In this article by Mezirow (2003), the author discusses the distinction between “instrumental” and “communicative” learning. Instrumental learning refers to processes that measure learning, such as tests and grades, while communicative learning refers to understanding developed through important conversations between individuals. Mezirow also introduces the concept of transformative learning, which involves a change in mindset, values, and beliefs to enable better actions in the world. However, there is some critique of Mezirow’s assumption that individuals in unfortunate circumstances are incapable of meaningful engagement in discourse. The author suggests that if non-instrumental forms of intelligence, such as goodness, compassion, and creativity, were given more attention in school curriculums, we could have better individuals graduating high school.
Mezirow’s article, “Transformative learning as discourse,” contributes to the understanding of different types of learning and the potential for personal transformation through discourse. The distinction between instrumental and communicative learning is crucial in recognizing the limitations of solely relying on measurable outcomes in education. Mezirow argues for the value of critical-dialectical-discourse, emphasizing the importance of meaningful conversations between individuals for the development of understanding.
The concept of transformative learning introduced by Mezirow is particularly intriguing. Transformative learning refers to a deeper level of learning that goes beyond acquiring knowledge and skills. Instead, it involves a profound change in one’s mindset, values, and beliefs, enabling individuals to act better in the world. This concept aligns with the idea that education should aim for personal growth and the development of individuals who are socially responsible and capable of making positive contributions to society.
However, there is a point of contention regarding Mezirow’s assumption that individuals in unfortunate circumstances are unable to engage meaningfully in discourse. While it is true that some individuals facing severe crises might find it difficult to participate fully, it is unfair to generalize this to all people in unfortunate circumstances. Some individuals may actually possess non-instrumental forms of intelligence, such as compassion, creativity, and self-motivation, which can drive meaningful engagement in discourse. By assuming that those in unfortunate circumstances are incapable of entering the discourse, Mezirow may overlook their potential for growth and transformation.
The critique of Mezirow’s assumption points to an important aspect of education: the need to recognize and nurture different forms of intelligence. The current education system heavily emphasizes instrumental forms of intelligence, which can be measured and quantified. Grades, test scores, and attendance records serve as indicators of academic success, but they often neglect other qualities that are equally important for personal and professional development.
If education were to place greater emphasis on non-instrumental forms of intelligence, such as goodness, compassion, forgiveness, and creativity, it could lead to the cultivation of well-rounded individuals who are not only academically proficient but also socially and emotionally competent. By incorporating these qualities into school curriculums, we may witness better individuals graduating high school and entering the world as more empathetic, motivated, and thoughtful individuals.
In conclusion, Mezirow’s article sheds light on the distinction between instrumental and communicative learning as well as the concept of transformative learning. However, the assumption that individuals in unfortunate circumstances are incapable of meaningful engagement in discourse raises valid concerns. By recognizing the importance of non-instrumental forms of intelligence and incorporating them into education, we can foster the development of individuals who are not only academically knowledgeable but also compassionate, creative, and socially responsible.