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Abstract

In this review essay , I try to explore the following question: How can we evaluate the process and the outcomes of perspectives transformation? Where is the research on the assessment of transformative learning outcomes today and where it is going in the future? I will describe the most popular tools (see Stuckey, Taylor, Cranton, 2013) for the evaluation of the outcomes of learning activities that may be conceptualized as transformative experiences. The four instruments compared are: 1. Kember's Critical Reflection Questionnaire, a 16-question, four-scale questionnaire (Kember et al., 2000, p. 392); 2. Learning Activity Survey (Learning Activities Survey, King, 2009) questionnaire, based on the theory of the ten steps precursors to transformative learning (King, 2009); 3. Transformative Learning Survey (Stuckey, Taylor, Cranton, 2014); 4. VALUE rubric (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education) (AACU, 2013), whose variation Student Transformative Learning Record (Barthell et al., 2010) was created for the assessment of students' own authentic work. Those instruments represent the effort of (a) going beyond the qualitative retrospective approach and (b) finding indicators for the critical reflection engaged by people (students or professionals) in their learning experiences. The purpose is to appeal to faculty members, adult educators, professional coaches, mentoring experts, healthcare professionals in Counselling and Psychotherapy, offering them a review of both qualitative and quantitative approaches that they could adopt in their professional practices.
Romano, p. 53
Transformative Learning: A Review of the
Assessment Tools
ALESSANDRA ROMANO
University of Siena (Italy)
Abstract
In this review essay1, I try to explore the following question: How can we evaluate
the process and the outcomes of perspectives transformation? Where is the
research on the assessment of transformative learning outcomes today and where
it is going in the future? I will describe the most popular tools (see Stuckey,
Taylor, Cranton, 2013) for the evaluation of the outcomes of learning activities
that may be conceptualized as transformative experiences. The four instruments
compared are:
1. Kember’s Critical Reflection Questionnaire, a 16-question, four-scale
questionnaire (Kember et al., 2000, p. 392);
2. Learning Activity Survey (Learning Activities Survey, King, 2009)
questionnaire, based on the theory of the ten steps precursors to transformative
learning (King, 2009);
3. Transformative Learning Survey (Stuckey, Taylor, Cranton, 2014);
4. VALUE rubric (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education)
(AACU, 2013), whose variation Student Transformative Learning Record
(Barthell et al., 2010) was created for the assessment of students’ own authentic
work.
Those instruments represent the effort of (a) going beyond the qualitative
retrospective approach and (b) finding indicators for the critical reflection
engaged by people (students or professionals) in their learning experiences. The
purpose is to appeal to faculty members, adult educators, professional coaches,
mentoring experts, healthcare professionals in Counselling and Psychotherapy,
offering them a review of both qualitative and quantative approaches that they
could adopt in their professional practices.
Keywords: transformative learning, survey, quantitative methods, assessment
1 Part of the review here offered was published in the article “Romano A. (2017). The challenge of
the assessment of processes and outcomes of transformative learning. Educational Reflective
Practices, 1, 184-219.”
Romano, p. 54
Current Trajectories of Transformative Learning Theory
The popularity of transformative learning theory (TL) over the last several
decades speaks to the interest in understanding highly impactful learning
experiences. Mezirow used the terms transformative learning and perspective
transformation to refer to the process of “becoming aware of one’s own tacit
assumptions and expectations and those of other and assessing their relevance for
making an interpretation” (Mezirow & Associates, 2000, p.4). Mezirow (2000)
limited transformation to those learning experiences whereby one’s preconscious
mental schemas are laid bare and scrutinized through the process of critical self-
reflection: “Transformative learning refers to the process by which we transform
our taken-for-granted frames of reference in order to make them more inclusive,
discriminating, open, emotionally capable of change, and reflective so that they
may generate beliefs and opinions that will prove more truth or justified to guide
action” (2000, p. 7-8). In the last decade, transformative learning theory has been
accused of stagnation and lack of theoretical progression, due to:
a confusion about research paradigms,
an overreliance on a research methodology in which participants are
interviewed retrospectively and in which is carried out just as thematic
inductive analysis,
the misinterpretation of kinds of data as research paradigms and the reliance
on secondary sources (Taylor, Cranton, 2012).
In educational research on transformative learning the basic interpretive
methodology is mostly adopted. The researcher interviews a small number of
individuals in specific environments or related to specific issues (retrospectively),
does a thematic analysis of the interview data, and reports on four or five themes
that appear in the data. Some unresolved issues persist, such as: how to evaluate
the perspectives transformations in adult people? How to disambiguate the field of
the evaluation of transformative learning experiences? How can we track and
support the processes of perspectives change?
The Post-Mezirow Approaches of Transformative Learning
Mezirow’s theory finds its home within adult education and its expansion
has come through its intersection with other theories about transformation and
development. The cross-fertilization (Schapiro et al., 2017) between different
approaches and disciplines continues to help TL theory evolve far beyond its first
conceptualization.
Following Taylor’s categorization (1998), Hoggan (2016) recognizes four
approaches to transformative learning theory: psychocritical,
psychodevelopmental, psychoanalytic, and social emancipatory. The
Psychocritical Approach (Taylor, 1998) considers that people have habits of mind,
a set of assumptions which dictate how they make meaning of the world. The
Romano, p. 55
Psychoanalytical Approach stems from the work of the analytic psychologist Jung
and focuses on the expansion of one’s ego consciousness. The
psychodevelopmental approach defines transformative outcomes as an increase in
cognitive capacity. These approaches describe different, although partially similar,
ways to interpret how people can change. The trajectory of approaches to
transformative learning continues to expand, as evidenced by Taylor (2007), who
added neurobiological, cultural–spiritual, race-centric, and planetary.
How Can We Evaluate Quantitatively Perspectives Transformations
Outcomes?
Most research on the outcomes of transformative learning have been
qualitative in nature and relied on retrospective interviews as a means of data
collection. Methodologically, there is a growing specificity in the type of
qualitative design, such as action/teacher research, narrative inquiry,
autoethnography, and case study (see Merriam & Kim, 2012). In addition,
participants writing in journals, students writings, photography, and portfolios
have continued to be viable data sources. The predominant qualitative inquiry on
transformative learning has become more sophisticated through the use of
longitudinal designs, action research, scales, surveys, content analysis of various
documentation (e.g. emails, journals, portfolios) and the use of video recorded
interviews. In a review of the methods for the evaluation of transformative
learning, Cranton and Hoggan (2012) indicate self-evaluation methods,
interviews, narratives, metaphor analysis, art-based techniques, surveys, and
checklists.
Table 1 Methods of Evaluation of Transformative Learning
Methods
Description
Evaluation Methods
Self-evaluation methods are especially
congruent with the philosophical
foundations of emancipatory learning
that have influenced the theory of
transformative learning.
Interviews
Interviews are frequently used for
evaluating transformative learning.
Interviews can focus on learners’ story
of a particular experience to gain
insight into the processes or outcomes
of learning, as well as to track learners’
perspective changes
Romano, p. 56
Table 1 Methods of Evaluation of Transformative Learning continued
Method
Description
Narratives and Journals
Narratives are learning practices that
include learning journals, concept-
focused autobiographical writing, and
case studies. Journals can take many
forms, such as: imagined dialogues
between the learner and someone else;
real dialogues among multiple
learners.
Art-based Techniques
Arts-based techniques include
photography and collage, creative
writing, music, improvisation, body
movement, and visual imagery.
Arts-based techniques, when used in
evaluation of transformative learning,
are designed to help learners gain
personal insights, recognize ways in
which they have changed, and help
crystallize ways in which they may
potentially change.
Metaphor Analysis
Metaphor theory asserts that
metaphors actually represent maps
that people use to understand
concepts. Metaphor analysis is the
process of recognizing, “unpacking,”
and critiquing the metaphors we
tacitly use to understand our world
and ourselves.
The Critical Reflection Questionnaire: How to Engage in the Assessment
of Critical Reflection’s Outcomes
Based on Mezirow’s definition of reflective thinking, Kember, Leung, Jones,
Like, McKay, Sinclair, Tse, Webb, Wong, Wong, and Yeung (2000) designed a
16-question, four-scale questionnaire, the Reflection Questionnaire, to measure
“the extent to which students engage in reflective thinking in professional
preparation courses” (Kember et al., 2000, p. 392).
Romano, p. 57
In developing a protocol for assessing the level of reflection in journal
writing, Kember et al. (2001) found the work of Mezirow provided a
comprehensive, logical and workable framework for developing a method to
assess reflective thinking. From theoretical elements, Kember et al. (2000, 2008)
proposed tools to identify quantitatively and qualitatively reflection levels. In the
qualitative proposition, Kember et al. (2008) proposed writing texts in which
students were asked to write about learning processes in their professional
practice. To analyze the texts, the authors developed an analysis log based on the
four reflection levels, used as guide for the analysis of the reflection level in
written works. The quantitative instrument assessed four constructs: habitual
action, understanding, reflection, and critical reflection. Kember (2001), after a
rigorous literature review, recognized that
the subject matter of reflection is an ill-defined problemthe type of issues
and cases dealt with in professional practice;
in professional practice, the process of reflection may be triggered by an
unusual case or deliberate attempts to revisit past experiences;
reflection can occur through stimuli other than problems or disturbances to the
normal routine. The stimuli may be encouraged or arranged;
reflection operates through a careful re-examination and evaluation of
experience, beliefs and knowledge;
reflection most commonly involves looking back or reviewing past actions,
though competent professionals can develop the ability to reflect while
carrying out their practice (Kember, 2001).
Kember et al.’s (2000) Reflective Questionnaire needs to be combined with an
additional instrument (maybe one of the surveys described below) to fully capture
the perspective transformation: first, because perspective transformation happens
on so many levels (e.g., individual, organizational, cognitive, affective,
behavioral) that it may be impossible to develop a single scale to capture every
aspect; second, because it is focused on the process of critical reflection, and it
doesn’t consider the outcomes of learning in terms of change of meaning
perspectives.
The Learning Activity Survey: A Questionnaire for the Evaluation of
Perspectives Transformations
The Learning Activity Survey (King, 2009) is a questionnaire constructed
and tested by the research group directed by King (2009), and implemented in
more than ten years of studies.
The Learning Activity Survey has two major purposes: identifying whether
adult learners had a perspective transformation in relation to their educational
experience; and if so, determining what learning activities have contributed to it
(King, 2009, p. 14). The assessment tool has four major parts. Part one identifies
the stages of perspective transformation and asks participants for a brief
Romano, p. 58
description of their experience. Part two determines which learning experiences
have promoted a perspective transformation. Part three is a series of questions
determining the learning activities in which respondents were involved. Lastly,
part four collects information on demographic characteristics. The LAS survey is
a self-report survey totally filled out by participants all by themselves. Item 1 uses
Mezirow’s original ten stages of perspective transformation as a guideline for
presenting carefully paraphrased and texted statements for the respondent’s
consideration. For Mezirow’s stage one, a disorienting dilemma, the tool has the
following statement that could be selected: “I had an experience that caused me to
question the way I normally act.” The learners from a checklist may select the ten
stages of perspective transformation individually. Item 2 has three purposes: it
improves the validity of the tool by summarizing and rephrasing Item 1, it assists
the respondent in completing the tool, and it focuses the items on one experience
of perspective transformation. If respondents did not have a perspective
transformation experience, they are directed to Item 2 to go directly to the last two
sections of the assessment tool.
Until this point, the tool has used closed-response, while Item 3 and Item 5
require free responses. Item 3 seeks a basic description of the perspective
transformation experience in order to verify that the perspective transformation
was in fact related to the respondent’s educational experience. Items 1, 2, 3, and 5
guide the respondent to reflect on an experience of change and delve into what
exactly it was, how it happened, and what contributed to its occurrence. The
educator uses the information from these items to determine a score for each
participant on a scale from one to three. This PT-Index scale indicates whether
learners had a perspective transformation in relationship to their education, PT-
Index = 3; whether they had one not associated with their education, PT-Index =
2; or whether they did not have a perspective transformation experience, PT-Index
= 1. The PT-Index is classified according to multiple literature sources (King,
2009, p. 16). The PT-Index provides three concise categories for representing who
have experienced perspective transformation and who have not. Learning
activities assessed by the instrument are classroom assignments and support (of
the teachers, of the facilitator, of the colleagues). Classroom assignments are
divided into five sub-categories: critical thinking assignments, class discussions,
student self-assessment, discovery of one’s voice, and miscellaneous learning
activities. One may use all six of these categories to group the learning activities
listed in Item 4 and 7 of the instrument:
1. Critical thinking assignments: term papers/essays, personal journals, period of
deep thought, assigned readings, and personal reflection.
2. Discussions: class/group projects and discussion of concerns
3. Students self-assessments: self-evaluation in courses and Personal Learning
Assessment (PLA’s).
4. Discovery of one’s voice: writing about concerns, class discussions, and
personal journals.
5. Support by: teacher, advisor, student, classmate, or other person.
Romano, p. 59
6. Discover of own voice: logbooks, self-report.
7. Miscellaneous learning activities: nontraditional structure of courses,
experiential workshops, and laboratory experiences.
The researchers who administer the Learning Activity Survey can use the Data
Summary Table published with the original version of the handbook (King, 2009)
or may use an Excel Page to tabulate the data. Each response on the LAS has a
variable code assigned to it as listed before the administration of the survey. Each
learner that completed the LAS comprises one record of data, and each response
entered in the system is likewise coded per field. The simplest analysis is
descriptive statistics in the form of frequencies.
More detail is needed to configure the Dataset for statistical program of
choice in order to distinguish between schools/organizations,
class/group/individual respondents. Examining frequencies and rankings of the
entered data is possible to identify characteristics of the respondents, including
age, college, affiliation, semester of enrollment, or the percentage of individuals
experiencing a perspective transformation within their education. Individual
effects are studied with the use of crosstabulations and chi-squared tests of
significance between each of the demographics and those with PT-Index of 1 and
3. As final check, these data should be examined for adult learners having the
opportunity to participate in learning activities: the educator/teacher should note
which learning activities are much less available than others.
The pilot studies for the construction of the instrument included interviewing
adult learners using critical incidents and collecting data about participants’
perspective transformations. There was an iterative pattern of repeated sampling,
formative adaptation of the instrument, and successive member-checking
interviews repeated cyclically in three different educational institutions (King,
2009, p. 41). In addition, a panel of experts critiqued the tool and made
suggestions. The method of supplementing the quantitative instrument with
structured interviews especially improved the internal validity of the instrument
(ibidem).
As told by King (2009, p. 18), the Learning Activity Survey can not isolate
the specific impact of other variables that may have a role. Data gathered with the
LAS questionnaire should be compared with data collected with other
instruments, such as interviews for a small part of the sample, logbooks and
journals. The Learning Activities Survey Questionnaire (LAS) saw applications in
a variety of contexts over the last decade (Brock, 2010; King, 2009). Brock (2010)
used the LAS Survey in her study on transformative learning experiences in
undergraduates in business school; Glisczinski (King, 2009) adopted both
quantitative and qualitative methods for the evaluation of transformative learning
experiences in participating teachers. King’s survey (2009) lacks construct
validity, which raises questions about which inferences can be legitimately made
and what was operationalized in the survey. Even though King reports that experts
reviewed the instrument: there is no statistical evidence demonstrating its validity
and reliability. In addition, the survey lacks factorial validity. Additional questions
allow the researcher to perform a factor analysis to determine the degree of
Romano, p. 60
relatedness between the questions and the construct. When there is a high
correlation between the questions, then researchers can infer factorial validity.
These concerns and others should remind scholars of the limitations of similar
instruments until validity and reliability has been established. (Taylor, Snyder,
2012)
The Transformative Learning Survey: Methods of Evaluation
The Transformative Learning Survey (Stuckey, Taylor, Cranton, 2013) is a
validated quantitative survey that assesses outcomes of experiences of
transformative learning in college-educated adults. Survey development included
a comprehensive literature review, external review by experts in adult education,
focus groups for clarification of the items, the calculation of interitem correlations
for each scale and cross-scale correlations, and the calculation of Cronbach’s
reliability coefficients (Stuckey, Taylor, Cranton, 2013, p. 211). Its purpose is to
assess both common outcomes in transformative learning and variety of processes
for reaching those outcomes. The survey instrument could help educators and
scholars determine more accurately what strategies have the potential to foster
transformative learning. The 112 items of this survey reflect and include three
dominant conceptions of transformative learning (Cranton, 2006):
1. Cognitive/rational perspective (Mezirow, 1991) that emphasizes rationality,
critical reflection, and ideal conditions for discourse, according to a constructivist
and universal view of learning;
2. Extrarational perspective (Dirkx, 1998; Lawrence, 2012; Tisdell, 2006),
which emphasizes the emotive, imaginal, spiritual, and arts-based facets of
learning beyond rationality, and which recognizes personal, intuitive, and
imaginative ways of knowing that lead to individuation;
3. Social critique perspective (Brookfield, 2012; Freire, 1970) that emphasizes
ideological critique, unveiling oppression, and social action in the context of
transformations, understood in terms of social change by “demythizing” reality,
where the oppressed develop critical consciousness. This emancipatory approach
is based on four broad concepts/methods, such as i) the centrality of critical
reflection for helping learners develop an awareness of agency to transform
society and their own reality; ii) the maieutic teaching couched in acts of
cognition; iii) the problem-posing and dialogical methodology; and iv) a
horizontal student–teacher relationship where the teacher works on equal footing
with the students. All those elements concur in promoting a social transformation
over personal change.
The survey can provide feedback to individuals on the extent of their
perspectives transformation as well as feedback on whether change of
perspectives was fostered in a particular group. The questionnaire includes
qualitative elements to investigate participants’ transformative experiences and the
kind of changes they observed that may be missed through quantitative methods.
The constructs described were grouped into three processes: i) for cognitive-
rational process, five scales were developed to represent: critical reflection, action,
Romano, p. 61
experience, disorienting dilemma, and discourse; ii) extrarational process is
comprised of six subscales, namely arts-based learning, dialogue with others,
emotional reactions, imaginal learning, spiritual learning, and soul work; iii)
social critique includes four subscales, namely ideology critique, unveiling
oppression, empowerment, and social action. Outcomes of transformative learning
experiences were grouped in acting differently, having a deeper self-awareness,
and having more open perspectives and experiencing a deep shift in worldview.
The survey was tested in United States and Canada in a pilot study with 136
people2 and was not tested cross-culturally.
A person who engages in replying to the survey receives a score on each scale
by combining his/her responses to the items representing the scale. Outcome
scores indicate the degree to which the person has engaged in transformative
learning in general; the process scores indicate the probable processes a person
undergoes during a revision of perspectives.
The survey may be useful for educators to describe the extent to which a
specific class, in the context of a course, engages in transformative learning and to
convey it in an educational experience (Stuckey, Taylor, Cranton, 2013). The
limitations of this survey are that the qualitative approaches were translated to
quantitative form to perform measurements with tools and techniques that appear
to produce numerical and binary answers. The survey represents the most precise
effort to operationalize the construct of the transformative learning, even if future
tools may be closer to quantifying the outcomes on a graduated scale and
assessing the process of transformative learning experiences or activities. The
instrument has the merit of allowing defining transformative learning on several
dimensions, considering the individual and the social dimension of change and
both the internal and the behavioral dimension of transformation.
The Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education: A Tool for
the Assessment of Students’ Transformative Learning
The VALUE (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education) is a
campus-based assessment initiative sponsored by AAC&U as part of its Liberal
Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative
(http://www.aacu.org/value/rubrics/). VALUE rubrics and scoring guides provide
tools to assess students’ own authentic work, produced across their diverse
learning progressions and institutions. The scope is to determine whether and how
well students are meeting graduation level achievement in learning outcomes that
both employers and faculty consider essential.
The Student Transformative Learning Record (STLR Rubric) is based on
VALUE rubrics created by the Association of American Colleges and
Universities. In 2007, after several years of experimentation and development
(Cunliff & Hughes, 2011), UCO (University of Oklahoma) formulated an
initiative called “Transformative Learning” (TL), articulated at UCO as a
2 For more details about the development of the survey, see Stuckey, Taylor and Cranton, 2013.
Romano, p. 62
learning-centered education model for all students (Barr & Tagg, 1995). Since
students’ transformative experiences (and hence students’ learning) can take place
both in and out of a traditional classroom, UCO’s approach to TL encompasses all
aspects of students’ learning including curricular, co-curricular, and extra-
curricular activities (Barthell et al., 2010). Students’ transformative experiences
are included in a set of six developing practices, all of which promote high levels
of students’ engagement, high-impact educational practices, service learning and
civic engagement practices of Astin (Astin & Sax, 1998). These six practices are
called the Central Six Tenets of Transformative Learning: 1) Discipline
Knowledge; 2) Leadership; 3) Research, Scholarly, and Creative Activities; 4)
Service Learning and Civic Engagement; 5) Global and Cultural Competencies;
and 6) Health and Wellness.
Assessment of Transformative Learning according to VALUE rubrics is
accomplished with the STLR (the Student Transformative Learning Record)
Rubric. Based on the willingness to create learning activities and expanded
learning environments, following Mezirow’s idea of fostering transformative
learning as teaching for change, the STLR Rubric helps to evaluate students’
progress in the associated Central Six Tenets. The assessment offers a
standardized rating of students’ achievement towards transformative learning and
is documented in transformative learning record. According to the instrument,
student’s major field of study is central to the learning experience and is a vital
part of the Central Six. STLR measures and records students’ transformation
across the five core tenets: Global and Cultural Competencies, Health and
Wellness, Leadership, Research, Creative and Scholarly Activities, Service
Learning and Civic Engagement.
These experiences are recorded in University databases and displayed via
students’ online Dashboard and in their student-built ePortfolios. STLR utilizes
three badge levels for each tenet: exposure, integration and transformation. To
earn a TL badge in Leadership at the exposure level, for example, a student must
successfully demonstrate achievement of the criteria for that badge as measured
with the rubric. Faculty and staff who manage the curricular, co-curricular, and
extra-curricular programs identify activities suitable to meet badge criteria.
Artifacts producted (virtual and material) associated with badge learning
outcomes are captured in e-portfolios along with assessments of student work. The
STLR process is designed to promote student’s participation in transformative
learning experiences, as well as the development of workplace and life skills
competencies. As a student progresses beyond the exposure level, badge criteria
reflect deeper levels of learning, much as upper level courses are more
challenging and complex than lower level courses. Whether students pursue
multiple badges or focus on just one, they will develop many skills and abilities
that employers indicate as critical to successful job performance (Hart Research
Associates, 2013). The connection of so-called “soft skills”3 (often achieved
3 The promotion of the soft-skills required for the labour market are now one of the main interests of
the European educational research, according to the European Qualifications Framework of 2008.
Romano, p. 63
outside the classroom) to success in the workplace is increasingly well established
among surveys of employers (Stratford, 2013). STLR provides a tangible method
for verifying the skills that employers indicate are crucial to career success, thus
providing demonstrable evidence to students, employers, and the public of the
critical added value that high-impact practices bring to a student’s preparation and
career readiness. The evidence of students’ transformative learning as
automatically captured within the STLR e-portfolio may also be replicable by
other colleges. It provides other graduates a means of substantiating to prospective
employers their workplace-ready skills as they customize the presentation of
themselves both on their résumés and as they select key evidence from their e-
portfolios. One of the main values of VALUE Rubric and STLR portfolio is to
take into account students’ process of learning in academia for future professional
development and for their employability.
Conclusions and Future Trajectories
How does one prevent the risk of misuse of transformative learning theory
as an abstract framework for framing each kind of reflective process? Using
multiple data collection pathways, opting for thematic embedding, clarifying the
use of transformative learning theory and attending to feelings are all good
strategies. The instruments presented here sustain educators and teachers to
“unpack” purposes and practices of fostering transformative learning. They assess
dimensions and variables of so-considered effective practices for promoting
transformative learning in formal and informal settings, putting in evidence
successes, strengths and outcomes of transformative educational activities and
risks, challenges and caveats when doing the effort of “teaching for change”
(Taylor, 2009, p. 3).
These instruments represent the effort of going beyond the qualitative
retrospective approach and finding indicators for the critical reflection engaged by
people (students or professionals) in learning experiences. How much of the new
role and new perspectives opened will be integrated into the person and will shape
new pattern of actions? How can we really evaluate the level of significance of an
experience measuring people’s level of change? These tools for the assessment
give good feedbacks for the facilitator/teacher who is involving students in
learning activities, giving the opportunity for tracking the on-going change.
Considering that each educational setting differs from another, transferability of
instrument is not well ensured by just adopting it, but implies considering
sociomaterial conditions, features of the research and educational contexts of use.
Because perspective transformation happens on so many levels (e.g., individual,
organizational, cognitive, affective, behavioral), it may be impossible to develop a
single, generic scale to capture every aspect. Rather, a more useful approach
would be to use instruments that are specific to the type of change sought.
Researchers who would like to commit in assessment of transformative learning
through surveys should first consider factorial validity of instrument, high
correlation between questions, and all the limitations of similar instruments until
validity and reliability has been established. Future research is recommended to
Romano, p. 64
extend these quantitative surveys to other schools and other populations of
learners.This can be the track for next development in transformative learning
theory. The open-inquiry, multi-modal nature of transformative learning defies
most traditional assessment strategies. For example, we could develop a theory-
based list of facets of transformative learning process from a variety of
perspectives, and a theory-based list of outcomes of transformations. A rigorous
psychometric approach could be used to develop, standardize, and validate
instruments that could be used in further research. Surveys can be adopted in
conjunction with other data collection techniques such as interviews or
storytelling.
Triangulation of observation, written, and verbal accounts increases the
chance that our coding efforts actually result in meaning-making. Using multiple
data collection tools enables researchers to understand more of individuals’ social
environment in which reflection takes place. In a study conducted on
transformative potential of the Theatre of the Oppressed methods, used in
educational and formal settings (Romano, 2016), the author adopted a mixed-
methods design with these three instruments:
1. self-reports, journals, logbooks of participants
2. LAS Survey
3. questionnaire on the Theatre of the Oppressed methods (Vittoria, Strollo,
Romano, Brock, 2014). The author combined, for each participant, the outcome of
the administration of the two surveys compared with the analysis of self-reports.
The research questions were whether and how participants had gone through a
process of critical reflection on their assumptions and had an experience of
transformations of meaning perspectives.
According to this review, I suggest the following questions as a track for future
research:
1. When establishing a conceptual transformative learning framework, are you
looking at different traditions and perspectives of critical reflection research?
2. When setting up the research design, are you using multiple data collection
pathways to record and capture meaning-structures on participants’ reflection
processes and outcomes?
3. When stimulating reflection recall during data collection, are you embedding
questions in study-relevant themes?
4. And finally, how are you attending to participants’ feelings in the overall
meaning perspectives’ transformation process?
The search for quantitative survey is the counterpart of deny of the
qualitative retrospective approach that dominated transformative learning theory
until now. However, the search for quantitative measurement of what changed can
foster the mythization of the factish (Gherardi, Landri, 2014) of quantitative
assessment in transformative learning theory. From this perspective, quantitative
Romano, p. 65
surveys are factishes of the effort in standardizing outcomes of perspectives
transformations. In transformative learning theory, perspectives transformations
are “matter of fact,” traces of changes, and result from negotiations of different
perspectives and triggering events. A quantitative survey appears to be means of
validations and promises of statistic accountability for perspectives
transformations. How do quantitative surveys describe and represent
contemporary dilemmas of the discourse of post-Mezirow approach to
transformative learning theory in empirical research and studies? Could surveys
guarantee as garancy of scientific rigor in the future? Right now, it is quite known
that there’s no unanimous agreement between the research community in
transformative learning on what perspective transformations mean.
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Author’s Note: Alessandra Romano works in the Department of Education,
Humanities and Intercultural Communication at the University of Siena.
Citation: Romano, A. (2018). Transformative learning: A review of the
assessment tools. Journal of Transformative Learning, (5)1, 53-70.
Romano, p. 70
... Taylor`s (2007) review of empirical research on TL shows that even though much research on TL is conducted there are several elements in the transformation process that scientists yet must understand. The assessment and evaluation of the learning process pose an issue to the integrity of the theory which is accused of lacking advancement in the last decades (Romano, 2018). Even though the theory is widely used and incorporated into education practices the theory itself is still evolving and many concepts must still be investigated, defined, and tested. ...
... It focuses on the subjective experience of the learner suggesting that there is not just one way of learning because the internal process of the learner remains hidden and difficult to measure and assess. For assessing transformative learning methods such as self-evaluation, interviews, narratives, journals, art-based techniques, and metaphor analysis are suggested (Romano, 2018). However, they are designed to assess TL on an individual level which makes them difficult to implement on a school level. ...
... However, they are designed to assess TL on an individual level which makes them difficult to implement on a school level. However, there is consensus on using innovative, qualitative, or mixed methods (Bosevska & Kriewaldt, 2019;Goldman, Ayalon, Baum, & Weiss, 2018;Romano, 2018;Salleh, et al., 2017;UNESCO, 2019). ...
Article
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This exploratory research is a contribution to the overall movement which calls for a transformation of educational systems towards value-based and sustainable education learning paradigms. It is an attempt to offer an alternative perspective on school assessments and certification processes by connecting transformative learning and the whole-school approach in an Education for Sustainable Development context. The results of the research are based on secondary analysis of literature, surveys with students and practitioners and a focus group discussion. By deducing six key elements from the data which should be incorporated in assessment tools to stimulate transformative learning on a school level in K12 education, the study results offer ideas on what to incorporate in future school assessments. To stimulate transformative learning in educational institutions whole-school assessment tools should be based on (1) a clear learning paradigm and value framework, (2) should foster relationships and contribute to a sense of community, (3) encourage reflection and introduce a systems thinking mindset, (4) make learning a meaningful experience relevant also for the personal life outside the school, (5) foster dialogue and collaboration inside the school and across institutions, and (6) require action post-assessment.
... Since it is built upon various theoretical underpinnings such as humanism-existentialism, critical theory, and constructivism, transformative learning holds various assumptions and consists of different aspects stemming from its diverse theoretical origins. Thus, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to develop a single, generic scale to capture every aspect of transformative learning (Romano, 2018). Moreover, the process and outcomes of transformative learning may vary according to context and those involved (Stuckey et al., 2013). ...
... Moreover, the process and outcomes of transformative learning may vary according to context and those involved (Stuckey et al., 2013). Therefore, a more feasible approach would be to develop instruments that are specific to the target and type of change sought (Romano, 2018). In this regard, the following essential components of transformative learning and their relations to parent empowerment are highlighted. ...
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Although current literature demonstrates how parents benefit from parent empowerment programs, the development of a quantitative measure of parent empowerment has garnered limited attention in parenting research. The goal of this research was therefore to develop and validate a quantitative measure for the assessment of practitioners’ attitudes and competence in parent empowerment. In the process of item generation, the qualitative findings derived from four studies in relation to the perceived outcomes and experiences in parent empowerment were synthesized in the first stage. In the second stage, a list of narratives that articulated different themes of parent empowerment was generated, which resulted in an item pool containing 28 items. In the third stage, the research team converted the 28 items into a survey instrument. In the fourth stage, a first-scale validation study was conducted to explore the factor structure of the initial 28-item questionnaire. The exploratory factor analysis on the first sample of 366 practitioners yielded a twofold factor structure with 17 items, including practitioners’ attitudes in parent empowerment and practitioners’ competence in parent empowerment. In the final stage, a second-scale validation study was undertaken to verify the fit of the twofold factor structure. A confirmatory factor analysis on the second sample of 170 practitioners demonstrated a good model fit. The results of reliability tests for the whole scale and two subscales also indicate satisfactory internal consistency. The Parent Empowerment via Transformative Learning Questionnaire (PETLQ) was thus developed and confirmed as a scale with sufficient factorial validity and internal consistency to be used for assessing parenting practitioners’ attitudes and competence in parent empowerment and for evaluating the effectiveness of parent empowerment programs.
... In fact, one approach that is specifically interested in the individual's transformation is the proposal advanced by transformative learning theorists such as Christie et al. (2015) and Romano (2018). This educational theory emphasizes that the goal of education is not only to provide information and develop skills for future professional careers but also to produce changes in areas of identity of the student which should alter their frame of reference and the perspectives they bring into their professional performance (Illeris, 2015;Marmon, 2013;Roberts, 2009). ...
Thesis
This study aimed to explore how character formation educational outcomes are achieved through online education in students preparing for church leadership. This research was a qualitative descriptive case study conducted at a fully decentralized higher education institution in Europe, among its primary stakeholders: graduates, students, faculty, and local administrators. The findings of this study supported the proposals from the literature that character formation outcomes can be achieved through online education. Therefore, character formation requires appropriate structures and teaching methodologies to foster community, instructors who effectively use pedagogical and interpersonal practices in their classes, and a robust mentoring program supporting the whole educational endeavor.
... Even though this evaluation has no direct impact on practice, it serves as an organized literature source for future knowledge in the subject of transformational learning theory and sustainability (54). Transformational learning theory and its application in sustainability-related contexts are the focus of this paper, which provides critical literature references and references to its application for both practitioners and researchers (55). ...
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This research examines how transformative learning has been conceptualized and operationalized in education for sustainable development (ESD) and sustainability learning, and gathers evidence on how to promote transformative learning in formal and non-formal settings. The author performed a systematic literature review to create a bibliometric overview that combines a quantitative description of the body of literature with a qualitative study of the learning processes, results, and circumstances. The current investigation shows that transformative learning theory may help in designing and implementation of educational interventions and evaluations of learning towards sustainability by analyzing the learning process, results, and circumstances in the core sample of studies. This systematic review allows for a better understanding of how transformative learning theory’s concepts and mechanisms are operationalized in sustainability learning and ESD research, and it serves as a source of encouragement for researchers and practitioners working to make sustainability education, teaching, and learning more transformative.
... As the research design was a one-group pre-and post-test that was sensitive to the history effect, we included in TLS the third section of the instrument (learning influences), which had 24 items taken from surveys of King [57] and of Madsen and Cook [59], to reduce it and then refined it for architecture education as a higher education discipline. Hence, the final TLS for this study was quite different from King's original instrument, which lacks construct validity [60]. For example, the majority of items in the original instrument were written to the participant to merely check off or yes/no. ...
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The currently used educational technology with artificial-intelligence-powered solutions, although rather instrumental, may lead to discontinuity in learning, as it lacks social and emotional value, which is an essential part of education for sustainable development and results in an immersive experience through which higher-order thinking skills can be adopted. This paper aims to explore transformative learning (TL) and innovation skill improvement accommodated by transactional distance theory in a 16-week remote sustainable architecture design course. The analysis identified the following: (a) significant progress in students’ attitudes toward uncertainty and criticality while social support differs due to the influence of classmates, faculty staff, teamwork, writing and reading assignments, promoters from industry and extracurricular activities; (b) significant progress in TL achievement while innovation skill development differs significantly across the groups in which online collaborative learning was found as an influencer in creativity and motivation; (c) self-efficacy influenced by feedback in and on actions, such as essay and other writing assignments, verbal persuasions and positive social comparisons; (d) lack of development of situational awareness, continuity of learning and interactions/situations to empower teammates in handling conflicts to develop leadership ability; (e) decrease in risk-taking ability, especially in a group of students in which social support was limited due to the absence of challenging situations and tasks. The results support the use of remote intervention directed at prosocial motivations and action-focused group goals.
... While we do acknowledge the motivation of many researchers engaging in the development of quantitative assessment tools for TL to go beyond the qualitative approaches that have long dominated the field, we carefully agree with Romano (2018) assertion that such endeavors may reflect our illusion that quantitative methods will produce results that are absolute or will always benefit our learners. Perhaps, it is a time for us to rethink the risks and challenges of solely trying to rely on quantitative approaches. ...
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The purpose of this study was to assess the validity and reliability of the Transformative Learning Outcomes and Processes Survey (TROPOS) in the workplace context. The results of a confirmatory factor analysis of the data gathered from 132 employees of a steel manufacturing company in the United States have shown that the TROPOS is an appropriate instrument for measuring transformative learning in the workplace context. Implications for transformative learning research and practice will be discussed.
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Antiblackness, anti-Black racism and other oppressions work within systems such as capitalism, white supremacy and globalization. As a system, Canadian higher education institutions are complicit with the oppression of Black, Indigenous and racialized peoples. Anti-oppressive and antiracist pedagogies attempt to challenge institutional power and oppression but face resistance within the academy and wider society. This paper articulates Black Affirming Pedagogy as an additional anticolonial, antiracist, pro-Black teaching praxis aimed at furthering educators' resiliencies and capacities for cultivating transformations and social change. Pro-Black affirmations of Blackness, allyship/solidarity, humanity, diverse knowledge, and action are discussed alongside strategies for praxis. Risks of engaging in Black Affirming Pedagogy and suggestions for overcoming them are also highlighted.
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Purpose A transition toward sustainable development requires engagement of university students in transformative learning. Therefore, quality frameworks and processes should support deep approaches to sustainable development in higher education. Research and initiatives that connect sustainable development, higher education and quality assurance (QA) are lacking. This study aims to explore to what extent quality assurance agencies in Europe support transformative learning for sustainable development in their frameworks. Design/methodology/approach The authors conducted a qualitative analysis of national QA frameworks in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) to assess whether they support transformative learning for sustainable development. First, frequency analysis was undertaken; second, a blended coding approach was used to investigate whether and how transformative learning for sustainable development is addressed. Findings Overall, the authors found little support for transformative learning for sustainable development in most QA frameworks. One exception is the framework of the United Kingdom, which includes a specific guide on education for sustainable development wherein transformative learning is prominently mentioned. To a lesser extent, some support exists in the frameworks of Estonia, Holy See, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine. Although the transformative learning for sustainable development approach is not explicitly mentioned in most QA frameworks, many of them contain opportunities to highlight it. France and The Netherlands offer guidelines and criteria for acquiring a sustainable development label, while Andorra suggests including the sustainable development goals in institutional quality assessment. Originality/value The research provides the first map of how countries within the EHEA support transformative learning for sustainable development in national QA systems.
Article
A common observation in Transformative Learning (TL) literature is the scarcity of ways to gauge the extent of personal transformation. This is despite a recorded history of more than four decades and the existence of multiple schools of thought in TL. Also, there has been insufficient exploration of the personal transformation of profession changers in the TL space. We believe it is important to operationalize the key concepts of the TL theory through quantitative methods to make way for newer insights. In this paper, using the case of profession changers from India, we extend Mezirow’s work on six types of ‘Habits of Mind’ beyond their original conceptualization by identifying constituent latent factors. We examine and establish the reliability and validity of these factors and recommend a factor-based scale approach for application.
Article
This article develops a framework for this special issue of JTE, and assesses the assessment of transformative learning. What and whom are the contributors assessing? For what ends? And how effectively? The call for manuscripts cited two “megatrends” in the transformative learning literature: 1. The importance of deep and transformative learning experiences that profoundly affect adult learners’ sense of self and their relationships and behavior in their community and broader world; 2. The need to clearly document these learning experiences and interventions and rigorously assess their outcomes, both proximal and distal. In what follows, I pose questions that these trends suggested to me and use them to take stock of transformative learning theory and education in the 21st century. At the end of each section, I synthesize what I found to be relevant from my review of the articles in this issue, highlighting what I see to be major contributions.
Book
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Il volume intende proporre la teoria dell’agire trasformativo come dispositivo pedagogico per mettere in discussione i modi di pensare e di agire e per creare le condizioni, attraverso percorsi laboratoriali di tipo esperienziale, per promuovere pensiero critico e apprendimento trasformativo.
Article
Full-text available
Transformative Learning Theory and pedagogies leverage disruptive experiences as catalysts for learning and teaching. By facilitating processes of critical analysis and reflection that challenge assumptions, transformative learning reframes what counts as knowledge and the sources and processes for gaining and producing it. Students develop a broader range of perspectives on and entry points for learning and behavior change engaging cognition, embodiment, aesthetics, emotions, and ethics (see Mezirow 1991 and Figures 1 and 2). The open-inquiry, multi-modal nature of transformative learning defies most traditional assessment strategies. This article demonstrates that grounded theory offers the rigorous qualitative analysis needed to document and track transformative learning outcomes in practice. By applying a grounded theory approach to data from over eighty student portfolios across several iterations of a Religion and Ecology course at Emory University, this article demonstrates a successful and replicable assessment of transformative learning pedagogies.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Transformative learning has been important in the development of college and adult education since Jack Mezirow proposed it more than 40 years ago as a theoretical description of the steps learners undergo in changing their worldviews. From the educator’s perspective, transformative learning is when a learner is struck by a new concept or way of thinking and then follows through to make a life change; it supplements more common types of learning such as acquiring facts or learning new skills (Cranton, 2006) [1]. Little quantitative study has been made of the incidence of transformative learning or the ten steps predicted by Mezirow to precede it (Taylor, 2007) [2]. More European involvement in research on transformative learning is needed, given that the theory of transformative learning does not have concrete roots in the conceptual formation of the European adult educators (Kokkos, 2012) [3]. European adult educators’ rich scholarship on the social and critical dimensions of adult learning (Bourdieu, Foucault, Mayo) would have much to offer the study of transformative learning theory (Taylor & Cranton, 2013) [4]. The real innovation could be the reintegration of the transformative learning with ideas, theories and methodologies of freirerian pedagogy and of democratic adult education, such as Theatre of Oppressed and Forum Theatre, derived from the theory of Augusto Boal (2005) [5]. Our purpose is to create a collaborative international research to study the processes of transformative learning occurring during university laboratory experiences based on Freire’s pedagogical tools and on Boal’s Forum Theatre and Theatre of the Oppressed with graduating students. This paper presents the international pilot study for the validation of the instrument for assessment of the transformative learning adopting the perspective of the theory of ten precursor steps (Taylor, 2007; Brock, 2011) [6]. Keywords: assessment of transformative learning, international action-research, adult education, critical pedagogy.
Chapter
There is an instinctive drive among all humans to make meaning of their daily lives. Since there are no enduring truths, and change is continuous, we cannot always be assured of what we know or believe.
Article
This article is a reflective essay that explores the question: What can the content and experience of the conference tell us about the state of theory and practice in the field of TL; where is it today and where it may be going in the future? The 12th International Transformative Learning Conference (ITLC) held October 19-23 at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA was an opportunity to engage with this question and observe the emergence of some useful answers. The conference brought together 250 participants from 25 countries around the theme: “Meeting at intersections of places for transformative learning”. Presenters offered rich interaction of TL and Intersectionality through various symposia, presentations and experiential learning sessions that showed the application, development and potential evolution of TL. Open Space Technology was use to engage with this diverse community around the practice, theory, and future of TL. The attendees experienced different forms of TL practices and theory. The authors of this paper relied on their experience as co-chairs and presenters of the Conference, as well as faculty, alum and student of Fielding Graduate University to reflect on the main themes of intersections and intersectionality found in the content of the symposia, presentations, and experiential sessions. We found five main themes of intersections: between various theories and disciplines; between body, mind, and spirit as aspects of the self; between the self and social and political contexts in which it is embedded; between self and others in the engagement with difference; and between forms of transformative practice. In our closing comments and reflections, we addressed whether or not the conference was enough of a “holding space” for transformation to take place. We noted that there was a noticeable “call” from conference attendees for TL theory and practice to extend beyond individual and group support to the society and its social and systemic challenges.
Book
Il volume affronta la teoria dell'Apprendimento Trasformativo e lo studio delle metodologie e delle tecniche del Teatro dell'Oppresso, affermatesi come strumento di coscientizzazione e di lotta popolare non violenta contro l'egemonia politica ed economica. Sulla base di una ricerca empirica, esso avanza la proposta di realizzare dei laboratori didattici e formativi con le metodologie e le tecniche del Teatro dell'Oppresso all'interno dei contesti accademici e universitari. Obiettivo del testo è proporre il Teatro dell'Oppresso come dispositivo pedagogico per mettere in discussione i modi di pensare e di agire, per sviluppare consapevolezza delle oppressioni esterne e interiorizzate e per creare le condizioni per promuovere apprendimento trasformativo con la revisione delle prospettive di significato psicologiche, epistemologiche e sociolinguistiche.
Article
The purpose of this research was to develop an inclusive evaluation of “transformative learning theory” that encompassed varied perspectives of transformative learning. We constructed a validated quantitative survey to assess the potential outcomes and processes of how transformative learning may be experienced by college-educated adults. Based on a review of the rational/cognitive, extrarational, and social/emancipatory perspectives of transformation learning theory, the survey reflects the assumptions underlying these perspectives through survey items and allows the survey to be used in multiple contexts both inside and outside the formal classroom. Survey development included a comprehensive review of the literature, external review by experts in adult education, focus groups for clarification of the items, the calculation of interitem correlations for each scale and cross-scale correlations, and the calculation of Cronbach’s α reliability coefficients. This survey has the potential to advance the study of transformative learning by being inclusive of several existing theoretical perspectives that have common outcomes.
Article
This article addresses a significant problem with transformative learning theory; namely, that it is increasingly being used to refer to almost any instance of learning. This article offers several points of clarity to resolve this problem. First, it portrays a subtle but important evolution in the way the theory has been used in the literature and, as a solution, positions transformative learning as an analytic metatheory. It then presents a typology of transformative learning outcomes as a conceptual tool scholars can use to describe learning phenomena. Finally, this article suggests a definition and criteria for transformative learning to provide parameters around the phenomena that the metatheory of transformative learning should address.