Fostering A Culture Of Transformative Learning Through Informal Learning Experiences
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Transformative Learning Theory And Examples For Applying The Theory In The Workplace

Transformational learning provides a constructivist process by which meaningful learning takes place. Mezirow’s theory goes beyond simple instructional acquisition and supports critical ways learners consciously make meaning of their lives. This learner-centric theory begins with the shifting from unquestioning acceptance of information to conscious and reflective learning experiences. This will result in a change in previously accepted worldviews and perspectives.

Transformational learning consists of 2 basic types of learning: instrumental and communicative learning. Instrumental learning focuses on learning through real-world, task-oriented problem solving, such as scenarios and on-the-job training. Communicative learning describes the methods individuals use to communicate their feelings, desires, beliefs, and worldviews. The 2 basic types of learning work together to help individuals define the world around them.

Another key aspect of the transformational learning theory is meaning structures, or the individual’s preconceived perspectives, and beliefs. Meaning structures are divided into 3 sets of codes: sociolinguistic codes, psychological codes, and epistemic codes. A meaning scheme is "the constellation of concept, belief, judgment, and feelings which shape a particular interpretation" (Mezirow 2006). Challenging meaning structures is key to achieving change within the employees in an organization. Challenging meaning structures takes place when individuals are able to problem solve, collaborate, and reflect on basic processes.

While transformative learning can take place within both formal and informal learning experiences, research suggests that knowledge acquisition is more likely to occur through informal learning experiences than formal learning sessions. The Center for Creative Leadership suggests that 70% of learning takes place through informal learning experiences, and 20% takes place through formal learning sessions. Thus, making transformative learning through informal learning experiences a cost-effective solution to providing development opportunities that will inspire lasting change.

7 Informal Learning Experiences That Increase Transformative Learning

Changes in perspectives lead to transformative learning. As Instructional Designers, creating experiences where individuals can explore, collaborate, and self-reflect will lead to lasting changes in the learning culture of an organization.

Below are 7 informal learning experiences that will inspire transformative learning in any organization.

1. Workplace Mentoring And Coaching Program

Thoughtfully pairing a new inductee with a more seasoned inductee based on personality, beliefs, motivations, and perspectives will help the new inductee learn the role through problem-solving, experience, and social reflection. Mentors and mentees should schedule meetings to discuss the challenge and reflect on experiences. Reflection is a key facet in facilitating instrumental learning.

2. Social Learning Groups

Designing learning solutions that incorporate social media threads (i.e. Twitter, LinkedIn, LMS like Cornerstone On Demand) into the learning experiences can lead to paradigm shift in perspectives. This could happen due to individuals being inspired by fellow learners. Developing groups, where employees can join to learn more about topics they would like to develop in, will facilitate a self-directed learning approach. Social forums can be facilitated or semi-formal to encourage knowledge acquisition, idea sharing, problem-solving, reflection, and innovation for the company or organization. Social collaboration is key to facilitating communicative learning to help learners communicate their perspectives and knowledge. Transformation often occurs in a community where individuals are able to safely discuss and explore topics of interest.

3. Informal Expert Learning Webinars And Sessions

Leading experts from various aspects of the organization can speak on various topics related to the organization and have them posted to the organization’s LMS or social media. Individuals can watch segments on demand to hear perspectives of experts in the field of their interest. Providing learning experts challenges methodical epistemology thus leading to transformational learning in the individual. Allowing individuals to ask questions on a learning chat forum will enrich communicative learning experiences.

4. Personalized Learning Paths

Instructional Designers can also develop learning paths to help individuals achieve learning goals and transform the learning process. As an Instructional Designer, it is important to be clear about the goals of the learning path, select activities that support the path (video content, articles, webinars or any other useful resources). Learners can also contribute to it by collaborating with social groups or using other sources to obtain information. Instructional Designers can create short knowledge markers to ensure self-directed learners are able to obtain the end goal. A learning badge or certificate can be provided once the learning path is developed.

5. Developing Microlearning Strategy For Self-Study

Developing Reusable Learning Objects (RLOs) for common topics that address organizational knowledge and skill gaps allows learners to choose learning that is most relevant to changing perspectives and beliefs.

6. Scenario-Based Gamified Learning Solutions

Scenario-based opportunities provide learners with a safe space to think critically and solve problems of real-world scenarios and situations. Make learning fun with providing individuals with learning scenario based quests to transform existing meaning schemes into newly acquired skills and knowledge.

7. Job Shadowing

Developing a job shadowing opportunity provides learners with an opportunity to form new perspectives of various potential roles. Evidence suggests that transformation cannot take place until individuals are able to actively take steps to reflect and acknowledge their new beliefs.

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