Transformative Learning

Selecting and Providing Information

Icon squareby James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

Transformative learning theory encourages instructors to question the meaning and purpose of information they provide to learners (Cranton & King, 2003). This requires a process of critical self-reflection on course content that can occur before, during, and after we teach. During the design phase of a course, for example, we might reflect on how different readings will prepare learners to be successful on assessment activities that support course learning outcomes. At the end of a course or lesson we might ask ourselves, “What happened here?” and “What content-related choices led to that outcome?” (Mezirow, 1991). Both reflection processes benefit learning because they enable us to critically consider “the source, nature, and consequences of relevant [information]” we provide to learners (Mezirow, 2009, p. 94). As a result, we can begin to make more intentional choices about the information we decide to include in our courses.

Questioning the meaning and purpose of course information also creates exciting opportunities for dialogue between instructor and learners about the goals of a course. This type of exchange is important for transformative learning because it invites learners to participate “freely and fully in an informed continuing discourse” about their learning (Mezirow, 2009, p. 94). By focusing on the content of the course, we can communicate to students the intention behind the choices we have made while also allowing space for learners to identify missing information (“Am I overlooking something?”) and to recommend different information (“What matters to you?”) that can also support course learning outcomes.

As we approach the middle of spring semester, try reflecting on these four information-related questions that support transformative teaching and learning:

  • What information do I provide to learners?
  • What is the meaning and purpose of that information?
  • What information do learners provide to me?
  • What is the meaning and purpose of that information?

To learn more about transformative teaching and learning, explore the Reinert Center’s theme web page here [LINK]. Please also share your thoughts on selecting and providing information for your courses – or your responses to the questions above – in the comments section below. For any inquiries about teaching-related resources or support, please contact us at


Cranton, P., & King, K. P. (2003). Transformative learning as a professional goal. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 98, 31-37.

Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Mezirow, J. (2009). An overview on transformative learning. In K. Illeris (Ed.), Contemporary theories of learning: Learning theorists…in their own words (pp.90-105). New York, NY: Routlege.