You will find a succinct explanation of "Transformational Learning" on the website of "Mike the Mentor" - click here for article. The article is written from a mentoring perspective. Please note that it lacks academic references.
Transformative Learning is not just about gaining new factual knowledge or skills but involves being changed in some way by what one learns. It involves questioning one's assumptions, beliefs and values. It leads to a change of perspective.
"Perspective transformation is the process of becoming critically aware of how and why our assumptions have come to constrain the way we perceive, understand and feel about our world." (Mezirow, 1990)
Our beliefs, attitudes and emotional reactions constitute our "meaning structures" - the frames of reference, based upon our experiences within our cultural context, that influence how we interpret and respond to events in our lives. (Taylor, 1998)
Transformative Learning occurs when individuals change their frames of reference by critically reflecting on their assumptions and beliefs and consciously making and implementing plans that bring about new ways of defining their worlds. (Mezirow, 1997) Jack Mezirow sees this as being a rational and analytical process.
Mezirow (1995) suggests that "perspective transformation" usually results from a "disorienting dilemma" - an experience (maybe a life crisis or major life transition) that forces us to re-evaluate our meaning structures. Less dramatic predicaments (such as those created by a teacher) or an accumulation of minor changes over a period of time may also bring about a transformation.
A major area of contention is Mezirow's emphasis on rationality. (Taylor, 1998) Valerie Grabov (1997) suggests that it is more of an "intuitive, creative and emotional process." (p.90)
Boyd (1989) sees transformation as "a fundamental change in one's personality involving the resolution of a personal dilemma and the expansion of consciousness resulting in greater personality integration.
When an individual realises that old patterns or ways of perceiving things are no longer relevant they may undergo something equivalent to a grieving process as they seek to introduce new patterns. (Boyd & Myers, 1988)
Boyd, R D and Myers, J G (1988) "Transformative Education" An International Journal of Lifelong Education (7:4 pp261-283)
Boyd, R D (1989) "Facilitating personal transformations in small groups, Part 1." Small group behaviour, 20:4 pp459-474
Grabov, V (1997) "The Many facets of Transformative Learning Theory and Practice." Transformative Learning in Action: Insights from Practice. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education. 74 (pp.89-96) (ed: Cranton, P) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
Mezirow, J & Associates (1990) Fostering critical reflection in adulthood: A guide to transformational and emancipatory learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
Mezirow, J (1995) "Transformation Theory of Adult Learning." Defense of the Lifeworld (ed. Welton, M R) (pp39-70) New York: SUNY Press
Mezirow, J (1997) "Transformative Learning: Theory to Practice." Transformative Learning in Action: Insights from Practice. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education. 74 (pp.5-12) (ed: Cranton, P) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
Taylor, E (1998) The Theory and Practice of Transformative Learning: A Critical Review. Ohio: Ohio State University