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Transformative and Social Learning – In the Tradition of Freire

Frans Lenglet (Independent Researcher)

Transformative Research and Higher Education

ISBN: 978-1-80117-695-8, eISBN: 978-1-80117-694-1

Publication date: 8 March 2022


It is argued that social learning, transformative learning, collaborative learning and transgressive learning are branches and offshoots of the same ‘learning tree’. This chapter examines the sources and evolution of theories of education and learning focused on transforming the learners' self-understanding and transforming the structures and social arrangements in which they and their educational and learning processes are embedded. The ‘transformative learning’ theories reviewed here span the last 50 years. They critique and go beyond the functionalist understanding that education and learning are meant to socialize learners within existing or dominant cultural and societal structures and/or in function of the transmission of knowledge, skills and attitudes from generation to generation. The first part of this article covers transformative learning and learning for transformation in the tradition of Freire, Habermas, Mezirow, and others. The second part concentrates on more recent ideas of collaborative learning, social learning and deliberative social learning evolving into transformative, and transgressive learning. By highlighting the warp and weft of the conceptual traditions and pedagogical practice within a variety of contexts and conditions, a colourful tapestry of transformative education and learning emerges. It is shown that, over time, the pertinence of transformative learning has only increased. The evolution of transformative learning presents itself as a virtual cycle, starting from marginalized and excluded people and communities via individual persons engaged in adult education and environmental education, to (groups of) people participating in collaborative and transgressive social learning, thereby becoming capable and empowered actors in processes of societal change and transformation.



Lenglet, F. (2022), "Transformative and Social Learning – In the Tradition of Freire", Roij, A.B. (Ed.) Transformative Research and Higher Education, Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 145-160.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022 Frans Lenglet. Published under exclusive licence by Emerald Publishing Limited