In this article, I discuss the manner in which Mezirow’s transformative learning theory influences the facilitation of our business orientation training for emerging entrepreneurs.

Learning Phases

Creating disorientating dilemmas to bring about critical reflection

Authenticating the learning process

Cognitive transformation through relevant information

Empowering participants with critical thinking

Building intercultural relationships through the learner-teacher dynamic

Re-engaging and taking action with a transformed perspective

Introduction

The purpose of our training is to enable participants to identify and reshape their meaning frameworks on the topic of business management and entrepreneurialism. The Cause training programme for emerging and social entrepreneurs includes 10 workshops.

Facilitation is the process of simplifying and enabling learning and includes a range of methods to promote learner engagement. Our facilitation design is based on transformative learning principles.

Transformative learning is a process purposed to alter or reconstruct human frameworks of thinking and the subsequent manner of giving meaning to a topic. Our facilitation style aims to influence the frameworks of understanding of participants and their subsequent behavior.

Creating disorientating dilemmas to bring about critical reflection 

Our facilitation style reorientates the learners’ understanding of the concept of business through a range of new insights. This is intended to cause a disorientation that influence their meaning perspective and behavior.

Most of our targeted participants see the topic of business as a foreign concept outside of their frame of reference because they have never been employed and have not received any education or training in the field. This has led to a range of incorrect assumptions about business, money, and work, which prohibits their progress and requires re-alignment.

Through mutual dialogue and the creation of a safe communication space1, we focus on the creation of disorientating narratives by asking questions and allowing creative visioning time. This process aims to reveal untruths in a safe peer environment, and to create opportunities for self-reflection and discussion time. Mutual language used as a way to communicate to serve mutual understanding. The deconstruction of participants’ current beliefs will help them to recognize that they need to transform their thinking.

Authenticating the learning process 

The perceived authenticity of the message and the facilitator determines whether participants will place their belief in the learning process. Communicative learning aids authenticity and creates an empathic platform to engage with participants in exploring new information mutually.

The participants in this context are often skeptical and distrusting of new information and approval or acceptance of the information will be sought. As facilitators, we aim to reach an agreement of mutuality with the learners as part of the process of validation. This leads to the creation of a realistic judgement, acceptance of the learning content, and the formation of new structures of thinking.

Cognitive transformation through well-structured and relevant information 

Cognitive knowledge forms part of a person’s frame of reference and it is important to provide participants with the accurate and clear knowledge to reinforce the new beliefs and ways of thinking that have been introduced. The learners require knowledge that will enable them to put into practice what they have learned.

The sharing of subject information and resources is meant to reinforce the altering frames of reference. We offer participants new information to replace the disproved information.

Empowering participants with critical thinking 

Freire’s Liberation education suggests that participants should be made to think and not merely to receive information. His philosophy evolved where poverty, illiteracy, and oppression were prevalent, making this style of facilitation very relevant to our work.

A key objective of our training is to get participants thinking independently about the new information and to reshape their own dispositions. Our training aims to empower participants with the capacity to apply the new knowledge independently through critical thinking. Ultimately, participants will be encouraged to think through their assumptions about money, economy, business and socio-economic politics.

Building intercultural relationships through the learner-teacher dynamic 

Our participants have varied political, ethnocentric and culture-based beliefs and attitudes towards learning and the context it is presented in. Ethnocentrism as a component of meaning-giving may also negatively influence the learning process based on the culture, race, and sex of the facilitator.

Libertarian education supports reconciliation and the solving of the “teacher-student contradiction”. In our workshops, facilitators place themselves in a position where the cultural and socio-economic realities of participants are considered and integrated into the learning experience.

There is not only an intellectual understanding but also an empathetic understanding. of the living conditions of the participants, which we believe is fundamental to creating a transformative learning experience. Holistically the aim is to create a positive experience for the learners, which will assist them in the learning process.

Re-engaging and taking action with a transformed perspective  

At this stage of the transformative learning process, the objective would be to reinforce what has been learned and help the participants to build confidence in their new way of thinking about the topic. They will be encouraged to re-engage with their businesses, but with a whole new framework of thinking and new abilities, based on Mezirow’s notions of transformative learning.

By creating a new narrative that exposes the difference between old and new perceptions, learners can start to embed the learning and put it into action. The re-engagement starts with facilitated peer discussions and practical assignments that require the application of the new knowledge. The strategic purpose of our training is to empower and inspire participants to take action in a process of awakening and engaging with economic activities.

Conclusion

The Cause*Way training method has the aim of bringing about economic transformation in the lives of the participants. The learning process is based on Mezirow’s transformative learning theory and includes six distinct phases that ultimately aim to alter the frames of reference of the participants pertaining to economic activity.

References

  1. Mezirow, J. 2009. An overview on transformative learning: Contemporary Theories of Learning. London and New York: Routledge.
  2. Smithberger, L. K., 2016. Communication centre journal. University of South Florida: Vol
  3. 3. Price, A., Hirter, K., Lippiatt, C. and O’Neill, K., 2016. Critical reflections on practice development. IPDC International practice development journal: Vol 6
  4. 4. Habermas, J., 1984. The theory of communicative action. Boston: Beacon Press: Vol 1
  5. Freire, P., 1970. Cultural Action and Conscientization. Harvard Educational Review: Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 452-477.