Transformative Education

The aims and goals of transformative education provide an appropriate educational framework within which to situate the teaching and learning processes enacted in Indigenous Australian studies courses across Australia. Transformative education holds that “learning is understood as a process of using a prior interpretation to construe a new or revised interpretation of the meaning of one’s experience in order to guide future action” (Mezirow, 1996, p. 162). Drawing upon the work of O’Sullivan, Morrell and O’Connor (2002), transformative education can further be defined as teaching and learning which involves:

  • A deep structural shift in the basic premises of thought, feelings and actions
  • A shift of consciousness that alters our way of being in the world
  • Understanding ourselves, our self-locations, and our relationships with others in the world
  • Understanding relations of power in interlocking structures of race, class and gender
  • Envisioning alternative approaches and possibilities for social justice (p. xvii). In other words, transformative education is teaching and learning which effects a change in perspective and frame reference (Mezirow, 1996).

Further, transformative education and learning as it is practised today places increasing emphasis on shifts taking place ontologically as well as epistemologically, so learners become actively engaged in new avenues for social justice (Garde-Hansen & Calvert, 2004). This kind of shift is explicitly stated as one of the learning objectives for students enrolled Indigenous Australian studies courses – that is, to critically engage with and understand the types of discourses which frame, locate and determine what it means to be an Indigenous person historically and today, and to further consider students’ own positioning in relation to these discourses. Like transformative learning itself, critical reflection is therefore essential to this proposed research project, and it is our conviction that PEARL pedagogy creates a space where this can happen. For more information about transformative education and learning, visit the Transformative Learning Centre website.