Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

On Transformative Learning – my class and #facdev

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We might ask ourselves as faculty development professionals, do we offer programs that incorporate the processes that enable deeper understanding, discovery, or transformative change? Are we aiming for increasing knowledge and skills as primary program outcomes, but falling short of creating opportunities in which faculty can critically reflect, reconceptualize, and engage in soul learning? Wouldn’t it make sense to imagine that at some point, in some faculty members’ careers, they will seek deeper understanding and affective as well as cognitive transformation? Are we considering how, and are we willing to offer a palette of opportunities that include a broader array of learning and development? Though time and budgetary resources are stretched, must we provide only the most popular programs, and not venture into opportunities that may promise a different kind of development?

Connie Schroeder 

I found myself thinking a lot about transformative learning these days because my boss just got promoted to Associate Provost for Transformative Learning and Teaching. 

I am guilty of occasionally using the term, even while knowing there was a theory on it put forth by Mezirow. I’m not surprised by (or I remember from earlier reading) the different dimensions of transformative learning, that it involves critical reflection and can influence beliefs, self-awareness and behavior. After I read up a bit again now. I am particularly struck by the importance of the “disorienting dilemma” to challenge learners’ assumptions. I was wondering how far we do it in our classee, recognizing that different learners will have different moments in the class that do this for them. I’m thinking that maybe we do need to do some of this in facdev.

I’m thinking maybe I went through a disorienting dilemma while I was in the US because my assumptions were challenged so deeply in ways I was not at all expecting. Not at all.

I was thinking how uncomfortable it was (God it was painful and still is) and how far I want to do this with students for their own good without pushing them over the edge of sanity. Is there literature on dangers of aiming for too many disorienting dilemmas?

Yday I watched an episode of an English/Indian drama called The Good Karma hospital. It was really full of  potentially disorienting dilemmas:

  1. There was an English woman who came to India to get a kidney transplant (and an a Indian doctor who treated her like scum for doing this unethical task of buying a human being’s organ). In Egypt the law is against this, but if someone offers or is family, it’s ok, as long as it’s not bought. But what do you do if it’s your child who needs a kidney transplant but you can’t find a match within your family? The reality is that people buy. And I under that Iran has a system to regulate this but it doesn’t turn a blind eye
  2. There was a poor man who got run over by a car. In the end, his leg was about to be amputated because they couldn’t afford to pay for a vascular surgeon. However, the direcror of the hospital pieces some clues together by coincidence and discovers the car that ran him over belongs to a famous vascular surgeon and makes a deal with him to do the surgery and she won’t report him. Is this ethical? Moreover we discover later it was the surgeon’s daughter who was driving…. These are useful questions to tackle from different ethical perspectives (consequential, value-based, etc)
  3. There was a famous movie star who was trying to get drugs out of the hospital for a drug habit she has. A nurse who was dazzled by her wanted to help her while the doctors tried to stop the movie star. The nurse tried to talk the woman out of it, but in the end failed and gave her the drugs. To me this one seems less controversial, but it’s still a situation (if abstracted) that someone could face

On another note, this Good Karma Hospital thing drove me nuts because of all the derogatory speak about India. I understand it’s realistic about how English people would view India, and I’m hoping that watching it regularly will be a transformative experience, challenging people’s assumptions about India!

On another note. My personal belief is that personal experiences of difference are a much stronger disorienting dilemma than theoretical discussions. I do think that if you have the personal experience but don’t get the opportunity to reflect in a supportive environment, ig can be damaging. But as a teacher you can’t always know when this moment will happen for each learner, so I’m curious if anyone has had experiences implementing this. It feels like a more structured model for critical pedagogy and difficult to imagine in practice but I’m pretty sure I can find papers on it as a practice with research data. 

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