Book Reviews

Book by Patricia Cranton
Review by Michael J. Magee
College of Education, Student Academic Services
University of South Florida


Many of the most widely utilized student development theories are based upon studies of traditional age college students. Susan Robinson, vice president of the American Council on Education (ACE) Center for Lifelong Learning, notes (2006) “Adult learners account for nearly 40 percent of our student population, but are often overlooked.” Thus transformative learning theory is not just for advisors who work with graduate, professional, and doctoral-seeking students. Cranton’s book, Understanding and Promoting Transformative Learning: A Guide for Educators of Adults, 2nd Edition, provides a framework for increasing awareness of a widely used adult education theory and provides a great reference point for incorporating transformative learning theory into the work of higher education faculty and staff.

Cranton defines transformative learning “…as the process by which people examine problematic frames of reference to make them more inclusive, discriminating, open, reflective, and emotionally able to change” (p. 36). The theory informs us that everyone is capable of having a paradigmatic shift. It is the responsibility of educators to transform every student interaction into that teaching moment. Reflection is a critical component necessary to evaluate present beliefs and decide whether or not these beliefs should be changed. Throughout the book, Cranton consistently reminds us that we must not only be ready to potentially change a student’s thought process, but we must also be open to undergoing a change ourselves.

In the preface, Cranton clearly states that this second edition provides updates on developments in transformative learning theory and her work regarding the theory. Following the same format as the first edition, the author has designed the book to “…explain transformative learning theory, describe the process from the learners’ perspective, explore individual differences in transformative learning, present practical strategies for fostering transformative learning, and discuss how adult educators themselves are transformative learners” (p. vii). Although the focus is primarily on in-the-classroom activities, transformative learning theory is very applicable to the advising profession. Advisors are also educators and should utilize theories when working with our diverse student population.

With the increased focus on assessment in higher education, administrators, faculty and staff at many institutions are evaluating the way business is conducted and seeking ways to improve teaching practices and campus programs. Chapter 8, “Fostering Critical Self-Reflection and Self-Knowledge,” can be utilized by advisors to evaluate and reflect on their job performance. Advisors can incorporate several of the activities into their personal and professional development and likewise use these activities to identify areas of improvement.

Overall, Cranton does a masterful job of outlining the history and evolution of transformative learning while providing activities that will help facilitate transformative learning in our interactions with adult learners. At the most basic level, all professionals in higher education should be knowledgeable about the basic tenets of this theory. I strongly recommend that this book to advisors whose population consists primarily of adult learners. For advisors who serve a predominantly traditional-aged population, transformative learning theory can be applied on a case-by-case basis.


Understanding and Promoting Transformative Learning: A Guide for Educators of Adults. (2006). Book by Patricia Cranton. Review by Michael J. Magee. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 228 pp. $45.00, (hardback). ISBN # 0-7879-7668-7
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