative learning and how both relate to culture. The second section examines andragogy and practice in a variety of cultural contexts. The final section describes “transformative multicultural andragogy” (xvii) in practice. While some chapters stand out as cogent and applicable, too many other chapters suffer from lack of editorial attention and guidance. The first section of the volume would most benefit from said guidance. Each chapter explains the theory of andragogy; many also describe transformative learning. Andragogy is also explained in detail in the Preface, making much (and in one case, most) of these initial chapters repetitive. Rather than re-explaining these theories, these chapters would be better spent connecting adult learning in various contexts to multiculturalism.
Some of the chapters in sections two and three are valuable as stand-alone articles on their stated topics, but as a whole the chapters do not work together to enlighten the reader about multicultural andragogy as it relates to transformative learning. To be fair, the editors state that they “have set a broad scope for the theme” of exploring the intersection of culture, andragogy, and transformative learning (xx). However, only a few of the authors explore all three of these concepts. When a chapter in a volume is notable for addressing the stated topic of the volume, the scope of the volume is perhaps too broad.
In the Preface and Conclusion, the authors state that “the primary focus of this text has been to elicit the connection between cultural perspectives and adult learning” (xxiv, 270), and in the Conclusion, they propose a new learning model representing the relationship between andragogy, transformation learning, and multiculturalism. What one would hope to learn from this volume is how they interact, not just that they do, so that the model can be tested and reproduced in an adult learning environment. The editors are correct that the relationships between these concepts should be explored and described, and that adult education would benefit from such work. However, Multicultural Andragogy for Transformative Learning lacks the focus and editorial oversight to accomplish that goal.
Transformative Learning and Adult Higher Education (New Directions for Teaching and Learning, Number 147)
Date Reviewed: September 13, 2017
Transformative Learning and Adult Higher Education is a small anthology written by adult education practitioner-scholars in which they share diverse learning perspectives and practices utilized in universities for adult learners. The editors and writers of this volume describe creative experiences, unconventional perspectives, and unusual pedagogical methods in a variety of educational contexts that lead adults to experience learning that is transformative. A fundamental premise of the book is that genuine adult learning is synonymous with significant life change.
The book’s animating notion is sociologist Jack Mezirow’s influential theory of Transformational Learning, found in his seminal work, Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning (Jossey-Bass, 1991). Some acquaintance with Mezirow’s theory is necessary if one is to fully appreciate the book since each contributor builds on it or refers to it. According to Mezirow, transformative learning happens when three things take place in the life of the adult learner. First, an adult learner changes their understanding of themselves. Second, she or he revises their behavior. Third, he or she changes their approach to life (19). The contributors to the book pay homage to the groundbreaking ideas of Mezirow, but do not always locate transformative adult learning inside the limits of Mezirow’s definitions. Sometimes the writers expand the perspectives supplied by Mezirow in avant-garde and provocative ways.
The book is composed of eleven short chapters each written by a different practitioner-scholar in which she or he shares the transformational learning that took place within a specific group of adult learners in a particular context. (For example Chapter 3 explores the learning that took place between female professors and female doctoral students in the advising process of working on their dissertations). The writer then usually shares the character of the learning process which catalyzed the transformative change. Typically, each chapter includes a description of the uniqueness of the population of adult learners the writer was involved with, each chapter gives a report of the qualitative study the contributor completed, and each chapter contains the writer’s reflections about the learning process and outcomes. The chapters are very different from one another, demonstrating the eclectic nature of the learning experiences and the diverse learners involved. A couple of examples of chapter content may reflect the variety and uniqueness of the adult learning described in the volume.
Chapter 1 describes the learning journey of eighteen to twenty-eight-year-old emerging adult undergraduate students who struggle with learning differences (such as dyslexia). The chapter contributor, utilizing Mezirow’s theory and Marcia Baxter-Magolda’s stages of self-authorship (13), details the transformational process by which these students went from viewing themselves as intellectually diminished, and therefore inferior to their “smarter” peers, to being uniquely equipped for life, and therefore confident in engaging life. In this chapter transformative learning was expressed as overcoming a seemingly indomitable life challenge and going forward with determination and optimism.
Chapter 2 presents a study of three black women educators: a portraiture of each woman’s transformative journey is given. One of these women had grown up as a Roman Catholic. Part of her transformational learning involved acknowledging the inadequacy of the Catholic faith for her and abandoning it in favor of a new expression of Christianity which she found generative and liberating. According to the writer of this chapter, transformative learning involved rebelling against her faith, abandoning an old and insufficient way of living, and embracing a new way of seeing the world. Adult transformative learning is often depicted in the eleven chapters as becoming aware of a harmful way of living and discarding it.
The Editor-in-Chief, Catherine M. Wehlburg, wrote that this book regards transformative learning as a “‘rich metaphor’ for exploring the interactions and experiences of students and faculty in higher education” (3). She goes on to write that one will find “many examples of the richness of transformative learning” in this volume (3). I agree. The strength of the volume is its diversity in conceiving of transformative learning and describing some of its possible expressions. These conceptions and expressions are sometimes peculiar and idiosyncratic, but they are always creative and stimulate thought. I found that they beckoned me to stretch the boundaries of my own pedagogical creativity. Further, I found particular pedagogical practices described in the book as ones that I could use in my own teaching with a little adjustment to my context.
The chapters are scholarly, concise, and easy to read. One is able to extract useful ideas without wading through lengthy, rambling prose. A weakness of the volume is that nearly every chapter addresses Mezirow’s chief ideas in such a way as to create the feeling of redundancy. The repeated recitation of those ideas is unnecessary and tiring.
The seminary where I teach has a mission statement which expresses its intention to provide its students theological education that is characterized, in part, as “Christ-centered transformation.” Thus, I was drawn to this book about transformative learning with the hope that it would further illuminate my understanding of transformation inside the context of a confessional Christian institution. My seminary, as well as scores of schools with similar confessional commitments, finds it impossible to think about life transformation apart from particular content. For example, knowledge of the Christian Scriptures and the life of Jesus Christ are believed to be necessary catalysts for genuine life change.
Transformative Learning and Adult Higher Education does not venerate any particular content as necessary for life transformation. Instead, this volume exalts process as the means of transformative learning. Transformation is made possible through the masterful facilitation of a process which is conceived without many definitive guidelines or boundaries. Teachers and scholars in confessional learning contexts will likely, therefore, find the conception of transformative learning contained in this book helpful but incomplete.
Understanding and Promoting Transformative Learning: A Guide to Theory and Practice, Edition: 3
Date Reviewed: January 30, 2017
In the third edition of Understanding and Promoting Transformative Learning, Patricia Cranton provides new insights into the field of transformative learning. Cranton promotes transformative learning, addresses transformative learning theory, and offers strategies for the concept itself. The author examines and promotes transformative learning in multiple contexts: higher education, business industry, government, health professions, nonprofit organizations, and community development. Cranton traces the origin of the concept of transformative learning and then gives a full description of the theory from an integrative perspective. In doing so, she shows the reader that transformative learning takes place both individually and communally.
A minor weakness of the book is its use of specialized psychological terminology; the reader unfamiliar with it may lose focus on the overall purpose of the book as they strive to understand the meaning of particular words and phrases. That said, the book is helpful for understanding transformative learning theory, practice, and strategy. These insights alone aid faculty in developing effective teaching strategies to advance student learning. In addition, the author shows not only the importance of the subject, but how it can be used in real life applications.
This book is valuable because it focuses on the core of what it means to learn. At the forefront of this learning is an acknowledgement of various ways of knowing and the author provides examples of these. I was particularly drawn to the section that discusses dialogue, discourse, and support. This section of the book resonates with me because it fits into my own theory of critical pedagogy. The student should be impacted by learning in such a way that it transforms not only the learner, but the learner’s society as well.
Understanding and Promoting Transformative Learning is particularly valuable for helping educators see their role in the learning process. The methodology described throughout the book leads to self-reflection, critical reflection, and thinking about how one’s teaching may fit into contemporary contexts. Furthermore, it converts the process of reflection into active participation in society. Additionally, the book discusses empowerment and the importance of dialogue to this process. This book is valuable in its demonstration of how dialogue is critical to transformative learning and can help the reader see how this affects student self-awareness and consciousness.
Overall, I found this book to be a valuable asset for those interested in social justice and especially for teachers interested in transformative learning.
Comparative Theology in the Millennial Classroom: Hybrid Identities, Negotiated Boundaries
Date Reviewed: September 17, 2016
his is the fourth in the Routledge Research in Religion and Education series. The series editor provides a Foreword distinguishing between religious education as formation within religious institutions and the concern of the series, which is education about religion. In this context, the essays address comparative theology as a process and as a pedagogical method in primarily, though not exclusively, undergraduate classrooms.
Editors Brecht and Locklin provide a concise, effective introduction which establishes an overview of the intersecting thematic components of the collection: comparative theology, particularly the “departure-and-return” model as developed by Francis X. Clooney, SJ., and ways in which the digital culture of the millennial generation impacts epistemology and identity.
The fifteen essays are arranged in three sections. The well-placed first essay, by Judith Gruber, offers a postcolonial critique of the comparative theological model as implicitly essentialist. Essays in the second group address issues of identity raised by millennials and the nature of the millennial classroom in relation to comparative theology. Essays in the third section discuss hands-on examples and specific pedagogical practices. An afterword by Clooney, in which he identifies “six recurring issues” which he finds in the essays and addresses sequentially, concludes the volume. Clooney’s frankly personal account of his own context in developing the departure-and-return model and his rejoinder to the charge of essentialism bring the dialogue to a fitting end.
The diversity of the collection is rich in both content and authorial voices, some of whom are well-established scholars and others of whom are emerging, most teaching in religious studies or theology departments at public or private North American universities, though the balance leans toward Roman Catholic institutional affiliations.
Editors Brecht and Locklin note that this collection is the fruit of a Wabash Center teaching workshop. The robust range of reflection invites readers into the feel of a working group of teacher/scholars who share a concern for facilitating transformative learning in the religion or theology classroom, yet who address this concern and comparative theology’s relevance to the millennial context in quite distinct ways. A brief sampling demonstrates the range of perspectives authors develop: soteriological privilege (Brecht); Muslim theology of tawhid (Hussain); embodiment and material culture (Gasson-Gardner and Smith); storytelling as a pedagogical method of African Traditional Religions (Aihiokhai); comparing dharma and moksha, works and faith, ethics and spirituality (Yadlapati); a voluntary female Jewish-Muslim textual study group (Golberg); and use of film in an online context (Sydnor).
As Jeanine Hill Fletcher writes in her essay, “the work of the comparative theology classroom shares in this important work of shaping citizens in a multifaith world toward tolerance, appreciation, meaningful relationships, and the common good” (149). The same may also be said for religious studies classrooms. Many teachers of religion who are neither theologians nor comparativists by academic training will nevertheless find this collection useful and even inspiring for their pedagogical reflection and practice.
Turning Teaching Inside Out: A Pedagogy of Transformation for Community-Based Education
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
Debates about the purpose and quality of education tend to center on evaluative tools and the number of persons successfully completing courses of study. The assumption being that education’s primary purpose is to prepare a workforce for a competitive market place. These and several other assumptions about the process and goals of education are challenged in the encouraging text Turning Teaching Inside Out: A Pedagogy of Transformation. This collection of essays written by participants in the Inside Out Prison Exchange Program describe and analyze a pedagogy that in form, content, and process reflects the educational goals of developing critical thinking skills, integrative learning for comprehensive application, and empowerment. For those who value education as the forming of persons who can positively contribute to and impact society, this program is an affirmation of the promise and power of liberative pedagogies and service education programs.
The Inside Out Prison Exchange program brings together students from universities and prisons to study and learn, initially about the criminal justice system and its social implications, but now encompassing a wide range of subjects: sociology, philosophy, performance art, social work, literature, and law. A liberative model based on the seminal work of Paolo Freire, students and teachers come together across multiple lines of difference to critically reflect on the social issues that impact and contribute to this nation’s alarming incarceration rate, especially of people of color. Utilizing a dialogical methodology, questions are raised, not only about the content of issues, but also about the very process of learning. A space of respect and mutuality is created through icebreakers and small group work, the negotiation of norms, and expectations. Learning is engaged with the basic assumption that all present are both teacher and student. Questions and dialogue lead to strategies for change and when the semester is over, many commit to the ongoing work of community education through projects that expand their experience to incorporate institutional decision makers, politicians, family members, and community organizations dedicated to improving the criminal justice and educational systems. These think tanks and policy development groups lead to praxis, concrete engagement of the systems that impact and contribute to the violence, and social integration explored in the class setting. The ripple effect moves beyond the prison walls and even the collaboration necessary to run this program and expand it internationally are a product of the mutual and collaborative relationships formed through this Inside Out transformational pedagogy.
The essays include historical analysis of the current prison industrial complex, the personal transformation that humanizes social service professionals, the community and political organizing of alumni and the different contexts in which this model has been successfully applied, as well as articles about research methodologies and variations and outgrowths of the original program. The appendices helpful, offering models of the activities and frameworks utilized by the program. These first hand reflections provide rich material for analysis and application useful for all educators. I was left wanting more detail about the setbacks and challenges, especially as the program was replicated and expanded to different contexts. Some strategies are suggested (for example, start the collaboration with people on the ground not necessarily administration ) that suggest lessons learned through hard experience and I can only imagine the number of obstacles overcome given the stringent limits set by this particular context. This text invites educators to reconsider or renew their commitment to personal and social transformation. It is an important resource for those seeking to strengthen and improve education everywhere from the inside out.