Transformative learning in times of crisis: Possible or not?

The Caledonian Hall in Kilmore Street, Christc...Image via Wikipedia First, a thought for those in Christchurch as it has been a year since the February 22nd earth quake. A friend said “This week for us will be dominated by the 22nd – as we look back over the last 12 months. It’s been a seriously hard year for all who live in Christchurch, but as with any hardship and loss, we learn from it”.

A few bloggers posted immediately after the event in Feb 2011 about possible ‘silver linings’, and even transformations to the way education and business would be conducted in the future (see for example, the report from Douglas HarreDerek Wenmoth’s post, and one by Lisa Galarneau). However, I wonder if, as the quakes continue, the conditions are conducive to enabling the necessary shifts in three dimensions – psychological (changes in understanding of the self), convictional (revision of belief systems), and behavioral (changes in lifestyle) (source). This, for me, was a catalyst for thinking about knock-on implications for learning and teaching in areas of the world where there are natural disasters, political unrest, and/or poverty.

BRISTOL, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 24:  School...Bandura (1963) asserted that most learning is shaped by our experiences and we are likely to imitate, and in part, replicate what we have participated in – especially in times of stress or extreme discomfort. For education and training, this means, in the words of the oft used cliché is ‘we teach as we have been taught’. The question arises, how can support be offered to educators in stressful contexts, such that adverse experiences may prove transformative? And alongside this question, when your life is in peril do you have the luxury of being “critically reflective of those beliefs that become problematic” (Mezirow, Jack et al. (2000) Learning as Transformation)…or is it a necessary part of survival and re-invention? Without such shifts in understandings, belief systems, and behaviours will we ever be in a position to have a significant impact on policy and the shape of education (including teacher education) in future years?

Would be great to hear your thoughts 🙂 Please comment below.

Education online (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)


education online


About ictenhancedlearningandteaching

I am a director and consultant at Ethos Consultancy NZ ( I have a keen interest in all aspects of ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching (ICTELT) where the focus lies on ways of scaffolding and empowering learners. In particular, I am interested in the way that creative, blended approached to Academic Professional Development can create trust, rapport and encourage reflective practice. As such, ICTELT is approached from facilitation, design, evaluation and assessment as opposed to the tools and what they can offer. I am a strong advocate of the potential of Web 2.0 to empower learners from all walks of life and cultures, especially after my experiences working for 6 years in the Middle East. In particular, I am interested how ePortfolios can be used in the VET sector (especially where Literacy and Language challenges are faced), in Recognition of Prior Learning, and in authentic, applied assessment. I have been involved with designing and developing ICTELT approaches and programmes for ten years. Following research informed approaches and design, I apply a qualitative, iterative process to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, programmes and tools, encouraging learners' voices and input from all stakeholders.
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