Section 1 - Theoretical background
On a theoretical level, this paper’s research question draws from various theories of transformational learning, with particular emphasis on the latter’s concepts of theself. I primarily focus on the ideas of Paulo Freire and Jack Mezirow whosefoundational theories of learning provide for quite different accounts of the self, withloci at the social and personal levels respectively. In addition, over the last twodecades many additional perspectives on the self have emerged in thetransformation learning literature, including the emotional, imaginal and spiritualdimensions. From these narrative theory provides another exploratory lens for theinquiry.It is useful to first briefly look at Dirkx’s review of the self in transformationallearning for an overview.
He outlines several key concepts of the self that thesetheories draw from. Three are described here. In the
evolving knowing self
,represented by theorists included Mezirow, there is a concept of an innate core self which unfolds and is self-realised through the act of transformational learning, whilebeing influenced by environmental conditions. In contrast, the
emphasises the key roles that politico-economic structures have in shaping the self,in which learning occurs through a process of developing critical consciousness inrelation to one’s agency and hegemonic forces. Finally, in theories of the
the self is seen as emerging from how we construct our own narratives aboutourselves and the world. This idea tends to draw more from post-structural conceptsof the decentralised or ‘plural self’ in contrast to the unitary self implied through theknowing or structured self.I briefly outline key ideas from these three theories below.Paulo Freire’s developed his critical pedagogy in the political context of democraticising education in Brazil in the 1960s. His theory of liberation educationrecognised that the marginalised could not escape oppression within the standardeducation tradition – what he called the ‘banking’ approach, where active teachersdeposit knowledge in ‘empty’ and passive students. He writes:
The more students work at storing the deposits entrusted to them, the lessthey develop the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world as transformers of that world.