Transformational learning is a philosophy of change. It identifies people why change is necessary, what benefits will be accrued by changing, how to change, and most importantly, how to incorporate and embrace change in education.
The study of transformational learning emerged with the work of Jack Mezirow (1981, 1994, 1997). Transformational learning is defined as learning that induces more far-reaching change in the learner than other kinds of learning, especially learning experiences which shape the learner and produce a significant impact, or paradigm shift, which affects the learner's subsequent experiences (Clark, 1993).
Numerous authors have published papers on various aspects of transformational learning, and they have collectively identified factors which produce transformational learning in adult students. Characteristics of the instructor, student, course content, learning environment, and instructional activities as they influence transformational learning have been discussed and examined.Two fundamental questions arise from these observations. First, what factors contribute to transformational learning? Second, what challenges arise for the instructor who teaches in transformational learning environments?
Baumgartner (2001) and Taylor (as cited in Imel, 1998) give an overview of the theories, contributions of significant authors, and unresolved issues in transformational learning. The earliest writer on transformational learning (Mezirow, 1981) developed the concepts of “meaning perspectives”, one's overall world-view, and “meaning schemes”, smaller components which contain specific knowledge, values, and beliefs about one's experiences. A number of meaning schemes work together to generate one's meaning perspective. Meaning perspectives are acquired passively during childhood and youth, and are the target of the transformation that occurs through experience during adulthood. They operate as perceptual...