What does transformative adult learning mean for global citizens? Interconnections between four research studies based in China and Australia

Year: 2016

Author: Wu, Qian, Zhang, Yixian, Nailon, Diane, Wang, Wenhan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Adults across the world engage in a wide range of formal and informal learning to achieve personal and professional goals. Some undertake their learning at home and some go abroad to join specific programs. Increasingly, what adults learn is dependent on the internationalisation of content knowledge and learning platforms. As individuals, ideas and learning opportunities are transformed through these global encounters, there is a need to examine their experiences and outcomes from more integrated frameworks. In this paper we draw on, and extend the work of Bronfenbrenner (1994), and Mezirow (2003) and suggest the need for adopting personal and geo-ecological perspectives to identify ‘embodied’ (Dix, 2016) aspects of transformative learning. We contend that as people and ideas intersect globally we need to examine transformative learning by finding personal and geo-ecological intersections in more expansive ways. We begin by considering four studies that explore cross-culture and within-culture experiences of adult learners. First, a mixed method study examines the experiences of Chinese students who chose to undertake higher education courses in a regional Australian university. This study attempts to build clear understandings about what motivates those individuals to study in another country, what they expect, and how they perceive their experiences of learning in a different culture. Second, a qualitative comparative study focuses on the perceptions of pre-service early childhood teachers choosing to learn about an internationally-based specialist curriculum. Set in Australia and China, participants are asked for their perceptions of the content and delivery of their course and how the learning might be applied when they graduate. The other two projects involve adults in less formal settings. The third study is an Australia/China comparative study seeking reasons for and outcomes from joining specialist sustainability action groups. The fourth study located in Australia examines outcomes from adult learners’ involvement in a specially designed continuing education program which draws upon international ideas. It explores personal changes such as attitudes and personal epistemologies. Our on-going interrogations of these four projects illustrate how the delivery of, and research into transformative adult learning in a global context involve personal and geo-ecological considerations. We are finding that adults’ expectations of learning at home and abroad are determined by what is embodied both personally and through their interactions with the world. Transformative cognitive processes linked to identity now extend on the personal and socio-cultural; namely self is compared with global ‘others’ (ideas, places, people).