Is Transformative Learning Possible in Neoliberal Post 92 Higher Education in England?

Authors: Mayer, M.

Conference: Bournemouth University, Faculty of Media and Communication


Mezirow’s Transformative Learning (TL) theory has become an internationally recognised, enduring signature theory for education researchers. Scholarship has, however, predominantly focused on the process of ‘transformation’, rather than what is ‘transformed’, and how that transformation occurs. Scholarly reviews of the theory and its evolution have identified a lack of studies evaluating its efficacy. Nevertheless, advocates of TL theory contend that it is a consciousness-raising, emancipatory, life- changing means of developing critical reflection skills in students. My study seeks to explore the ‘completeness’ of TL and considers the potential for Illeris’s identity theory to be incorporated into a theory of Transformative Education (TE hereafter) in a neoliberal post 92 higher education (HE hereafter) educational context.

A review of qualitative methodological theories found that the incompleteness of theoretical approaches to qualitative research and enquiry offer opportunities to develop TL theory. I offer a conceptual framework which allows Bourdieu’s concept of Habitus and Illeris’s Identity theory to be utilised as a theoretical and methodological tool to study the impact of transformational learning on undergraduate students. As such, my thesis proposes novel ways in which to undertake fieldwork, and analysis and interpretation of qualitative action research.

The possibilities for TE and transformative experiences for academics is also considered, thus my thesis could have implications for practice in HE. The neoliberal agenda in HE has served both as a means by which the fundamental nature of HE has been transformed and transformed the ways in which students approach their learning. As such, my thesis argues that where student’s perceptions and experiences of HE are transformed through TE, understanding the ways in which the neoliberal agenda drives the commodification of education, it is possible to reimagine the UK HE sector.

Source: Manual

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