Transformational education — a contrast or tension

A connection between personal transformation and social change has characterized “transformative learning” since Mezirow’s original 1978 formulation of this approach to adult education.  This connection is, as schematized in figure 1, that beliefs, values, ways of thinking, assumptions, frames of reference, or self-awareness are called into question and transformed; the resulting, more critical and inclusive perspectives at the personal level are then applied to promote wider change through education, institutions, policy, and social movements. In my view an additional level, between the personal and social, is important (figure 2): well-organized, sustainable studios or work spaces in which creative projects, collaboration, and reflection on wider engagements are fostered.

Figure 1.  Transformational learning emphasizes students changing beliefs, values, etc. and on this basis influencing justice in society (perhaps through organizational change)

Figure 2.  Creative and Transformative Education emphasizes lifelong development of inquiry and engagement that centers on the studio or workshop space as a base from which to advance inner and organizational changes and reflect back on them.


About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor teaches and directs programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He studies the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context as well as innovation in teaching, group process, and interdisciplinary collaboration (see He is especially interested in conversations with others who are, in diverse ways, "troubled by heterogeneity" (

One Response to Transformational education — a contrast or tension

  1. Amabile Pacios says:

    Every social transformation reflects the civic spirit and here in Brazil we are observing this consequence in recent protests by young people in the streets.

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