Reviewed By: Allison Rankin
Watson College of Education
Academic advising is often thought of in the context of coaching, mentoring, or support but less in the context of transformative learning. In this special issue of the journal, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, advisors can benefit from the collection of articles that offer new approaches to student development where reflection and “meaning making” come into play.
Transformative learning is constructivist in nature whereby knowledge is acquired through life experiences. The transformation comes about when structures of meaning or schemes are used as platforms from which to reflect, problem solve, and broaden one’s perspective. Various methods for achieving transformative learning are featured throughout this issue, from workshops to photographic documentation to critical learning events. The common thread is the reflection piece that prompts re-examination of long-held beliefs, a practice known to many academic advisors.
The transformative learning approach is suited for academic advising in that it focuses on the student as the primary catalyst for change while the advisor serves as facilitator. In one chapter, students and instructors from diverse backgrounds are surveyed and interviewed about their experiences as cultural minorities (Nielsen, 2016). Collectively, they reveal that while supported in the classroom, they feel overlooked by the greater institution. The researcher quotes AnaLouise Keating (2007) who asks, “How can I help students recognize their commonalities with others and yet, simultaneously, prevent them from assuming that these commonalities imply sameness?” An advisor’s response may be, “How can I facilitate the transformation of a student’s sense of separateness into one of connectedness?”
Another chapter features the application of restorative practices to transformative learning, that is, “the development and maintenance of relationships and community through participatory learning and decision-making” (Bailie, 2016; Adamson, 2016). In their work with graduate students, the researchers acknowledge the impact of social and emotional engagement especially as regards the student/instructor relationship in the classroom. They discuss how these interactions can be balanced by the use of circle forums made up of students and faculty where all people can respond to questions and be heard. Advisors could use this approach in group advising sessions.
While many of the chapters are relevant to academic advising, a few are less so, namely those having to do with maternal leadership, Iyengar yoga for motherhood, and indigenous epistemology. In an attempt to be all encompassing, the editors overreached in their effort to capture examples of transformative learning. It is worth noting, too, that one of the editors has no subject area associated with her Ph.D., a mystery and a puzzle considering this is an academic journal. This issue of New Directions for Teaching and Learning is an interesting read but not a compelling one for the sake of academic advising. It is perhaps best referred to within a database on an as-needed basis rather than purchased and added to one’s own professional library.
Bailie, John W. & Adamson, Craig W. (2016). Transformative graduate education through the use of restorative practices. New Directions for Teaching & Learning, 147, 75.
Benoit, Anne C, (2016). Examining transformation on the road to the professoriate. New Directions for Teaching & Learning, 147, 37.
Nielsen, Kathryn L. (2016). Whose job is it to change? New Directions for Teaching & Learning, 147, 49.
New Directions for Teaching and Learning: Transformative Learning and Adult Higher Education. no.147 (2016). Judith Beth Cohen, Jo Ann Gammel, and Amy Rutstein-Riley (Eds.). San Francisco: Wiley Periodicals, Inc., 121 pp., $29.00. (Paperback), ISBN #978-1-1192-9102-2, http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-111929102X.html.