The 2017 Transformative Learning Conference was held March 2-3, in Oklahoma City, and featured several activities of note for adult learning educators.
Keynoter Dr. Saundra McGuire presented a workshop the opening morning of conference programming. Dr. McGuire’s Teach Students How to Learn has resonated strongly at many institutions of higher education across the U.S. with its practical advice for how to help students motivate themselves to learn with less of the struggle so often present simply because students don’t know how to learn, and faculty don’t have the tools to teach them this valuable, transformative skill.
International representation at the conference continued, with registrants from South Africa, Australia, Latvia, Germany, and Canada. The international presence was appreciated because many international institutions are particularly focused on TL for its potential to: 1) improve teaching and learning within the institution’s curriculum and co-curriculum, and 2) empower graduates with an ethos and skills focused on contributing to the social good and sustaining culture, language, and environment. Such a focus, of course, hearkens to Paolo Freire as well as to Jack Mezirow.
On a related note, one of the other workshops at the conference was led by Dr. Melissa Peet of the University of Michigan. Dr. Peet is the originator of the Integrated Knowledge Portfolio Process (IKPP), a powerful means to help students discover the implicit strengths they already possess but of which they are consciously unaware. Once made concrete and visible, these skills and abilities become sources of resiliency and empowerment. IKPP is in place at multiple institutions of higher education, with the impact on students resulting in both quantitative and qualitative improvements. One common improvement is the ability of students to adapt knowledge and skills gained in a given place to other situations — see Dr. Peet’s article about this in Vol. 3, No. 2 of the Journal of Transformative Learning. (Note: Chrome and Firefox browsers play much more successfully, in general, with online journal software than does IE.)
Third in the conference’s workshop line-up was the one presented by Dr. Bucky Dodd, originator of Learning Environment Modeling (LEM) and head of the Institute for Learning Environment Design. LEM is an accessible, sensible, and intuitive approach to instructional design, whether for online, F2F, or blended classes. Dr. Dodd led workshoppers through an introduction and hands-on work with LEM, which is conceptually and operationally a big-picture understanding of course design focused on learning outcomes but developed for practitioners who don’t necessarily need to bring a deep-dive history of learning theory in order to be “out-of-the-box” successful.
With 76 proposals received in answer to the call for proposals, session quality was high. Among session titles were, “A Matter of Perspective: Transformative Learning and Diversity in the Classrom,” “The Power of Reflective Practice: Making Learning Experiences Transformative,” and, “Seeing the House in a Pile of Stones: Helping Learners Make Sense of How Facts Become Knowledge.”
Always a high point was the student poster competition. Graduate and undergraduate students presented posters about projects that involve Transformative Learning. The creativity and passion exhibited by students were both energizing and were harbingers of what is to come in the field of adult education.
For any able to attend this low-cost conference, the value-add for adult education-based learning and networking is substantial. Please consider a visit to Oklahoma City for the next Transformative Learning Conference, dates pending --- visit the conference link above to learn details when they become available. (And BTW, OKC has the Thunder, of course, but did you know OKC also has a canal running through its Bricktown Entertainment District, Olympic training and qualifying on the Oklahoma River in rowing, and a recently opened world-class whitewater rapids area on the river?)