Embracing Transformation as a Rarity
At the center of this gathering is a shared interest in transformation, a word used frequently in today’s world. A quick google search of the internet has almost 2 billion hits. You find it being employed by business consultants, community planners, life coaches, educators, health professionals…no sector is removed from individuals and organizations implying their work evokes radical change in the systems they touch. However, if everything results in transformation, it doesn’t suggest a very high bar for this type of change. To quote an analogous statement from Harry Nilsson’s Pointed Man, “A point in every direction is the same as no point at all”. The word has become so ubiquitous to have almost no meaning.
However, what if we consider transformation as something more, something difficult, something that doesn’t happen very often? What if we acknowledged the struggle of transformation as something to aspire toward but rarely obtained? What would that look like?
Theorists and practitioners who focus on this phenomenon have labeled significant and profound change as transformative learning. Transformative learning is an outcome which results in the reorganizing of the internal systems of an organism such that its combined thoughts, behaviors, and emotions are more authentic and functional within a given sociocultural and/or psychological contexts. This type of evolution creates a deeper sense of meaning and purpose, resulting in an enhanced sense of self or consciousness. This reorganization can occur within any organic system; an individual, group, organization, or community.
Ultimately, this is an outcome for which the genesis is not always obvious. A trigger event may allow the transformation to fully manifest itself, however, the years of work that preceded this materialization are often times hidden to the observer, and sometimes the organisms themselves. Since all organic systems strive for homeostasis, the resistance to transformation is usually high. The process takes a significant amount of time and energy. The results however are relatively permanent and benefit the person, organization, or community in the ways described above.
If transformative learning is the outcome, transformative education is the philosophy and process of facilitating this type of change. The philosophy of transformative education is to be cognizant of learning that rises to a level of systemic alternation and to create processes designed to facilitate this level of change. It is not easy, takes a significant amount of time, and often times isn’t obvious until well after the change has occurred. For an individual, the results are a set of beliefs, actions, and emotions that are better aligned internally, provide more functionality externally, and ultimately bring forth a higher level of self-awareness. The same is true for the organization and the community, where the culture, rules, rewards, activities, and evaluations better serve the larger system and at the same time the individuals who are part of the organization or community.
In the 2022 International Transformative Learning Conference, it is our goal to revisit our origin, make meaning of where we are today, and conceptualize our future. During this process we will gather as a community of new and old to explore the multidimensional elements of transformation at the level of individual, organization, and community. At the same time, we will acknowledge and explore the various components of cognitive, emotional, behavior, and spiritual development within the various levels of transformational learning and transformational education.