Imel (1998) describes transformative learning as a method of learning that develops autonomous thinking in adult learners; it is said to focus on how learners construe, validate, and reformulate the meaning of their learning experience. The purpose of this paper is to describe the educational, psychological, neurological, and developmental theories of learning for promoting transformative learning. To this end, the paper discuses several theoretical elements and dimensions of transformative learning including: self-directed learning, psychological types, whole brain learning, multiple intelligences, learning styles, accelerated learning, pro-active roles associated with students and teachers, and the benefits of transformative learning.
Theories of Transformative Learning
In its initial stages, the theory of transformative learning, developed by Mezirow (1991), consisted of a focus on the ways in which adult learners derive meaning from their learning experiences with Mezirow's model rooted in psychoanalytic theory and critical social theory. Mezirow stated that in order for adult learners to change their "meaning schemes" (specific beliefs, attitudes and emotional reactions) in the learning context, they needed to reflect on the material in a critical manner. This critical reflection then lead to a transformation in their perspective. Meaning schemes were said to change with the addition and/or integration of ideas in existing schemes and that part of the process was a disorientation often triggered by a life crisis or major life transition (e.g., retirement).
Rationality was strongly emphasized in Mezirow's (1991) original theory such that meaning schemes were based on a rational reconstruction of experiences and said to include processes of self-examination, critical assessment of assumptions, the recognition that others have had similar transformative experiences, the exploration of new roles or actions, the develop...