A Multifaceted Theory

Powerful Essays
First introduced by Mezirow in 1978 (Taylor, 2008), transformative learning theory burgeoned into one of the most studied, most talked about, and most debated theories of education (Taylor, 2007). Mezirow’s psychocritical view, though largely uncontested in the past, has now produced a panoply of alternative views including, the phychoanalytic, the psychodevelopmental, the social emancipatory, the neurobiological, the cultural-spiritual, the race-centric, and the planetary views (Taylor, 2008).


What is transformative learning? Mezirow’s original study in 1978 concluded that perspective transformation was the primary learning process in the women Mezirow studied (Mezirow, 2000). Transformative learning theory is distinctively adult in its orientation and based on the way in which humans communicate (Taylor, 2007). While childhood learning is formative, adult learning is transformative in that it relies on previous knowledge which is changed, rearranged, reframed, and replaced (Mezirow, 2000). Transformation occurs as a revision in one’s frames of reference, which are “structures of assumptions and expectations that frame an individual’s tacit points of view and influence their thinking, beliefs, and actions” (Taylor, 2008, p. 5). Thus, learning is viewed “as the process of using a prior interpretation to construe a new or revised interpretation of the meaning of one’s experience in order to guide future action” (Mezirow, 1996, p. 162; Taylor, 2007).

Four of the major researchers in the transformative learning arena are Jack Mezirow, Paulo Freire, Edward Taylor, and Laurent Daloz. Each one has made unique contributions to the field and has influenced the direction of research. As will become clear, each man’s wo...

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.... Adult Education Quarterly, 47, 41-52. doi: 10.1177/074171369604700104

Taylor, E. W. (2001). Transformative learning theory: A neurobiological perspective of the role of emotions and unconscious ways of knowing. International Journal of Lifelong Education 20(3), 218-236. doi: 10.1080/02601370110036064

Taylor, E. W. (2003). Attending graduate school in adult education and the impact on teaching beliefs: A longitudinal study. Journal of Transformative Education, 1, 349-367. doi: 10.1177/1541344603257239

Taylor, E. W. (2007). An update of transformative learning theory: A critical review of the empirical research (1999–2005). International Journal of Lifelong Education, 26(2), 173–191. doi: 10.1080/02601370701219475

Taylor, E. W. (2008). Transformative learning theory. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 119, 5-15. doi: 10.1002/ace.301
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