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Facilitating Transformative Learning and Contemplative Knowing among Undergraduate Students of Humanities

Author Ruth Harris
Abstract As students progress through their studies through levels 6, 7 and 8, we as educators have expectations that the quality of their academic work will move through the stages of Bloom's Taxonomy (1956, 2001), initially showing the ability to recall, understand and apply what they are learning and towards the end of their studies being able to analyze, synthesize and evaluate it. Yet the difficulties students have in moving towards higher order skills often highlights a lack of personal growth and perhaps in opportunities given to students to truly engage with their learning at a deeper level. This paper looks at how learning, if it is beneficial, needs to be transformative, and that alternative pedagogies such as contemplative pedagogies may be key to facilitating this. A number of frameworks for growth in terms of personal development and consciousness are considered. In order to investigate the elements of a course which contribute to transformative learning, a case study was carried out with third year students of Social and Community Development. Students were asked to rate the level of transformation they had experienced and the elements which had contributed to it. It was found that students rated their placement, their personal reflection, and their interactions with peers more highly than interactions with lecturers and writing assignments. They reported that the relational aspects of placements were particularly powerful with growth in awareness, an openness to diversity, and a move towards engagement and commitment emerging from the process. Most significantly perhaps they rated course-notes and readings as making very little contribution. This poses a challenge to us as educators to make the academic components of the coursework more experiential and real to the students, with a view to honing critical thinking skills and making academic work more meaningful.
Keywords Transformative learning, Contemplative pedagogies, critical thinking,
Published In ICEP Proceedings
Year 2014
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