AbstractsEducation Research & Administration

Fostering transformative learning in an informal collaborative process

by Michael Russ Reichenbach

Institution: University of Minnesota
Year: 2015
Keywords: Adult education; Collaborative learning; Extension education; Facets of understanding; Social learning; Transformative learning; Teaching and learning
Record ID: 2057900
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/11299/171704


Social and collaborative learning in natural resource management has been used for more than two decades to address wicked problems, however evidence of transformational learning, the types of transformation and how participants' meaning structures and perspectives change has received little research attention. The link between learning and changes in understanding was investigated as part of the Seven Mile Creek Fuelshed Project (SMCFP). SMCFP was a transdisciplinary research project aimed at examining options for multi-functional agriculture in south central Minnesota, United States. Analysis of data from observation, interviews and focus groups were used to explore the participant experience of the SMCFP. Mezirow's (1991b) transformative learning theory was used as a lens. The study introduces the use of Wiggins and McTighe's (2006) six facets of understanding as a means to code qualitative data and to assess transformative learning. The study provides evidence of transformative learning in each of the following areas: elaboration of frames of reference, creation of new meaning schemes, transformation of meaning schemes and transformation of meaning perspectives. The results provide evidence of how people learn in a collaborative process and provide a foundation for the design of adult education and Extension education programs. The conditions that fostered transformative learning in this case study included a clear project focus, the introduction of expert knowledge, the incorporation of local knowledge, deliberation, dialogue and reflection. The SMCFP opened participants to new ideas for protecting water quality, wildlife habitat, and economic management of an agricultural landscape.