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Experiencing, Empowering and Transforming
Welcome to 'Transformation Through Education' : highlights and proceedings of the international conference entitled
RETHINKING EDUCATIONAL CHANGE
TRANSFORMATIVE EDUCATION FOR HUMAN DEVELOPMENT
These perceptions together formed a vision of transformative education that is consolidated into the following interwoven aspects: Transformation is to be, explicitly, the goal and the process of all educative encounters Based on our understanding of what transformation means and encompasses, it was identified that transformation should be the guiding principle that underpins all educational endeavour. Government, educational institutions and organisations should make learners’ transformation the explicit goal of all educational programmes and encounters. We believe that education is essentially about the promotion of personhood and the development of full human potential. While we are confronted by the challenges of different social and educational systems, transformative education may play a big part in helping individuals to become truly human beings. By this, we also mean individuals’ development as whole-persons - the development in all aspects of a human being, including the physical, moral, creative, emotional, intellectual and spiritual; as well as the expression of their potential.
The transformative process requires that educational programmes explicitly address critical and analytical skills. It also integrates an active search for meaning as an instrument to transformed understanding of learning experience. Meaning is essential to transforming perspectives and worldviews. According to our transformative learning model (Fig 1), part of the process of transformative education is exposure to diverse experiences, as well as the experience of discomfort, tension and chaos. As one group explained, ‘It is important to allow ‘anguish moments’ to arise, in order to incorporate fear and anguish positively.’ For transformation to be the goal, it involves the intention from both policy and institutional level as well as the intentional efforts from the individuals themselves. Learners need to show willingness to embrace the challenges throughout the process of change. Several groups highlighted the importance of learners’ open-mindedness and their courage to take risk and to change, the readiness to unlearn, and self-motivation and self-confidence to make decisions and take responsibility. Transformative education entails a safe, supportive and sustainable environment and allows an organic and nurturing process For education to be transformative, there needs a safe and supportive environment in which a learning space can be created to enable learners to confront chaos, pain, fears and bewilderedness. Within a safe environment, learners are free from judgement, bullying, negative conflicts and intimidation, so that they can be courageous enough to be pushed to the boundaries of their realities. Hence learners are more likely to discover all aspects of themselves and develop as whole-persons.
Sustaining a learning space is crucial in facilitating transformative education.
It has been identified by the participants that a sustainable learning environment involves the following:
Sufficient finances for the physical environment. Often schools and colleges and universities are left to their own means to struggle in providing an adequate physical environment and resources for all learners to engage in good-quality learning activities. This could mean textbooks, tables and chairs, a roof overhead in a village school in the less developed world, or IT equipment and lab facilities in an urban school/institution in a western country. Regardless of the differences in social and economic contexts, it is generally recognised that sufficient finances are the critical element for education to be sustainable and transformative. Effective training for all educational staff. The conference recognised that in most parts of the world, teachers often do not have access to training that would enable them to help provide transformative learning experiences to students. To help effect growth and positive change in themselves and the world around, teachers would have a key role to play. Therefore, training for teachers would aim at helping cultivate their integrity and authenticity, develop a clear vision for and real understanding of transformative education. Most importantly, it must aim at the growth of the teacher. Human relations to underlie the whole educational process. When human relationship penetrates the learning environment, which is often defined as a learning community, learning is more likely to become transformative. Instead of hierarchical and top-down institutional structures, learning communities instil reciprocal human relationship. This may involve empathy and compassion, caring and loving, respect and trust towards each other. When learning organisations and institutions act as learning communities, there is a dialogic and democratic approach to decision making. The voices of learners/students play a big part in shaping their own learning experience. Human-scale. Participants from diverse backgrounds all recognised that for education to be transformative, it is important for it to be human-scale – in class size and overall learner-educator ratio. During the conference, we heard stories that closely resembled the one told by Katherine Marshall told. One participant from Europe was concerned that in his university, seminars often exceeded 15 students; in the same group, a lecturer from Africa was deeply anxious about the quality of students’ learning because he often has to lecture to 500 students and the university merely has enough chairs for a couple of hundred students. The term ‘human-scale’ by no means suggests that all schools and universities only have a handful of students in each class. Human-scale really encapsulates the importance of having human contacts and human relations in the educational process. This could mean that teachers break large classes into smaller groups and allow peer tutoring and collaborative learning to take place. When a learning environment is human-scale, teachers could be more sensitive to learners’ diverse learning and other needs and the learning environment is more supportive in nurturing and catering for learners’ interests and growth. Furthermore, the environment and contexts for learning have been defined as being of a wide variety, including classrooms, clubs, societies, practical activities, families and communities. In this sense, learning is not limited to the learner him/herself; it is about our place in the community, society and the world. Therefore learners need to be exposed to as wide a range of contexts as possible. Diversity, such as multiple cultures, inter-religious encounter and generally international environments have been acknowledged to be desirable in helping learners to develop understanding of self and others and become fully integrated human beings and global citizens.
Copyright 2013 GHFP