Mezirow (2003) explores the concept of transformative learning and its relationship to instrumental and communicative learning. He distinguishes between these two forms of learning, highlighting their different characteristics and implications. Instrumental learning refers to the processes and measures typically associated with traditional educational environments, such as tests, grades, quizzes, and attendance records (Mezirow, 2003, p. 58). This type of learning focuses on the acquisition of knowledge and skills that can be objectively assessed and evaluated. On the other hand, communicative learning involves the development of understanding through meaningful interactions and conversations between individuals (Mezirow, 2003, p. 59). Mezirow refers to this as “critical-dialectical-discourse,” emphasizing the importance of significant dialogue and exchange of ideas.
Transformative learning, as discussed by Mezirow (2003), refers to a deeper level of learning that goes beyond mere acquisition of knowledge or skills. It involves a fundamental shift in one’s perspective, belief system, values, and behaviors, leading to a more meaningful and purposeful engagement with the world (Mezirow, 2003, p. 61). This transformative process often happens as a result of critical self-reflection, questioning of assumptions, and exposure to new information or experiences that challenge one’s existing worldview. Through this process, individuals become more aware of their biases, limitations, and potential for growth, enabling them to enact positive change in their lives and communities.
One key point that Mezirow (2003) raises is the potential limitations that individuals facing significant challenges or crises may have in fully participating in transformative learning. He suggests that individuals who are hungry, desperate, homeless, sick, destitute, or intimidated may be unable to engage in transformative discourse effectively (Mezirow, 2003, p. 59). While it is true that individuals facing extreme circumstances may have limited capacity to actively participate in transformative learning, it is not accurate to assume that everyone in unfortunate situations is incapable of engaging meaningfully in discourse. It is essential to recognize that individuals have diverse strengths, resiliencies, and capacities for growth, even in challenging circumstances. Therefore, it is crucial to create inclusive and supportive learning environments that acknowledge and nurture the non-instrumental forms of intelligence, such as compassion, creativity, and self-motivation (Mezirow, 2003, p. 59). By giving equal attention to these non-measured forms of intelligence in educational curriculums, the potential for transformative learning and the development of well-rounded individuals can be enhanced.
In conclusion, Mezirow’s (2003) article delves into the concepts of instrumental and communicative learning, as well as transformative learning. Instrumental learning focuses on measurable outcomes and assessments, while communicative learning emphasizes the importance of meaningful exchanges and dialogue. Transformative learning involves a profound shift in perspective and behavior, enabling individuals to actively engage with the world in a more purposeful and impactful manner. While individuals facing extreme circumstances may have challenges participating fully in transformative discourse, it is important not to make blanket assumptions about their capabilities. By recognizing and nurturing non-instrumental forms of intelligence, educational curriculums can better equip individuals to contribute positively to society and foster personal growth.