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Analyze Professional Development for Alignment to Transformational Learning Theory

Analyze Professional Development for Alignment to Transformational Learning Theory


In this lesson, students will evaluate Transformational Learning Theory in alignment with professional development and pd plans.

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Analyze Professional Development for Alignment and Transformational Learning Theory

Source: Globe, Clker,; Thinking Person, Clker,; Road, Pixabay,; Desk, Pixabay,; Board, Pixabay,; Chairs, Pixabay,; Jack Mezirow,

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Hello there, and welcome. Professional development is essential to the growth of teachers. And in this lesson, you will learn how to ensure that your professional development is aligned with transformational learning theory. Let's begin.

From the time we are quite young, we are told to learn from our experiences. As a parent, I'm constantly reminding my children of their past transgressions and mistakes that they've made in order to avoid them in the future. As one would expect, those reminders are often met with a roll of the eyes or a heavy sigh, and who can blame them? No one likes to be reminded of their mistakes.

As we get older, however, we are much better equipped to take it to the next step and reflect critically on those experiences and engage in meaningful discourse about them. So the next time my sixth grader has a test coming up in school, I'll try saying, son, let's reflect on what happened last time you didn't study. And then we will engage in meaningful discourse about it. I'm sure that won't be met with any sighs and eye rolling.

Before we begin the alignment process, let's review what transformational learning theory is. It is an adult learning theory that was developed by Jack Mezirow in the late 1970s. Generally speaking, transformational learning is all about making meaning out of your experiences. His premise is that by taking their experiences, critically reflecting on them, and having frank and valuable discussions about them, the learner is able to make necessary changes that allow for growth. The key to his theory lies in the deep critical reflection that an adult is capable of engaging in. It's that reflection that ultimately helps a learner alter their perspective.

I've had the opportunity to teach many different grade levels in various situations. I know that as I look back on those experiences, they've helped shape the educator that you see today. This type of learning can happen beyond the individual. It can happen in the context of the classroom, online, at work, or even within your community.

The four main components of transformational learning are identified by Mezirow as one's experience, the learner's ability for critical reflection, reflective discourse, and taking action. Obviously, one's experience is the jumping off point. However, Mezirow highlights steps two, three, and four as where the real learning takes place. The reason being is that when learners begin to reevaluate those experiences, they are capable of remaking them in their mind's eye. Like they say, hindsight is 20/20. Adults are capable of doing this, and the outcome is that this ends up taking precedence over whatever it was they set out to learn in the first place.

As I mentioned earlier, it's not just an individual that may have the need to transform, but an organization or a community as well. The transformation could be broad in nature, but more likely it's connected to a particular topic or dimension based on identified needs. Here's an example of transformation that began with an individual teacher in her classroom, then progressed across grade level and ultimately to the entire school.

A fifth grade teacher wanted to improve the manner in which parent conferences were being conducted. She felt that student work was not being highlighted enough, and the discussion with parents often got off track. After doing some research, she decided to implement three-way conferences and portfolio shares. Students now accompanied their parents and shared their work and progress. The teacher would be there to support and answer questions. Other teachers in the building wanted to try it too, and they did. Now three-way conferences are simply part of that school's culture.

As you can see, in this case, in order for the school to transform, the individual needed to transform as well. In some cases, it's even possible for those individual transformations to grow beyond a school and lead to district-wide implementations. Here's an example.

I once visited a school district that supported family book clubs in all their schools. That was an initiative that was started by a single librarian and a parent volunteer and just spread. Keep in mind that with these larger scale transformational initiatives, it is important to consider what needs to be done in order to sustain them over time.

Let's walk through the steps you would take to check for alignment between transformational learning and professional development. The three key areas to identify are areas of alignment, areas of misalignment, and areas of enhancement. Here are some questions you would ask in order to identify areas of alignment. You might want to pause the video here to review them first.

In order to give these questions some context, I'll ask you to think about a PD that the teacher who introduced three-way conferences might have given to her colleagues. Are teachers clear as to what transformational learning is and how to incorporate this learning theory? And does the PD plan incorporate transformation of the learning culture for teachers and students?

In order to achieve this, it would be essential that the organizer of the PD would include time for critical reflection and deep reflective discourse of current parent conference practices. If the staff wasn't accustomed to doing this, there are many protocols that could help support this effort. In order to round out all four components, the PD should end with an implementation plan in place. Finally, they would want to ensure that there are opportunities for ongoing professional development to improve sustainability, which could take the form of future meetings, collaboration, modeling, or research.

Next we will look at areas of misalignment, or places that the theory is violated or not applied. What needs to be changed to allow the possibility of transformational learning for teachers? And are there opportunities or activities in place that align with the desired transformational outcomes? I mentioned that there are some protocols that can help with this. For example, Plan-Do-Study-Act, Two Stars and a Wish, plus-minus-delta, and 3-2-1 charts, just to name a few. It has never been easier to locate resources to support innovations. Sites like TeacherTube and Twitter offer endless resources that can be included in your plan, that will support capacity building for the targeted innovation and transformation.

Finally, we look at the areas that can be enhanced or altered to better align the professional development with transformational learning. Ask yourself, what needs to change in order for transformational learning to take place? And what aspects of the professional development plan need to be revised in order to better support transformational learning?

So it's time to go ahead and summarize this lesson. We began by reviewing the transformational learning theory and modeled the three step process of identifying alignment, looking for places of misalignment, and trying to find places where we can enhance or improve alignment using an example of professional development.

And now for today's Food for Thought. Find a colleague that you trust and engage in meaningful discourse about a practice you are unhappy with. To dive even deeper and learn how to apply this information, check out the Additional Resources section that come with this video. This is where you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material. Thanks so much for watching. We'll see you next time.

Notes on "Analyze Professional Development for Alignment and Transformational Learning Theory"

(00:00-00:14) Intro

(00:15-01:00) Time To Study

(01:01-01:55) Transformational Learning Theory

(01:56-02:42) Four Components

(02:43-04:14) Examples

(04:15-04:29) The Steps

(04:30-05:32) Step 1

(05:33-06:16) Step 2

(06:17-06:37) Step 3

(06:38-07:22) Food For Thought/Summary

Additional Resources

Professional Development as Transformative Learning: New Perspectives for Teachers of Adults

This text by Patricia Cranton outlines how adults should be engaged in the transformative learning process. She uses case studies to to illustrate how adult learners learn and how that learning applies to professional development.

Lesson 13: Transformational Learning Practices

This lesson focuses on the learner, the educator, and the role of professional development on the educator.