Transformative Learning

In our search to greater global consciousness, engage in transformative learning in Ecuador and around the world. Discover our global programs and immerse yourself in another culture.

Personal growth and developmentFor many of us, we desire more than a receptive learning experience. We enlighten ourselves with knowledge, value our spiritual experiences, and benefit from change. We aim to seek greater awareness, and a more prolific worldview. We value a higher level of consciousness. Through transformative learning, we perpetuate deep, significant changes in how we view our very being.

“All learning is change, but not all change is transformation.”                                                              -Jack Mezirow

What is Transformative Learning?

Transformative Learning is a creative, epistemic shift in someone’s perceptions and set of beliefs that results in enhanced self-awareness and greater global consciousness.

This learning method…

  • Posits that individuals are capable of re-framing their worldview by challenging previous perceptions, and acquiring new knowledge.
  • Can lead to greater meaning in our lives.
  • Is a partial/complete upgrade of views, beliefs, attitudes, judgements, habits of mind, and worldviews.
  • Arises from an accumulation of experiences, a solitary experience, or a ‘disorienting dilemma.’ A disorienting dilemma is when we find ourselves at odds with a stressful or painful situation that does not fit with our current perceptions, and thus, causes us to grow.
  • Is primarily directed at adults and young adults, who are maintaining a stable worldview, and yet, are capable of achieving higher consciousness.
  • Is a deep, paradigm shift of how we interpret the world we live in and our role in it.
  • Is empowering.

Left Brain and Right Brain

Although these two views encompass the dynamic, engaging environment for transformative learning, their distinct emphasis on how it is achieved is what defines them.


This is the rational side of the learning method, and proponents of a cognitive experience place greater value on rationality, critical reflection, and awareness of the ego. It is a highly active, objective learning experience.


Often referred to as Hammarila, this view on the method focuses on the emotional, intuitive aspects of the experience, and tends to be more psychosocial in nature. Individuals are encouraged to exercise their imagination; it is affective, subjective. This view was popularized in critical contrast to Jack Mezirow’s view as being too rational. Jack Mezirow is widely acknowledged as the founder of Transformative Learning.

Transformative learning is a relatively new field, having come into fruition as a field of its own in the last 3 decades, although humans have exercised this type of learning for centuries.

Some Examples

  • Personal growth from a life-changing decision, such as a career change.
  • A devastating occurrence that causes us to re-wire our perceptions.
  • Students in college atmospheres that are transitioning into adulthood.
  • Familial and social metamorphoses.
  • Cultural experiences that result in greater understanding of the world.
  • Unforeseen events that challenge our very being.

Key Scholars

  • Jack Mezirow, Emeritus professor at Columbia University and founder of this learning method.
  • Robert Boyd, Researcher and anthropology professor at UCLA who focuses on the cultural significance within tranformative learning.
  • Patricia Cranton, Author of more than a dozen books on pedagogy and adult education; she is currently a Professor of Adult Education at Penn State.
  • John M. Dirkx, Professor of Adult and Lifelong Education at Michigan State University, and author on many transformation books on adult learning.
  • Larry Daloz, A great thinker who seeks to convolve transformative learning and social responsibility; co-founder of Vermont Community College and a Senior Fellow at Whidbey Institute.
  • Kathleen P. King, Revered educator and Professor of Higher Education at U. South Florida, who also provides coaching services for adults.
  • Paulo Freire, Brazilian philosopher, teacher, and advocate for social change, who is best known for his influence on adult learning techniques.

For more information on studying this learning method, visit: Transformative Studies Institute and University of Toronto’s Transformative Learning Centre.

How to Take Part in Transformative Learning

Establishing a well-suited environment is beneficial in fostering this learning method.
When external threats or threats to self are abated, there is an invitation to openness for the individual. With all transformative learning, personal involvement is foundational, and often self-initiated. While Mezirow has 10 Phases of the learning method , here are 3 condensed stages:

1. An event – a disorienting dilemma- or an accumulation of events is needed as a catalyst for change. A person’s experiences do not coincide with their current framework of perceptions, beliefs, and view of their self or the world. Often, these are eclipsed in ‘aha’ moments and lead to a re-evaluation of a person’s identity.

2. A person becomes aware of assumptions, of their own and others, and is able to engage in critical reflection. This stage highlights an intelligent dismantling of previous perceptions, welcomes open discourse, and is effectively navigating uncharted perspectives.

3. A person acknowledges his/her acquisition of new perceptions, and more importantly, the self-efficacy at being able to implement them. It changes a person’s being in relation to the world. Stage 3 establishes a successful and fulfilling paradigm shift.

Our Take On Transformative Learning

While this method of learning may embody a scientific field all its own, many organizations around the globe have paralleled these ideals for decades, perhaps hundreds of years. At The Pachamama Alliance, we encourage growth, education, and action, in bringing forth a just, sustainable, and thriving world. Our transformative workshops that promote this goal include Awakening the Dreamers SymposiumGetting into Action Workshops, and Generation Waking Up Workshops. Visit these pages to learn more and find out how to get involved.

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