Transformational Learning - Training and Development

Transformational learning has gained increasing attention in HRD. The fundamental premise is that people, just like organizations, may engage in incremental learning or in deeper learning that requires them to challenge fundamental assumptions and meaning schema they have about the world. This concept has appeared in a variety of forms in the literature. Rummerlhart and Norman (1978) proposed three modes of learning in relation to mental schema: accretion, tuning, and restructuring. Accretion and tuning involves no change, or only incremental changes, to a person's schemata. Restructuring involves the creation of new schema and is the hardest learning for most adults.

Argyris(1982) labels learning as either "single loop" or "double loop." Single loop learning is learning that fits prior experiences and existing values and enables the learner to respond in an automatic way. Double-loop learning is learning that does not fit the learner's prior experiences or schema. Generally, it requires the learner to change his or her mental schema in a fundamental way

Mezirow(1991) and Brookfleld (1986, 1987) are leading advocates for transformational learning in the adult learning literature. Mezirow calls this perspective transformation, which he defines as :

  1. the process of becoming critically aware of how and why our assumptions have come to constrain the way we perceive, understand, and feel about our world;
  2. changing structures of habitual expectation to make possible a more inclusive, discriminating, and integrative perspective; and finally,
  3. making choices or otherwise acting upon these new understandings (167).

The concept of deep transformational change is found throughout the HRD literature.It is easy to see that transformational change at the organizational level isnot likely to happen unless transformational change occurs at the individuallevel through some process of critically challenging and changing internalcognitive structures. Furthermore, without engaging in deep learning through adouble-loop or perspective transformation process, individuals will remaintrapped in their existing mental models or schemata. It is only through criticalreflection that emancipatory learning occurs and enables people to change theirlives at a deep level. Thus, transformational change processes are vitally important to HRD.


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