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Kegan Constructive-Developmental Approach to Transformative Learning Notes
Monday, 10 May 2010 02:56

Kegan Constructive-Developmental Approach to Transformative Learning Notes

Written by  Rebecca West Burns
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Kegan, R. (2000). What "form" transforms?: A constructive-developmental approach to transformative learning. In J. Mezirow (Ed.) & Associates, Learning as Transformation (pp. 3- 34). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Transformation Learning and the Problem of Its Success

  • "Ironically, as the language of transformation is more widely assimilated it risks losing its genuinely transformative potential (p. 47)!"
  • Distinct features include:
    • "Transformational kinds of learning need to be more clearly distinguished from informational kinds of learning, and each needs to be recognized as valuable in any learning activity, discipline, or field.
    • The form that is undergoing transformation needs to be better understood; if there is no form there is no transformation.
    • At the heart of a form is a way of knowing (what Mezirow calls a 'frame of reference'); thus genuinely transformational learning is always to some extent an epistemological change rather than merely a change in behavioral repertoire or an increase in the quantity or fund of knowledge.
    • Even as the concept of transformational learning needs to be narrowed by focusing more explicitly on the epistemological, it needs to be broadened to include the whole life span; transformation learning is not he province of adulthood or adult education alone.
    • Adult educators with an interest in transformational learning may need a better understanding of their students' current epistemologies so as not to create learning designs that unwittingly presuppose the very capacities in the students their designs might seek to promote.
    • Adult educators may better discern the nature of learns' particular needs for transformational learning by better understanding not only their students' present epistemologies but the epistemological complexity of the present learning challenges they face in their lives (pp. 47-48)."
  • Informational Learning and Transformational Learning
    • "Learning aimed at increasing our fund of knowledge, at increasing our repertoire of skills, at extending already established cognitive capacities into new terrain serves the absolutely crucial purpose of deepening the resources available to an existing frame of reference. Such learning is literally in-form­-ative because it seeks to bring valuable new contents into the existing form of our way of knowing (p. 49)."
    • "Transformation should not refer to just any kind of change, even to any kind of dramatic, consequential change (p. 49)."
    • Informative learning is valuable and serves a purpose, but it is not considered transformational learning.
    • Informative learning = changes in what we know; Transformative learning = changes in how we know
    • Informative learning involves changes within an existing frame of reference. The context determines the extent to which a particular type of learning  - informational or transformative - is fore grounded.
  • What Form Transforms? The Centrality of Epistemology
    • "...at its root, frame of reference is a way of knowing (p. 52)."
    • '"Epistemology' refers to precisely this: not what we know but our way of knowing (p. 52)."
    • Meaning-forming: "...the activity by which we shape a coherent meaning out of the raw material of our outer and inner experiencing (p. 52)."
    • '"Our experience,' Huxley said, 'is less what happens to us, and more what we make of what happens to us (p. 52).'"
    • Transformative learning is a change in our epistemologies.
    • Reforming our meaning-forming: "This is a metaprocess that affects the very terms of our meaning-constructing. We do not only form meaning, and we do not only change our meanings; we change the very form by which we are making our meanings. We change our epistemologies (pp. 52-53)."
    • "A more explicit rendering of transformational learning, I suggest, attends to the deliberate efforts and designs that support changes in the learner's form of knowing (p. 53)."
    • "We 'have' object; we 'are' subject (p. 53)."
    • "When a way of knowing moves from a place where we are 'had by it' (captive of it) to a place where we 'have it,' and can be in relationship to it, the form of our knowing has become more complex, more expansive (p. 54)."
    • If in transformative learning a movement from what is subject in our knowing to what is object, then such one directional movement assumes that what is subject in our knowing is unconscious to us and infinitesimal. Transformative learning is an enlightenment of our subconscious being.
  • Transformational Learning as a Lifelong Phenomenon
    • Kegan comments that all good teachers know that students come to the learning environment with prior knowledge that affects their present learning and their future learning. He refers to this prior knowledge as a "learning past."
    • In education, we speak of prior knowledge in terms of academic knowledge. What prior content or skills are required for this lesson to be understood? The suggestion of academic knowledge is implied. An implication for teaching from this chapter includes what constitutes prior knowledge. In addition to academic knowledge and skills, what worldly knowledge or experiences are needed to understand and participate in a lesson? Essentially prior knowledge is the summation of both academic and life knowledge and experiences.
    • Prior transformations should be included in our definitions of prior knowledge. When we understand a student's learning history, we must understand the prior transformations that have occurred.
    • "Thus the basic principle of complexification of mind here is not the mere addition of new capacities (an aggregation model), nor the substitution of a new capacity for an old one (a replacement model), but the subordination of once-ruling capacities to the dominion of more complex capacities, an evolutionary model that again distinguishes transformation from other kinds of change (p. 60)."
    • "The shift in authority to which Mezirow refers reflects the familiar call in the adult education literature for us to regard and respect all our adult students as self-directed learners, almost by virtue of their adult status alone (p. 66)." Reflect on that statement - What about all students? Different levels based on development...

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