Transformative Learning

In order to build the knowledge, skills and competencies that our learners need to engage with and address the complex environmental problems affecting our planet today, we need to strengthen transformative teaching and learning within the schooling system. The idea of transformative learning was initially developed by Jack Mezirow, and is a particularly useful one when thinking about Education for Sustainable Development. It includes an interest in three dimensions or areas of development:

  • psychological (changes in understanding of the self)
  • convictional (revision of belief systems), and
  • behavioural (changes in lifestyle).

An important process in teaching for transformative learning is the process of working with learners to challenge and transform their frame of reference about themselves and the world we live in through critically reflecting on their assumptions and beliefs about the way the world works, and then developing the knowledge and skills to support them to consciously plan and act in ways that redefine their worlds.

In the context of environmental learning, transformative learning is about thinking about social-ecological justice and the common good, in a context of rapid development and complex environmental risk. This short video exert by Prof Arjen Wals from the Global EE MOOC gives us further insight into what we mean by transformative learning in the context of environmental learning.

Education for the Common Good

In order to support and strengthen transformative learning, we also need to rethink and redefine the purpose of education. We need to ask ourselves – what are we trying to transform towards?

What is the shared vision that we need to develop in order to bring about a just and sustainable world for all? The video below opens up this discussion for us.

Group Activity 5: Reconsidering the Purpose of Education

Part 1: Read the introduction to the “Rethinking Education: Towards a global common good?” report. Specifically consider the implications for transformative learning outlined in the report. You may also want to take a few moments to skim through the rest of the report.

Part 2: In your groups, discuss the proposal put forward in this report. What are the implications for why and how we educate learners in our schooling system?

Consider what we mean by “the common good”, and why it should be a central concern in our education system.