Adult Education Academy

    Group 6

    Comparative Group 6: Fostering critical reflection in the frame of transformative learning in adult education

    Adult education ∙ transformative learning ∙ critical reflection

    The CGW will be focused on critical reflection and developed under the perspective of transformative learning in adult education (Mezirow, 1991; 1998; Mezirow & Associates, 2000; Taylor, 2008; Taylor & Cranton, 2012). Critical reflection (CR) is an important process for making decisions on complex issues that influence individuals and societal life and contexts. The ability to inform our feelings, perceptions, thoughts, through the results of critical reflection on our assumptions is fundamentally important in order to face the challenges and responsibilities connected to adult life (Kreber, 2012). For this reason CR represents one of the main goal of adult and higher education (Cfr: Barnette 1997; Brookfield, 1987; Mezirow & Associates, 1990; Nussbaum, 2010).

    Mezirow (1991) argued that distorted assumptions lead people “to view reality in a way that arbitrarily limits what is included, impedes differentiation, lacks permeability or openness to other ways of seeing, or does not facilitate an integration of experience” (p.118). It means that our habits of mind become more inclusive if our assumptions can be confirmed or disconfirmed through critical reflection and consequently informed by the position of constructive alternativism (Kelly, 1955). It is a process of construction of meanings that is based on the individuals experiences, that in turns influences their way to perceive and act.

    Mezirow (1991) defines reflection as “the process of critically assessing the content, process and premise(s) of our efforts to interpret and give meaning to an experience” (p. 104). Even if all three aspects require to be critique, the premise reflection is which one that promotes empowerment and emancipation (Kreber,2012).

    The brief perspectives on CR presented wants to underline the responsibility of educators who should let learners know about the “the qualities, risks and likely consequences of the experience they are about to undergo” (Brookfield, 1994, p. 215). Educators need also to be aware the role of the relationship play an important impact in the process of transformation. It happens “through trustful relationships that allow individuals to have questioning discussions, share information openly and achieve mutual and consensual understanding” (Taylor, 2007, p. 179).The expected learning outcomes of this CGW is related to the development of awareness in the participants of the importance to create learning environments fostering CR among learners; the comparison of policies and both theoretical and teaching approach in supporting CR understanding the relevance for the learners and the innovation of teaching and learning methods.

    Comparative research question

    1. How do teachers/educators encourage learners’ Critical Reflection?

    2. In which way the institutional context support or inhibit the innovative way of teaching?

    3. Is there any relationship between theoretical and pedagogical teachers’/ educators’ perspectives and institutions’ orientations?

    Context of comparison

    The comparison will be carried out :

    •  at micro level, where will be investigated the teachers’ perspectives and the impact on the teaching practices;
    •  at meso level, where will be investigated the institutional policies and orientations in teaching innovation with the consequent impact on teaching methods

    Categories of comparison 
    (selection for the transnational essay is based on participants research interests)

    We will focus on the relationship between the practices implemented and the teachers’ and the institutions’ orientations. Specifically we’ll focus on the following categories:

    •  Dominant teachers’ theoretical orientations
    •  Role of institutions in supporting changes and innovation in teaching and learning
    •  Strategies implemented by teachers to foster students’ critical reflection

    Good practices

    •  Practices in teaching and learning adults
    •  Learning experiences in formal settings
    •  Practices in teaching and learning in higher education


    Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Mezirow, J. & Associates (2000). Learning as transformation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Taylor, E. W. (2007). An update of transformative learning theory: A critical review of the empirical research (1999-2005). International Journal of Lifelong Education, 26, 173-191.

    Taylor, E.W., & Mezirow, J. (2009). Trasformative learning in practice: insights from community, workplace and higher education. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.




    Dr. Monica Fedeli, University of Padova, Italy

    Monica Fedeli Ph.D. currently Associate Professor in Teaching and Learning Methods and Organizational Development at University of Padova. She has been Adjunct Professor at Boston University, at Michigan State University, at Julius Maximilian University of Wurzburg, Germany, and Visiting Professor at California University Berkeley, School of Education. Her research interests include: active teaching, participatory teaching and learning, faculty development, university business dialogue, women leadership, and professional development. She published more than 70 articles, books, and book chapters in variety of national and international journals, and book series.


    Co-Moderation: Dr. Concetta Tino, University of Padova, Italy

    Her main research interests are: teachers professional development; Work-Related Learning as programme on which education and workplace build their partnership; the development of soft skills and professional competences for students and teachers within Work-Related Learning experiences.