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A Qualitative Exploration Of Transformational Learning Education Essay

Abstract

The Bachelor of Education at Edith Cowan University is a four-year degree course designed to prepare students to become registered teachers. The student cohort is diverse, with students from standard year-12 and alternative entry pathways. Consequently, the cohort includes a number of students who are from non-English Speaking Backgrounds (NESB), or from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) groups, or who are single parents, or mature age entrants who have not participated in formal education for many years as well as those who present with learning difficulties. For many of these students the experience of studying at University is likely to represent a cultural shift in terms of what a learner is expected to do. The intention of University education is to encourage and support critical thinking and develop autonomous thinkers. Edith Cowan University (2010) developed the Edith Cowan Curriculum Framework (ECF2012) which will be implemented across all Undergraduate Degree Courses in 2012. The framework provides for consistent student centred learning delivery for all undergraduate students. The adaptation to a new learning environment that emphasises high levels of motivated learning may present a challenge to some students and may result in them being uncertain of what they need to do and how to go about learning in this new environment. The change in learning culture may require students to make adjustments in the way they view their approach to learning. The new learning environment and its many demands may create opportunities for transformational learning to occur. This study will explore the case for transformational learning in the transition of first year students to university and, if substantiated identify instructional strategies that can be used to support it.

1.0 Introduction

1.1 The Background to the Study

For students enrolled in a degree course studying at University is a new learning experience. Moving from secondary study to tertiary study represents a change in learning expectations. For this reason Transformational Learning Theory has been adopted to explore the relationship between prior student experiences and expectations and their progress in their first attempt at University education.

Measuring the extent of transformational learning and making adjustments to course material, content and delivery offers an opportunity to understand how student expectations in a new learning environment influence student retention and is therefore important for the school. The student cohort is diverse, with students from non-English Speaking Backgrounds (NESB), Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD), single parents, mature age who have not participated in formal education for many years and those who present with learning difficulties, in addition to traditional year twelve entrants.

1.2 The Significance of the Study

The experience of studying at University presents students with new learning expectations and exposure to the culture of University life. Students who have not been exposed to a culture of learner-centred teaching may take time to understand how it impacts on their participation. Adaptation to a new learning environment frequently results in students being confused about what they need to do to partake of the culture of adult learning and assimilate its meaning for them as learners.

The Bradley Review (2008) recommends making Higher Education available to people from low Socioeconomic Status (SES) backgrounds. SES is a measure of an individual’s or family income, education and occupation. This recommendation suggests that more students enrolling in Australian universities will have limited educational experiences. These students will face having to learn in a new environment and come to an understanding of the expectations and support available within that environment. Transformational learning theory will therefore be an increasingly important lens through which to identify the learning strategies that may best support these students and inform curriculum development and delivery needed to address the successful transition of low SES student groups into higher education learning environments.

1.3 The Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to:

To determine whether a model of transformative learning can be used to explain the learning experience of a cohort of first year university education students

And, if the model applies:

2.1 identify strategies that are associated with positive transformational learning outcomes

2.2 develop a model for first year university experience that draws on transformative learning processes for further trial and application; and

3. improve knowledge about transition to the learning culture of a university first year Education student

1.4 Research Questions

What evidence of transformational learning exists for first year Education students engaged in a University Undergraduate Degree?

What pedagogical/instructional strategies do first year Education students identify as being transformational in nature?

3. Does the evidence suggest a trend or a model for transformative learning on first year Education entry to university?

2.0 Review of the Literature

2.1 Transformational Learning

Students enrolled in the first year of the Bachelor of Education at Edith Cowan University are faced with not only dealing with the academic content of the course, but with adapting to the culture and community of the School of Education study. Previously held values and expectations of students’ learning may lead them to question how they can adapt to the requirements of this specific University undergraduate course representing a state of uncertainty or conflict with their existing learning values.

Transformational Learning (TL) is learning that occurs when an individual questions their existing values, attitudes and beliefs (Mezirow, 1990). The incentive to question existing values comes from experiencing a situation that cannot be made sense of. Mezirow (1990) regards this as a disorienting dilemma that leads to a process of critical reflection and rational discourse followed by ‘perspective transformation’. Perspective transformation is central to Mezirow’s theory of transformational learning and represents development that is characterized by the adoption of new values, attitudes and beliefs permitting a broader more inclusive interpretation of experience.

A study of first year students in teacher education and creative industries faculties at the Queensland University of Technology, as well as the University of Tasmania (Walker et al. 2009) found that personal epistemology, existing values and beliefs, influence how students engage with reflective thinking and problem solving activities. “It is important then that a focus on processes of learning, not just knowledge outcomes, is included in higher education study to equip students in dealing with the ill-defined problems that emerge in our current complex work and living relationships”, (Walker et al. 2009, p. 243).

The experience of commencing University study potentially represents a disruption for students as they are faced with transition between previous education experiences and a new learning environment. A study by Einfalt and Turley (2009) into the experiences of first year students in a Business Studies course at the University of Sunshine Coast suggest that, “First year students have special learning needs due to the social and academic transition they are experiencing”, (p. 45).

Transformational learning is an intensely personal experience and as such it is difficult to quantify the time period of critical reflection that follows a disorienting dilemma. While the period of time for critical reflection to occur is difficult to measure, it leads to the adoption of new values that make the new perspective more integrated and discerning (Mezirow, 1991). During this stage an individual seeks consensual validation of their new beliefs through rational discourse. Acceptance that the new values are valid represents perspective transformation and is the indicator that transformational learning has occurred.

Berger (2004) contends that learners reach a knowing edge or limit of their previous values and beliefs when confronted with a disruptive experience. This knowing edge represents a liminal or threshold space where transformation can occur. “It is in this liminal space that we can come to terms with the limitations of our knowing and thus begin to stretch those limits”, (Berger, 2004, p. 338). This proposal will first address Transformational Learning Theory and then provide examples of the rationale for adopting this theory in the study of first year students.

2.12 Disorienting Dilemma

A disorienting dilemma is an experience where an individual finds their existing assumptions do not allow them to solve a problem. A disorienting feeling results when experiences do not meet with expectations. This experience represents a trigger event and is the first phase of transformational learning.

Trigger events may be abrupt and unpredictable in nature such as the death of a loved one or loss of a career or job. They may also be an event or series of events that occur over time that cause an individual to question the validity of their existing values and beliefs. For many people undertaking higher education represents a situation where their self-perception is challenged as they seek to integrate new values with pre-existing values (Mezirow, 1991).

2.13 Critical Reflection

The prior assumptions that underpin an individual’s meaning perspective shape the lens through which an individual views and makes meaning of an experience. When the meaning of an experience cannot be interpreted using existing assumptions the validity of those assumptions is questioned through critical reflection. Critical reflection on the validity of existing assumptions and the adoption of new values leads to the development of a more, integrative, inclusive and discerning meaning perspective (Mezirow, 1990).

2.14 Meaning Perspectives

The assumptions learners use to interpret events and make value judgments about them are formed from prior learning. Much of the prior learning underpinning assumptions occurs uncritically during childhood. Adults adopt assumptions and presuppositions through a more rational process in order to make sense of the world around them by developing meaning perspectives. “Meaning perspectives involve criteria for making value judgments and for our belief systems”, (Mezirow, 1990, p. 3).

Lukinsky (Lukinsky in Mezirow, 1991) contends that reflective writing offers students the ability to identify habits of expectation that limit their ability to assess the limitations of previous expectations. Understanding of the limitations of previously held values affords student to examine and potentially integrate new values, assumptions and beliefs in first year study consistent with the integration of (Mezirow, 1990) new meaning perspectives.

2.15 Perspective Transformation

Known as the psychocritical or rational approach to transformational learning (Merriam and Caffarella, 1991), Mezirow’s theory is concerned with how adults make sense of life experiences through the process of perspective transformation. That the learning occurs within a life context also places the theory in a psycho-cultural context where the validity of new frames of reference or meaning perspectives is assessed with a view to the community values that support it. Perspective transformation is the process of critically reflecting on habits and expectations that constrain perception and therefore limit the degree of understanding that can be developed from experience. The transformed perspective is one where knowledge has become more reliable permitting more informed choices to be made and meaningful action to be undertaken.

An example that illustrates this process is the experience of a student in Mezirow’s (1978) original study of women returning to higher education following an extended absence. One student questioned why younger women did not leave campus in time to get home and cook the evening meal. Reflecting further and discussing the situation with the other students enabled her to understand that the role she had adopted she had done so uncritically. She was then able to reject the role as an immutable truth and engaged with other students, having made arrangement for other family members to cook their own meal.

Perspective transformation is defined as,

Perspective transformation is the process of becoming critically aware of how and why our assumptions have come to constrain the way we perceive, understand and feel about our world; changing these structures of habitual expectation to make possible a more inclusive, discriminating and integrative perspective; and finally, making choices or otherwise acting upon these new understandings.

(Mezirow, 1991, p. 167).

Finally, action can be planned and solutions implemented on the basis of these new meaning perspectives by reframing problems that may have previously been difficult or impossible to solve.

The rational focus distinguishes Mezirow’s theory from the works of other writers who have addressed the role of critical reflection in interpreting experience. Habermas (1971) describes the emancipatory domain of knowledge as being concerned with how an individual perceives themselves and their roles in society. The process of reflecting on one’s self is seen as emancipatory in the sense that an individual may then understand the reasons for his or her problems. Emancipatory learning is learning that involves the use of self-reflection for problem solving in a social context. Habermas (1984) also describes communicative learning. Communicative learning requires an abstract representation of the world that allows individuals to understand and reach agreement on shared experiences and the impact upon them of life experiences: “Through this communicative practice they assure themselves at the same time of their common life relations, of an intersubjectively shared lifeworld”, (Habermas, 1984, p. 13).

In his work with illiterate peasant farmers in Brazil, Freier (1972) describes conscientization as a process of transforming cultural identity. Traditionally peasants had no education and were unable to identify or give voice to the oppressive conditions under which they lived. Conscientization or critical consciousness represents a breaking away from oppression to a new awareness and sense of self-supported by political action. Emancipatory learning and conscientization represent the same process of change through critical reflection leading to problem solving in social and cultural contexts as perspective transformation.

Fetherston and Kelly contend that, “It is through reflection that we can recognise problems, as well as the way problems are framed, and take steps to solve them’, (2007, p. 268). For students from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds learning in a new environment has the potential to act as a disorientation or disruption to existing values and beliefs. Reflection then needs to be considered as a teaching practice that may assist with problem solving in this new environment.

The process of conscientization (Freier, 1972) is important here in terms of a transformation of cultural identity. First-year Education students at University are faced with adapting to a new culture of learning and the requirement to develop responsibility for their learning.

2.2 Distortions in Assumptions

The way in which the meaning of a situation is construed is determined by existing meaning schemes. Meaning schemes represent the way in which a particular experience is viewed and together frame situation specific applications of broader meaning perspectives. Meaning schemes cause new situations to viewed through interpreting experience in the light of the symbolic models used to interpret impressions. Meaning schemes are developed through uncritically assimilated personal and cultural values and limit the extent to which an individual can critically reflect on the nature of experience. Mezirow contends, “Awareness involves recognition of how we have been influenced by our culture and biography to acquire these limitations in the first place”, (1991, p. 19).

2.21 Epistemic Distortions

“Epistemic distortions have to do with the nature and use of knowledge”, (Mezirow, 1990, p.15). Transformational Learning with its emphasis on reflective thinking holds that any way of construing meaning without reflection may be regarded as an epistemic distortion. Epistemic distortions also occur due to reification where attitudes are held to be true by social interaction and cultural values, with no reflection as to the validity of these values.

2.22 Socio-cultural Distortions

Socio-cultural distortions frequently arise from the belief that values based on power and social relationships, representing current social mores, are immutable. This belief is assimilated uncritically, and limits critical reflection and the ability of students to question why these values are valid. (Mezirow, 1990)

2.23 Psychic Distortions

It is a natural condition of human beings to reduce feelings of anxiety. Where existing presuppositions cause anxiety when they are found to limit an individual’s ability to make sense of an experience this has a limiting effect on their ability to reflect on those presuppositions. Finding themselves in a position of uncertain knowledge and concepts they frequently choose to stay with what they know rather than enter uncertain territory where they believe their existing values do not allow them to pose or solve problems. (Mezirow, 1990).

2.3 The Nature of Reflection

Three types of reflection (Cranton 1990, Mezirow 1990) may be considered in terms of learning domains. Content, process and premise reflection occur in psychological, sociolinguistic and epistemic learning domains respectively, with premise reflection (Mezirow, 1990) being the only type that leads to perspective transformation.

Taylor (2007) in a review of transformational learning research projects carried out between 1999 and 2005 contends that, “The present research continues to affirm Mezirow’s conception of transformative learning, through its stability over time, its relationship to expanding the self and pursuit of autonomy, and the applicability for informing classroom practice”, (p. 187). However reflection and the way it is promoted in a classroom setting, as a means of promoting perspective transformation is not always successful. “Part of the problem may rest with treating the various types (e.g. content, process and premise) of reflection as equally significant and not recognizing that there are important differences between types”, (Taylor, 2007, p. 186). Content reflection finds application in Instrumental learning where the best solution to a problem is made from selecting from a range of accepted truths. The validity of those truths however, is not questioned and therefore any solution arrived at that is less than optimal may be reviewed with reference to the same unquestionable truths. Instrumental learning cannot generate new knowledge and is the type of learning that lends itself to skills acquisition.

Process reflection is a key decision making process in sociolinguistic learning with validity testing involving asking how existing socially accepted values have shaped the process of problem solving. Premise reflection however, involves asking why existing attitudes and habits of expectation have constrained the ability to consider alternative solutions. Validity testing of new assumptions is arrived at through a process of consensual validation that informs new action.

Therefore, the problem (Taylor, 2007) that the three types of reflection are equally significant should be addressed through professional development or professional learning opportunities for University teacher scholars wishing to promote transformational learning in a classroom setting. Equally important is the need to review the teacher learner role (Cranton, 1995, 2002: Gravett, 2004: Mezirow, 1990: Robertson, 1996) in order to promote a caring, supportive and mutually respectful environment where the teacher is a facilitator of learning and not merely a disseminator of knowledge.

2.31 Content Reflection

Content reflection in the psychological domain is reflection engaged in when an individual questions their perception of self. Content reflection is exemplified by asking what of a situation. What skills do I have, what is my professional image or what parts of my nature allow me to do this work? In the sociolinguistic domain content reflection questions are concerned with social norms. Questions include what was the view of this issue where you grew up, what views do the media represent or what are the politicians saying about this issue. Whereas questions such as, what knowledge have I gained from past experience or what would enable me to learn this or what would prevent me from learning this are examples of questions concerned with content in the epistemic domain, (Cranton, 1995).

2.32 Process Reflection

Process reflection occurs when learners ask how they have come to acquire specific knowledge. Psychological values can be questioned by asking how one’s self-perception has been arrived at. How did I come to choose this career or how is it that I came to value career activities more than family values? Sociolinguistic schemes can be questioned by asking how social norms have been formed or how did the community I grew up in influence my views. Within the epistemic domain, process reflection is concerned with asking how did I come to the conclusion that this theory is valid or how did I develop criteria for assessing this, (Cranton, 1995).

2.33 Premise Reflection

Premise reflection involves questioning the reasons why beliefs are held. By its nature this type of question does not focus exclusively on one particular assumption or meaning scheme but impacts the broader perspective as a whole. In the psychological domain questions that can be asked include why it is necessary to see my relationship with my family that way or why my self-image as a learner is important to me. In the sociolinguistic perspective questions take the form of why are these norms important or why am I questioning that philosophical stance. In the epistemic perspective questions could take the form of why do I need that knowledge or why do I need to read further on that issue, (Cranton, 1995).

When questions are asked from an unfamiliar perspective critical reflection may cause learners to examine the assumptions that underpin their existing views or beliefs. This may lead them to develop new views or beliefs in which case the critical questioning can serve to identify a new trigger event (Mezirow, 1991). “Emancipatory knowledge is knowledge gained through critical self-reflection as distinct from knowledge gained from our technical interest in the objective world or our practical interest in social relationships”, (Mezirow, 1991, p. 87).

2.4 Phases of Perspective Transformation

Mezirow (1991) describes the following 10 phases of transformational learning and emphasises that they may not occur in the order listed;

A disorienting dilemma

Self- examination with feeling of guilt or shame

A critical assessment of epistemic, sociocultural, or psychic assumptions

Recognition that one’s discontent and the process of transformation are shared and that others have negotiated a similar change

Exploration of options for new roles, relationships and actions

Planning a course of action

Acquisition of knowledge and skills for implementing one’s plans

Provision trying of new roles

Building of competence and self-confidence in new roles and relationships

A reintegration into one’s life on the basis of conditions dictated by one’s new perspective

(Mezirow, 1991, p. 168).

These phases represent the process of transformational learning from disorienting dilemma to reintegration. An individual may not experience all of these phases and they will not necessarily occur in the order listed. The nature of transformational learning is an intensely personal one where an individual is required to question the validity of their existing assumptions in order to undergo perspective transformation.

Basseches (1984) describes the process of dialectical thinking as an important element in cognitive maturity that typically does not happen until late adolescence or early adulthood. Dialectical thinking is regarded as a movement through cognitive structures or meaning perspectives that represents a developmental transformation. The following five criteria are identified for comparing meaning perspectives. Comments in brackets are by Mezirow (1990):

Their levels of equilibrium (inclusiveness, differentiation, and integration)

Their potential for contribution to development

Their susceptibility of coordination with other forms, making them stable through developmental change

Their practical value

Their conformity to a master form (superordinates meaning perspective)

(Basseches, 1984, in Mezirow, 1990, p. 154).

Cranton (2002) suggests the following seven phases as indicative of transformational learning;

An activating event that typically exposes a discrepancy between what a person has always assumed to be true and what has just been experienced, heard or read

Articulating assumptions, that is recognizing underlying assumptions that have been uncritically assimilated and are largely unconscious

Critical self-reflection, that is questioning and examining assumptions in terms of where they came from, the consequences of holding them and why they are important

Being open to alternative viewpoints

Engaging in discourse, where evidence is weighed, arguments assessed, alternative perspectives explored, and knowledge constructed by consensus

Revising assumptions and perspectives to make them more open and better justified

Acting on revisions, behaving, talking and thinking in a way that is congruent with transformed assumptions or perspectives

(Cranton, 2002, p. 66).

Gravett (2004), contends that the work of (Cranton, 2002; Mezirow, 2000.) suggests that facets of transformational learning can be represented by the following eight phases;

A triggering event (disorienting dilemma) that leads to an awareness of inconsistency amongst our thoughts, feelings and actions, or a realisation that previous views and approaches do not seem adequate any longer

A feeling of disequilibrium

A recognition and articulation of assumptions and presuppositions that are held largely unconsciously

A questioning and examining of assumptions and viewpoints, including where they came from, the consequences of holding them, and why they are important

An engagement in reflective and constructive discourse, which is a type of dialog in which alternative viewpoints are discussed and assessed

A revision of assumptions and perspectives to make them more discriminating and justifiable

Action arising from revision

A building of competence and self-confidence in new roles and relationships

(Gravett, 2004, p. 261)

2.41 Making Meaning

Cultural values shape the way we learn. During our childhood we are rewarded when we express a view that coincides with our parents. In broader society we are rewarded for having and expressing thoughts that convey values and norms held by the culture in which we live to be true or acceptable. Making meaning in transformational learning is involved with “becoming critically aware of one’s own tacit assumptions and expectations and those of others and assessing their relevance for making an interpretation”, (Mezirow 2000, p. 4).

According to Brown, Collins and Duguid, “... knowledge is situated, being in part a product of the activity, context, and culture in which it is developed and used”, (1989, p. 32). Learning to write from dictionary definitions and key sentence constructions produces writing that is typically free of contextual awareness. Words are selected on the basis of a dictionary definition, which does not place the meaning within the cultural context of the learning. The solution to the problem of which word to use is arrived at from a selection of definitions held to be true in isolation.

In contrast, those who are familiar with the language and the culturally accepted values in which it is learnt, solve the problem of choosing the correct word with an awareness of the context in which it will be used. This process requires an understanding not only of strict definitions, but also of cultural values, where the meaning of a word is different depending on the context of how it will be used, to arrive at a solution.

Knowledge then can be seen as not an isolated group of facts or a specific set of skills but is dependent on the context in which it is generated and acted upon. For many students learning at University and how they assimilate knowledge in that context and within the culture of University life is learning they have no prior experience of. Andrews (2005) contends that knowing relates to the changes a person experiences on the basis of identifying the source and consequence of that knowing. Transformational learners experience a realignment of their values with information they perceive. In a learning environment the relationship is comprised of not only the topic being studied and an individual’s perceptions of it but equally important is the relationship between the teacher and all learners. This environment then is the context within which knowing may be achieved.

Our identity is shaped by our interconnections with other individuals and culturally and socially accepted norms of thought and behaviour that guide our actions. An individual’s identity is therefore not comprised of discreet elements of knowledge but rather by the relationships that exist in shared life experiences. The understanding developed from these experiences represents learning that cannot be separated from the history, language and cultural values that shape our existing assumptions and therefore our meaning perspective. “The process of self-empowerment, acquiring greater control of one’s life as a liberated learner, is, of course, always limited by social, historical, and cultural conditions”, (Mezirow, 2000, p. 27). Transformational learning is a process of liberation from uncritically assimilated values that limit an individual’s ability to pose and solve problems.

2.42 Types of Learning

Facilitating transformational learning requires an understanding of the thought processes that occur during learning and the types of activities that are likely to encourage it. Instrumental learning is concerned with controlling the environment and improving performance. Truth claims are assessed as a means of determining that something is what it claims to be. “In instrumental learning, the developmental logic is hypothetical-deductive, and empirical methods are more often appropriate for research”, (Mezirow, 2003, p. 59).

Communicative learning involves understanding what others mean when they communicate with you. To understand someone requires becoming aware of their assumptions in order to make an assessment of their authenticity. Critical-dialectical discourse involves arriving at a best judgment based on the beliefs of others through analogic–abductive thinking. Abductive reasoning (Mezirow, 2003) moves from a concrete experience to abstract realisation. Transformational learning theory supports this distinction. The process of perspective transformation is arrived at through critical questioning of prior assumptions requiring assessment of their validity.

Taylor contends that experiential learning activities can encourage transformational learning on the part of students. These activities have the potential to be more meaningful and hence relevant to student learning and include the relationship between student and teacher. Understanding of the learning experience involves a level of critical reflectivity when considering the world, in which we live, work and learn: “Therefore, it becomes imperative in adulthood that we seek ways to understand better the world around us and in doing so develop a more critical worldview”, (Taylor, 2000, p. 3).

The student teacher relationship must also be examined when attending to the dynamics of transformational learning. For transformational learning to occur the power dynamic of the teacher being the all wise, all knowing disseminator of knowledge must be replaced with a more equitable one where the educator is seen and behaves as a facilitator of learning. In this context the educator is someone who helps the learning process by being (Robertson, 1996) a facilitator of learning rather than a disseminator of knowledge.

Gravett and Petersen (2002) recognize the importance of the teacher student role to learning. Their work in South Africa in developing a teaching methodology course that promotes transformational learning is founded in the understanding that old values, beliefs and attitudes need to be examined in the light of new experiences. Promoting critical reflection on the part of students attempting to understand these new experiences requires the development of a caring and supporting environment where the teacher-student role is one of mutual respect. “Our teaching methodology course is underpinned by the notion that transforming existing ways of thinking and doing requires that learners come to awareness that there is indeed a need for transformation”, (p. 100).

2.5 Conclusion

First year Primary Education study provides an environment where new students can engage in critical assessment of epistemic, socio-cultural, or psychic assumptions and recognition that the discontent and transformation process is shared and that others are negotiating a similar change. It also provides opportunity to explore new roles, relationships and actions together with planning a course of action and acquiring knowledge and skills for implementing new plans. The references support the need to consider transformational learning as it may occur for students new to University study. As adult education, tertiary study represents a new environment for learning to occur in with its own social and cultural values and expectations.

The operational definition of the study will be based on perspective transformation as the indicator that transformational learning has occurred together with the fact that transformational learning represents liberation from uncritically assimilated values that limit problem posing and problem solving abilities.

3.0 CHAPTER THREE METHODOLOGY

3.1 The Sample

The target population for this study is a cohort of first year entrants to the Bachelor of Education Degree (Primary). Twenty students will be selected at random to partake in two interviews. The initial interview will be at the beginning of the semester and the second interview will be at the end of semester. A survey questionnaire will also be conducted prior to the interviews being conducted.

3.2 Research Design

Snyder (2008) in a review of studies in Transformational Learning conducted in the last decade indicated that five of the ten studies used Grounded Theory, five used Questionnaires, eight used Interviews, four used Qualitative and Quantitative design elements and ten used Qualitative design elements. All ten studies cited Mezirow. This study will involve two phases. The first phase will be a survey of all first year entrants to the Bachelor of Education (Primary) degree. The second phase will involve case-study interviews with twenty students who will be selected at random to participate in two interviews during the first year of study at university. The interview participants will include six students from traditional entry, three male and three female, together with fourteen students from non-traditional entry including CALD and mature-age with equal gender representation.

3.21 Questionnaire

A questionnaire will be conducted at the beginning of semester and will consist of twelve questions described in Appendix B together with the description of the Likert scale used to evaluate responses. The questions are divided equally between gathering responses that indicate participants are comfortable with the transition process to University study and those that indicate they are not comfortable with the process of the transition to University study.

A 1 to 6 Likert scale will be used to gather responses and will be scored in such a way that a high score represents students are comfortable with the transition to University study while a low score will indicate they are not comfortable with the transition to University study. Before delivery of the questionnaire a Cronbach Analysis using SPSS to determine the reliability of the questions will be conducted. The results of the questionnaire will be entered into SPSS and processed using a factor analysis approach.

Interviews will be recorded and then analysed using grounded theory. The interviews will be conducted in the first and last month of the semester. NVivo will be used to analyse the interviews allowing efficient development of codes. The results of this coding process will allow identification of trends that can be used to develop a model and associated metrics to inform curriculum design and delivery strategies.

3.3 Instruments

3.31 Survey

The survey will use a questionnaire which will be conducted in the fourth week of the semester to gather information on students’ initial perceptions of their University experience. The questions have been designed to measure the extent to which student experience may be considered as a disorienting dilemma based on the degree to which they feel comfortable or uncomfortable during their initial time at university. Recording of responses uses a six point Likert scale to avoid a no comment response.

3.32 Interviews

Interviews have been designed according to criteria that have been selected from Mezirow’s (1991) list of ten phases of transformational learning. Draft questions appear in Appendix A.

A disorienting dilemma

Recognition that one’s discontent and the process of transformation are shared and that others have negotiated a similar change

Exploration of options for new roles, relationships and actions

Planning a course of action

Acquisition of knowledge and skills for implementing one’s plans

Building of competence and self-confidence in new roles and relationships

3.4 Procedure

3.41 Survey

Hard copies of surveys will be distributed to the cohort of students at the conclusion of a core lecture and collection boxes will be supplied in subsequent tutorials. The distribution and collection of the surveys will comply fully with university ethics requirements.

3.42 Interviews

Students will be randomly selected based on their enrolment as mature age and CALD students. Selected students will then receive an invitation, from the Head of School, identifying the author and the purpose of the interview. These procedures will comply with university ethics requirements for research. Pre/post interviews will be conducted in the first and last month of the semester respectively.

3.5 Limitations

Limitations include:

• The researcher’s interpretation of interview data; and

• The need to operate within a small sample size of approximately 20 students.

• Students will be selected from the Bachelor of Education (ECS & Primary).

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