Thursday, March 28, 2013

Being a Student - Becoming a Teacher

The transformative learning theory of Jack Mezirow has always seemed to me to be  the most compelling piece of adult learning theory upon which to base one's approach to teacher education. I must admit, though, that I have always seen its application as being more appropriate for my graduate students where, for many of them, the process of becoming a teacher is a significant change in their lives in the context of what they are currently doing.

Recently, however, I have begun to see where this theory applies to undergraduate students as they make their way through the four years of undergraduate education. I have always perceived, and treated, the undergraduate students I work with as adults so it seems logical to apply a theory of adult learning to their passage from being a student to becoming a teacher.

One of the primary tenets of tranformative learning is the idea that  it consists of "critical self-reflection and disorienting dilemmas to make cognitive adjustments to reframing one's world". There is a clear distinction between first year students who are exploring the teaching profession through introductory classes and those who are set to graduate having completed their student teaching experience; at least with those who have been successful. It's not just the fact that they are four years older but something far more complex and meaningful. At some point, for most around the middle to the end of their junior year, they no longer seem to be students attending classes. They have become pre-service teachers learning how to become teachers. Their levels of motivation and curiosity change; they begin to take ownership of their learning. The field experiences they have become sources of self reflection and disorientation from which they construct new outlooks on who they are and what they can do. They become "authors" of themselves as described in the introduction to transformative learning from the website linked above;

"Transformative Learning is a theory of deep learning that goes beyond just content knowledge acquisition, or learning equations, memorizing tax codes or learning historical facts and data.   It is a desirable process for adults to learn to think for themselves, through true emancipation from sometimes mindless or unquestioning acceptance of what we have to come to know through our life experience, especially those things that our culture, religions, and personalities may predispose us towards, without our active engagement and questioning of how we know what we know." 

"For us as adults to truly take ownership of our social roles, and our personal roles, being able to develop this self-authorship goes a long way towards helping our society and world to become a better place through our greater understanding and awareness of the world and issues beyond us, and can help us to improve our role in our lives and those of others."

Isn't that neat!

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