March 2005

“This chapter has presented a discussion of transformational learning theory. Probably more than any other approach, this theory has captured the attention of adult educators within the past decade, so much so that Hanson (1996) feels that its dominance has replaced andragogy as the primary learning theory of the moment. Whether transformational learning will remain a centerpiece of adult learning theory is, of course, not predictable. It would seem, however, that the theoretical foundations articulated in detail by Mezirow and to some extent Freire are sufficiently robust to foster continued debate, discussion, and research.

In addition to reviewing the major tenets of the theory as laid out by Mezirow and Freire, drawing from a wide range of literature on transformational learning, this chapter also included a more detailed discussion of three of its key components: the centrality of experience, the process of critical reflection, and transformative learning’s link to adult development. In the final section of the chapter, we explored four unresolved issues surrounding transformational learning: the extent to which context has been neglected, the over-reliance on rational forms of knowing, the nature of the relationship between individual and social change, and questions regarding preparation for and implementation of this type of learning.” from 338-9

Mezirow: Perspective transformation process: disorientating dilemma (or integrative experience)->self-examination (guilt, shame, sometimes religion)->critical assessment of assumptions->recognizing others have gone through same process->exploring options->plan of action->reintegration. Critical reflection (rationally) and discourse are a key part of process. “Drawing from Habermas, there are, according to Mezirow, “ideal” conditions for discourse: having complete information, being free from self-deception, being able to evaluate arguments objectively, having an “equal opportunity to participate in the various roles of discourse,” and so on (1995, p. 54) from 322. Not an argument or debate but mutual working towards.

That idea of meaning and meaning perspectives changing through dialogue rang true for me in thinking about my relationship with Leni. We often talk things out, examine out assumptions and realizations, chew over things with each other in as open-minded a fashion as we can. Perhaps there isn’t that emphasis on rational discourse, more of an affective component but I think that’s important. One thing missing from this description from my experience is the emotional component. The person you’re talking to has to be trusted. The article acknowledges that it can be a scary, uncomfortable process but to me there’s not enough emphasis on how exposed this makes the learner and the fact that, if the educator does not build some kind of trust, then the process can’t happen. There is a bit of acknowledgement at the end (and the issues of transference, etc.) of this but I think it bears repeating.

Freire: More emphasis on social rather than simply individual change. Banking vs. problem-solving. Also more explicit about “for us or agin us”-either supporting hegemony or challenging it-no neutral. “For education to be liberating, one’s consciousness must be transformed. This process Freire calls conscientization, “in which men, not as recipients, but as knowing subjects, achieve a deepening awareness both of the socio-cultural reality which shapes their lives and of their capacity to transform that reality” (1970a, p. 27).” From 325. Stages from fatalistic and unaware to critical consciousness.

For me issue is a definite theoretical perspective. How ready are people to hear it and respond. Even if they are ready to respond, as one place in the article points out—what right do educators have to mess with learners’ world views? Might argue that they’re doing it whether they will nor no, but at least conscientization gives learners a fighting chance to consider what they’re taking in. I get my back up though when people are pushing me on a view, even if I agree with it so watch out for unintended consequences.

Also, unrelated but here goes anyway—I’m interested in the point they made when they said that in the disorienting dilemma stage that people could choose to avoid or deny or face it head on. What about a time lag? There are many situations in which I have been confronted with dilemmas that I’ve avoided until much later. How are these re-kickstarted? Can the lesson be learned later?

Key concepts: life experience (not all experiences transformative—learning happens at point where experience cannot be easily encompassed in prior framework, must question why did this happen and what does it mean), stages from linking learning to prior experience, current experience, making learning itself an experience and subjecting experience to critical scrutiny), critical reflection/thinking (Brookfield’s five stages: trigger event, appraisal, exploration, developing alternative perspectives, reintegration; political component of challenging hegemony; Western emphasis on rational reflection but perspective transformation can occur without it—assimilative learning), and transformational learning and adult development (shout out to Educational Psych—King and Kitchner, Belenky, et. al.)

Unresolved issues—not enough emphasis on socio-cultural context, too Western rational?, social change vs. individual development; and educator’s role (some of the earlier concerns about how to facilitate as well as practical ones about how to work it in)


Case study of use of satellite technology in combination with other media and techniques to help educate women members of local governance structure and their right to participate as well as to facilitate discussion on ways to overcome obstacles to participation.

Problems to confront: practical realities of women’s lives, poor self-image and lack of confidence, ignorance about political system, societal and cultural barriers.

Training program: four-day training using one-way video, two-way audio conferencing, beamed to local sites from main national site. Panel beamed and local sites could ask questions via long-distance phone. Also showed prerecorded footage using songs, drama, interviews, and taped group discussions. Finally large part was live interaction and group discussion with local facilitators to discuss footage and panel and women’s own issues.

I thought this use of mixed media and the observations that women were able to identify their own issues in the footage shown and that at the end they began to talk with each other rather than the panel were extremely interesting. The opportunity to hear other people in your situation and to learn in an entertaining manner are important, as is the main stage given to the women themselves and the opportunity to get together and discuss common cause. Facilitators who are familiar with the local context and their ability to use engaging and participatory methods—also key. And I liked that comment—“”the obvious respect given to the target audience in terms of soliciting its active participation in thinking through the issues.. . .all contributed to making the programme eminently acceptable to the watching women”—in addition to the creative video and centre stage for the women. Coming back to the panel’s lack of effectiveness compared to the other parts indicate that broad responses to local situations aren’t so effective (not to mention technical difficulties). I also thought the common purpose and solidarity that emerged were so important. And it was interesting that, despite its success, the government wasn’t invested in continuing the experience beyond a set of video modules.

Lessons from the Program: making participatory methods central though using technology (doesn’t have to be one way lecture or entertainment); “incorporating real experiences and felt needs into the training process; strengthening collaboration between government and non-government sectors [gov’t for resources, organization; NGOs for meaning and local connection], reaching out to large numbers with the help of technology; [the need for] finding solutions to technological problems [lack of resources, tech glitches, lack of trained personnel], further decentralizing the training process [national panel problem, couldn’t answer local ?s, maybe have more FtF or asynch. Bulletin boards; overcoming infrastructural and attitudinal stumbling blocks [resources again, unhelpful personnel, angry or interfering husbands], ensuring equitable access to training [trainers had to help overcome social and economic barriers for the underprivileged/excluded], and planning for continuity and complementary strategies [again, lack of government support for continuation].

Recognition that just material input no good for real development; must inform, provide knowledge and skills, “help people exchange experiences, find common ground for decisions, and actively participate in and guide development activities.” Problem of digital divide—ICT no good if it doesn’t reach the people who need it (my thought). Radio, video, desktop publishing become powerful when they are within reach (budget and training-wise) of people. Recognition that traditional methods are sometimes still best—interpersonal communication, traditional media such as folk theater, puppetry, songs, dances, traditional art.

Traditional folk media effective for centuries, may have cultural credibility that new tech lacks, encodes traditional knowledge, can be effective for subtly introducing new development messages, not expensive, don’t rely on tech that breaks or increase dependence on outside sources, can be used live or in combo with new comm. Techs.
Requires “skill in crafting of development messages in the fabric of the media. It is best done in close collaboration between development workers and folk media artists and performers.”

Rural radio
Long history, wide reach, great popularity in many areas, inexpensive and allows easy creation of local content; takes into account local needs (as urban radio doesn’t); effective when produced with “audience participation in local languages and taking into account cultural traditions,” can be interactive (people listen and call in or form groups/listening clubs for discussion and debate), can be platform for democratic discussion (I thought about Haitian agronomist film), tool for cultural awareness and expression, consciousness-raising/public awareness, training; means to gather and preserve local information, opinion, culture. Decentralization, deregulation and rise of independent radio all help. (I’m thinking podcasting in US in response to lack of independent radio (except college stations))

Participatory video
Overcomes illiteracy barrier, allows standardized visual presentation and demo; compresses time and space (can show whole season in minutes or people from all over); much less expensive and technically complicated now; process more important than product—empowering tool, gives voice and face to local people

Global network; “first medium that allows every user to be a sender, receiver, narrowcaster and broadcaster,” allows rural communities to communicate, participate in decision-making, share info and coordinate activities, gain info and training

Idea that ICT can help “leapfrog” development perhaps too optimistic. Danger of digital divide is real. Telecentres in response (CCCs)—same idea as in Colle, community organization point not just receiving info. Again, not enough just to provide ICTs but must address local context and needs, local development, “focus on enhancing information and knowledge sharing both vertically and horizontally,” human resource development and organizational capacity building.

Mix of communication media is probably the best way to go (know your audience to know what will work best in what contexts and they need to talk back—don’t increase the divide) and above all, any communication must be a part of the development process and not an end in itself

ICT not just for commercial gain but for social communication. Using older, low-cost tech not just new, exciting tech that is more expensive and harder to implement with populations with lower literacy. Older and easier tech often makes development/production by users more possible. Author’s experience is with audio cassette development. He also mentions radio as tech that has wide reach in rural areas without problem of cabling and wind-up radios bypass electricity issues.

Another point is local-level private sector development of ICT infrastructure–TV run by small bus battery and community video stations. On that last, I liked the idea of programming by NGOs but funding by commercial ventures and inclusion of commercials/marketing makes me nervous–without any media literacy that could spell commercial indoctrination. The idea of TV/video as communal activity–place where people come together not just to view received content but to meet other community members is great. In there, the idea that tech should bring communities together and make social spaces more possible and useful, educational, entertaining. Completely different cultural context-TV as individual activity (maybe family) here in US and because of video and DVRs, even less communal experience of shows in the actual watching (community more on the Internet in message boards, LiveJournal, websites about shows and a bit in water-cooler/happy hour chat about popular entertainment).

Colle points out that goverment is investing less in public ICT and ICT is privatizing for sustainability. Model of privately-funded ICT used to market and reach a broad public sector in a financially-sustainable way.

Rest of article devoted to community-based communication centres (CCCs). Contain books but more than that–variety of audiovisual media, photocopying and computer-based activities such as e-mail, access to databases, desktop publishing. Besides actual libraries–government or NGO-funded–others are private commercial ventures based on community demand (and payment). Also include local participation and services for low-income segments of community. 1996 World Bank summit on CCCs-ICT beyond infrastructure, how to create locally-based and managed, self-sustaining centres. Main points:

No “one size fits all” model, depends on equipment and services available and needed in each community

Physical facility as hub–“incubator for small organization, meeting place for various groups, public room for teleconferences, a training facility, a resource site” I thought–public library!

Not just ICT but lending library, reference point, info clearinghouse, training site

Self-sustainability is key–just government funding won’t do, must be based on needs community will invest in or won’t survive, esp. after gov’t funding discontinued. Maybe public finding for marketing/feasibility studies and start-up and then private, community funding for continuation or mix of services–ones community values enough to pay for and ones that gov’t or NGO agrees are important enough to subsidize. Colle offered intersting list of possible services (many of which ar epublic library-like but others not and interesting comment on conditions of places–some need phone service, letter writing, photo servies and battery-recharging.

CCCs as part of larger organizational structure–association, network–to pool support, knowledge, training, consortial brokerering power while still responding to local needs

Need for well-qualified info managers—just having ICTs is not enough

Recognition of obstacles–politics, ignorance of importance and limited vision by gov’t/admin and also community (marketing and long-term commitment in admin and funding support), importance of proceeding in stages-first available resources and immediate needs then longer-term planning

Need for more empirical data and collection of knowledge