Saturday, December 7, 2013

Transformative Learning

Crazy how excited I am about this topic.  While I have enjoyed my other topics I have written about over the past year, this one seems to resonate more deeply and helps to give words to much of what I have felt and experienced.

Back when I was in graduate school for my master's degree in educational leadership, I was introduced to the theory, transformational leadership.  This leadership style was described to inspire positive changes in those who follow.  While I may not typically be energetic or passionate, I am enthusiastic and truly want to empower others and see every person to succeed. So my personality seemed to find a home as I found this focus. My understanding of leading emerged through authors such as, Bennis and Nanus, and Kouzes and Posner.  My interest in leadership continued and I have been drawn to expand my understandings and look for ways to build on this foundation to be more effective in my roles. 

In the early parts of this next degree in Leadership Studies, I would have named that what primarily drew me to this program over other programs, was the emphasis on leadership.  While I would say that the content of the courses I have taken has been adequate, I believe that the "fog" that I had been experiencing since the move to Ohio, lingered and clouded my ability to engage, articulate, and digest much of the content.  (This may prove to be a big challenge in the near future when I need to take my prelim exams this summer and be able to write and defend what I have learned in the past two years...yikes!)

So why do I bring up transformational leadership here?  I was needing to settle on a topic to write my paper on for Adult Development.  The focus was to be on a theory or topic that was introduced in class in regards to adult learning.  I had been inspired by something on self-reflection and thought that would be a good topic for me to learn more about and as I was doing some preliminary work, I was drawn to the theorist, Jack Mezirow and this theory, transformative learning.  Of course, I once again found my home in this transformational/transformative focus.

This theory was birthed out of Mezirow's interest in how adults learn and make meaning of their lives, and started with a study on women returning to school as adults. As a basic understanding, it originally consisted of critical self-reflection and disorienting dilemmas to make cognitive adjustments to reframing one's world.  What has been so invigorating for me though is reading about how others have enhanced this theory.  In my  discovery, John Dirkx' emphasis on soulful learning through feeling, intuition, and imagination has given the words to so much that has been going on within me.  I was reading an article that was an interview with Mezirow and Dirkx and their perspectives on transformative learning and as I was reading Dirkx words, I found myself writing in the margins, "that's how I feel" or "that's my question too" and found myself internally wondering if he knew me.  Crazy, scarey, I don't know, I just found myself wanting to read more and understand more. I finally felt like I wasn't crazy for thinking in images and metaphors; for wanting to look at the inner self, the depth of soul, and how we reconcile this with the outer world; for my questions about the meaning of life, work, relationships, and who I am; for grasping to understand authenticity and reconciling it with imperfections, fears, shame; for completely being mesmerized by the sky, a campfire, mountains, water; for wanting to give voice to stories - for all people; for wondering the significance of events; for making sense of liminal spaces - the waiting, the unknown, the not yet times.  These were all things that Dirkx actually referenced in his writing, so either he and I both are crazies, or there are more people out there that think like me :)  I know it just was incredibly comforting to feel a connection to what I was reading.

Dirkx describes in his soul work the importance of deepening our understanding of our selves, and that to connect to the whole, we need to know ourselves, who we are and what we are about. He describes that learning involves the sacred and the spiritual so that as we process our learning it becomes an integral part of our being, and when this happens it has the potential to transform our sense of self and being in the world (Dirkx, Mezirow, & Cranton, 2006). 

Now I am considering what are triggers that launch this transformation, the learning that goes beyond the surface and is lasting because it has affected us at our core.  How does one emerge from disorienting dilemmas as a better person and not bitter? Can and do we take the time needed to sit with emotions we are experiencing and reflect in a way so that we can experience the inner soul work and refining that I believe God wants to do within us. As I reflect on some of the transformative experiences I have had, I would name the cross cultural times with SST and YES, times of deep grieving with Todd's death and moving, and birth of children and parenting.  There are other very influential people and times as well, but I am realizing that I need to stop here because I really do need to actually write my paper.  But I woke with this sense that I wanted to blog, so I decided to go with it :)

1 comment:

Monika Burkholder said...

j, its amazing, encouraging, and inspiring to see you being so open and honest with your self-reflection, and sitting in those moments and realizations. i think the humility it takes to transform a situation that could make you a bitter person into a situation that makes you a better person is truly a gift and a witness.m