Transformative learning: how adults actually learn

Transformative Learning

Transformative learning theory was developed by Jack Mezirow in the late 1900s. He used this theory to describe how people develop and use critical self-reflecting to consider their beliefs and experiences, and over time, change dysfunctional means of seeing the world. Mezirow was interested in peoples’ worldviews and what leads people to change their particular view of the world.

Mezirow describes transformative learning as “learning that transforms problematic frames of reference to make them more inclusive, discriminating, reflective, open, and emotionally able to change.” A 2017 US site,, provides some simple steps for adult educators wanting to apply transformational learning.

There are three steps:

  1. think or critical reflection;
  2. apply to change behavior;
  3. and share to create a powerful peer learning community.