Transformative Learning in an Online Context: The Experiences of Non-Traditional Learners in a Scottish HEI

Mongiello, Alice J. F. (2015). Transformative Learning in an Online Context: The Experiences of Non-Traditional Learners in a Scottish HEI. EdD thesis The Open University.



This thesis explores non-traditional learners’ retrospective experiences of transformative learning having completed an online Childhood Practice Degree one year prior to participating in this research project. The central aim was to investigate the nature of learners’ transformations and establish the potential of the online context as a space capable of fostering transformative learning. Using a purposive sampling strategy, nineteen graduates were selected to take part in the research. Adopting a qualitative approach based on a constructivist view of human knowledge, semi-structured asynchronous email interviews were used to collect the data. A total of three hundred and ten email exchanges took place. As an online method the email interview offered space to reflect and space to be silent which increased reflexivity for participants to construct, reflect upon and learn from their responses. Data was analysed using a hybrid thematic approach which recognised the inherent interplay between inductive and deductive analysis.

Findings indicate that the process of interactivity is fundamental to establishing the conditions capable of fostering transformative learning in an online context. While human interactivity lies at the heart of this process the technology acts as a significant enabler which has the capacity to create a level playing field and meeting the needs of non-traditional learners more effectively. The research findings confirmed the relational, intersubjective nature of transformative learning online and the significance of establishing relationships based on mutual recognition. There is also evidence to suggest that undertaking a Childhood Practice Degree can create conditions capable of promoting all three forms of self-awareness: self-confidence, self-respect and self-esteem. Research findings also support the current impetus to build on Mezirow’s original work to develop a more unified perspective.

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