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Transformative learning in times of crisis: Possible or not?

The Caledonian Hall in Kilmore Street, Christc...Image via Wikipedia

First, a thought for those in Christchurch as it has been more than 5 years since the February 22nd earth quake. A friend said “This week for us will be dominated by the 22nd - as we look back ...It’s been seriously hard ... for all who live in Christchurch, but as with any hardship and loss, we learn from it”.

A few bloggers posted immediately after the event in February 2011 about possible 'silver linings', and even transformations to the way education and business would be conducted in the future (see for example, the report from Douglas Harre, Derek Wenmoth's post, and one by Lisa Galarneau).

However, I wonder if, as the quakes continue, the conditions are conducive to enabling the necessary shifts in three dimensions - psychological (changes in understanding of the self), convictional (revision of belief systems), and behavioural (changes in lifestyle) (source). This, for me, was a catalyst for thinking about knock-on implications for learning and teaching in areas of the world where there are natural disasters, political unrest, and/or poverty.

Bandura (1963) asserted that most learning is shaped by our experiences and we are likely to imitate, and in part, replicate what we have participated in - especially in times of stress or extreme discomfort. For education and training, this means, in the words of the oft used cliché is 'we teach as we have been taught'.

The question arises, how can support be offered to educators in stressful contexts, such that adverse experiences may prove transformative? And alongside this question, when your life is in peril do you have the luxury of being " critically reflective of those beliefs that become problematic” (Mezirow, Jack et al., 2000, Learning as Transformation)...or is it a necessary part of survival and re-invention?  

Without such shifts in understandings, belief systems, and behaviours will we ever be in a position to have a significant impact on policy and the shape of education (including teacher education) in future years? 

Would be great to hear your thoughts :-) Please comment below.

Education online (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

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