Book by Mezirow, Jack, Et. Al.
Review by Jeffrey L. McClellan
Assistant Professor of Management
Frostburg State University
Transformative Learning in Practice: Insights for Community, Workplace, and Higher Education is ideally suited to individuals already engaged in the study of transformative learning or, at the very least, familiar with related educational theory. Many authors make assumptions about the prior knowledge of their readers and provide less than detailed examples of practice. Therefore, it is not ideal for those unfamiliar with transformative learning. However, some of the chapters do provide more in depth descriptions of specific practices than most. Nonetheless, the approach taken and the limited relevance of the discussion limit the value of this book for most advising professionals.
While most advising practitioners may not be interested in this book, two specific groups of advising scholars and practitioners may find it valuable. These include (1) scholars and practitioners interested in self-authorship and (2) advising professionals who use group processes as a way of facilitating mental and behavioral change in students and advisors.
This text explores the status of transformative learning theory by examining multiple contexts and programs in which it has been applied. The first two chapters overview the literature and update the reader regarding theory and practice of transformative learning. Chapter authors then discuss relevant practices, programs, and contexts wherein transformative learning has been applied in education, the workplace, and community and social change programs. The final chapter authors then provide a summarized content analysis of the book.
The concepts of self-authorship and transformative learning are closely related. Both focus on facilitative approaches that assist students to experience dissonance regarding their current ways of knowing and being and encourage liberating, reflective, dialogical processes resulting in alteration of the mental models and habits that lead to greater autonomous, empowered decision-making and engagement. Consequently, those currently studying and practicing self-authorship based advising will likely enjoy some chapters in this book. For scholars, the first two chapters and the last chapter may prove insightful and interesting. For practitioners, the chapter on mentoring (Ch. 7) has some specific insights related to advising practice.
Advising professionals using group advising processes can also gain valuable insights from this book. This is especially true for those who conduct courses and workshops designed to bring about change in the lives of their students (i.e. Academic probation/suspension classes and workshops, college success courses, behavioral change workshops, etc.). These groups will find some valuable and concrete examples of methods and techniques used in other contexts to guide their practice including the use of students as living sculptures (Ch. 3), orchestrating disruptions (Ch. 4) storytelling (Ch. 12), coaching (Ch. 13, 19) role based case studies (Ch. 6) , reflective assessment portfolios (Ch. 6) scripted, controlled, and unscripted dialogue (Ch. 3, 11), dialogic teaching approaches (Ch. 9), journaling (Ch. 19), role playing (Ch. 16, 17, 18) action research and action learning groups (Ch. 6, 14, 18, 20, 21), experiential learning (Ch. 10, 17) collaborative inquiry (Ch. 22, 23), systems thinking (Ch. 17) and arts-based approaches such as poetry, film, discussion of artifacts, collage, etc. (Ch. 8, 16, 17). While the depth of description with regards to these practices varies, most are limited, there are a lot of insights that group facilitators can gain regarding methods and techniques for facilitating transformational student experiences.
In conclusion, while this book is probably not well suited to newcomers to education theory or advising practitioners in general, those interested in self-authorship and group advising methods can glean some valuable insights from this text.
Transformative Learning in Practice: Insights for Community, Workplace, and Higher Education. (2009) Book by Mezirow, Jack, Taylor, Edward W., and Associates. Review by Jeffrey L. McClellan. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 303 pp., $48.00. ISBN: 978-0-470-25790-6