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Title: On course for change : an investigation into the journey taken by community youth workers from Northern Ireland as participants in an aspect of transformative learning through a formal education process
Author: Hawthorne-Steele, Isobel
ISNI:       0000 0004 2718 1315
Awarding Body: University of Ulster
Current Institution: Ulster University
Date of Award: 2011
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This research is posited within the professional training programme of adult learners, who were employed as indigenous community youth leaders, working within the contested society of Northern Ireland at a critical time of the peace process. The study considers the transformational learning journeys of a number of these students as being on a continuum. At one end of the spectrum, Mezirow (1990) asserts, the learner begins by experiencing a disorienting dilemma that prompts a decision to change their lifestyle. At the other end of the spectrum the learner transforms their meaning perspective so that it distinctively affects his/her worldview. The researcher seeks to understand what constitutes transformational learning taking place, and in particular, analyse the complexities of transformational learning as a critical pedagogy in the context of an adult education environment, whilst endeavouring to address the tension between individual and collective transformation. The literature supporting the research is drawn from theories on adult education that primarily reflects the emancipatory nature of adult education. Key principles are drawn from Freire (1970), who presents a politically radical approach to teaching based upon what Jarvis (2004: 212) describes as, 'a unique synthesis of Christianity Marxism and existentialism'. This notion is explored in this research in terms of the barriers that exist between teacher and learner that would therefore support Freires' view, that a more emancipatory learning environment has the potential to encourage learners to change their meaning perspectives. This research recognises the potential for such change within the lifelong learning continuum of the learner. The research is guided by an inclusive perspective using a qualitative approach. The main study involved a sample of 10 students who wrote their biographical account that was an attempt by the researcher to test Mezriow's (1990) theory of transformative learning beginning with a disorienting dilemma. The study accordingly invited the learner to deeply reflect on what Denzin (1989:69) describes as the learners' 'turning points ... or epiphanies in their life histories', and to investigate what impact experienced dilemmas' or epiphanies had on their decision to advance their learning. The triangulated data from questionnaires using a further sample of 96 students, supported this research in discovering what impedes the transformational learning journey of these students. The research concludes that by framing critical incidents within the personal, professional and academic journey of the adult learners, indicators of transformational learning can be identified. It further asserts that transformational learning draws from an eclectic approach to the main learning domains, and depends upon a collaborative and interactional paradigm between the adult educator and the adult learner.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available