Canada Association of Tourism Employees

Transformative Studying In The Office

Leading change from the classroom

“This is task-based training. It doesn’t have to change your world. You just have to know how to get the job done.” – Anonymous team leader

“I was asked to do it voluntarily. I don’t think it will work, and I’m not really interested in doing more than I have to.” – Anonymous individual contributor

“Transformative learning is sensitive and inadequate for the workplace.” – Anonymous manager

Your organization is going through a major transformation. A new ERP system will be introduced across the company. There is talk of removing silos and creating a single source of truth. Employees fear that they will be fired by a system that promises efficiency, transparency and a third “ncy” that no one can remember. Everyone will have to learn to use the new system or they will be free to look elsewhere for other options. It all sounds bad. Really bad. Your learning and development team is responsible for preparing the training for the new system. It’s complicated. Nobody has seen it yet. They worry because 37% of employees have been with the company for a decade or more, using Excel, Word, and other desktop applications to manage everything from inventory to security data. Information is deeply isolated and a source of individual power in the company. These will not be receptive learners. What will you do?

Transformative learning theory

Transformative learning theory has received a lot of attention lately in the workplace, with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion, due to Me Too, Black Lives Matter, and other social movements that demand that society and our workspaces be a variety of ethnicities , Beliefs, and lifestyles. The collaborative, community-based learning style of transformative learning seems to have been created for reflective thinking about attitudes and interactions with other people. Transformative learning aims to bring about a change of heart that leads to a change of perspective for the learner. But is the theory useful in creating other types of learning experiences in the workplace?

Jack Mezirow, the father of transformative learning, described it as “an orientation that assumes that the way learners interpret and reinterpret their sensory experiences is central to creating meaning and thereby learning.” It is a psychocritical constructivist approach to learning that focuses on how individuals build knowledge by breaking down and reassembling their beliefs and assumptions to create new meaning for themselves. Although transformative learning was not originally designed for on-the-job learning, it dealt with many of the schema changes, that is, rearrangements and reflection that is necessary to successfully manage change. There is a lack of research on transformative learning in the workplace. However, a strong argument can be made for the value of transformative learning as an integral part of a successful change management project.

Transformative learning process

Transformative learning begins with a disorienting dilemma or experience. This is the cornerstone of transformative learning. A disorienting experience or dilemma is an event that challenges a person’s assumptions about their beliefs, personal schemes, or their place in the world. There were massive layoffs in the American auto industry in the 1980s when automation was introduced into the manufacturing process. The industry’s mostly obsessive-compulsive approach (“my way or the freeway”) destroyed individual careers, families and communities. The consequences of this approach are still being felt in American manufacturing.

The next nine phases of transformative learning can be divided into four process groups: experience, critical reflection, reflective discourse and action. As instruction designers, we are tempted to focus on the action phase. Do not ignore the emotional and social aspects of change that are critical to experience, critical reflection, and reflective discourse. The inclusion of all ten steps of the transformative learning process forms a solid basis for the transfer of skills. It also provides an opportunity to reassure and validate learners and make them feel that they are self-reliant in the learning process.

Transformative learning aims to meet learners where they are and create a collaborative learning experience. It is no longer the disorienting dilemma of an individual, but a community that controls change together. A learning experience that engages employees rather than opposing them is the best approach to training in a hostile environment. Do you remember the hearts and minds? Objective reframing and cognitive realignment help learners see themselves and their situation differently. Commitment should be at the fore with the ID. To do this, you need to work closely with the change management team, if your company has one. If not, this is an excellent time to familiarize yourself with change management and work on incorporating it into the learning experience.

Advice to instruction designers

So when the new ERP system is announced, the main question is not: How are we going to train everyone on this new system? First, find out what your audience is asking: Why does this have any value to me? How will this help me? Is this because the company thinks I’m doing a bad job? Don’t avoid these questions. Find them and involve employees. The training offers the opportunity to talk to executives, superiors and individual contributors and to impart essential skills. As ID practitioners, we can be agents of change who build an adaptable and agile corporate culture in which employees are encouraged to stand up for themselves and take their future into their own hands. It is an opportunity to explain the why and how and to help employees redefine themselves and their role in a new and uncertain environment.


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