The Creation of Transformative Learning Cultures in Higher Education
Messenger, Hazel Susan
This research claims that transformative as opposed to informative learning cultures in higher education are capable of promoting student identity development alongside subject development. It makes a significant pedagogical, conceptual, methodological and contextual contribution to contemporary discussions regarding the nature and purpose of higher education in the 21st century. Transformative learning cultures, based on the pedagogical values of the teachers involved, create an identity workspace where student development is encouraged. This workspace reflects the active demonstration of empathy on the part of the teachers and is represented by an integrated pedagogical pattern consisting of four elements; the development of trust, (ii) the creation of collaborative and supportive communities where students have the opportunities to play different roles, (iii) active confrontation and challenge and (iv) the effective use of pedagogical time and space. A naturalistic, ethnographic methodology and case study approach was used to answer the question ‘what is going on here?’ with teachers of Foundation Degrees in two colleges across several subject disciplines in order to explore the nature and purpose of the learning cultures created. A conceptual framework was developed through the active integration of empirical research and scholarship resulting in a socio- cultural approach to understanding the learning contexts. This was supported by the collection of rich and varied data including photographs, observations and interviews with both teachers and students. Visualisation also supported the interpretation and representation of data in an accessible format. An activity theory approach was adopted to support an integrated analysis of the data, enabling the isolation and identification of the influence of teacher intentions, student dispositions, roles and relationships and how development was influenced by time, space and context.