Perceptions of Transformative Learning by Christian Education Professors
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” – Corinthians 3:18 (NIV).
The article chosen is, ‘Perception and Experience of Transformative Learning and Faculty Authenticity Among North American Professors of Christian Education (NAPCE)’ by Hoykung Paul Kang examines the importance of authenticity of Christian professors who have had experience with the transformative model of learning and its impact in the classroom setting. The research question is, ‘how do Christian education (CE) professors perceive and experience transformative learning and faculty authenticity?’.
Hokyung Paul Kang (Ph.D., Talbot School of Theology, Biola University) serves as an Education pastor at First Evangelical Holiness Church of Gimhae, Korea, and teaches as a lecturer at Sydney College of Divinity. Kang begins his review of literature by defining transformative learning and its origin. Transformative learning is based on a research study conducted by Jack Mezirow in 1978. Mezirow studied women who returned to school to obtain higher education after a long break for the academic setting. Mezirow discovered that there are ten stages of the transformative process with three core elements. These elements include a disorienting dilemma, critical reflection, and integration (Mezirow, 2009). Disorienting dilemmas occur following a life-altering experience, such as the death of a loved one or the loss of employment. Critical reflection leads to questions concerning the meaning of life with the adult learner integrating these self-reflective answers into one’s lifestyle. Ultimately the learner begins to observe ideas and experiences differently based on life experiences.
Kang also stresses the importance of presenting oneself as an authentic and genuine instructor intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and culturally. According to Kang, an active instructor understands how these qualities result in real relationships with students. Qualities such as honesty, integrity, and morality build a trusting relationship between the instructor and student, resulting in a transformative experience for both.
The methodology used for this qualitative study was grounded theory research. The research question is, ‘how do Christian education (CE) professors perceive and experience transformative learning and faculty authenticity?’. Like most qualitative studies, it was difficult to determine the dependent and independent variables. There was no quantitative data used in this study, which allows for more manipulation of the data by the researcher. Qualitative data is more flexible, and therefore the results are difficult to replicate.
The researcher obtained the sample from members of the North American Professors of Christian Education. The investigator accessed member information from board members and executive administrative officers. The investigator sent out 46 invitations to professors requesting participation in the study, and nineteen responded. The research consisted of three phases. Three of the nineteen had less than eight years of teaching experience as a full-time professor. Therefore only sixteen completed all three stages of the study. This group did not represent a randomly selected group since they were self-selected. Only those members who were willing to have their opinions recorded came forward. The information received for this sample selection cannot be generalized to other Christian educators outside this membership. There were four females included in the study. If possible, the researcher should have added more women. This researcher could have compared data collected from the two populations, and the demographics broken down into different ethnic groups and denominations.
Several recurring themes were noted by the researcher. Interestingly, the researcher did not use a tool to categorize his findings or current themes. Grounded theory research is used to develop theories about criteria being studied; therefore a questionnaire may be utilized, and the answers coded. However, there was no objective data noted to support these themes. Coding is fundamental to grounded theory research. The researcher interviewed the participants and recorded the interaction. Based on the nature of the study, the researchers must be careful when asking probing questions. Some questions may evoke negative feelings and emotions, and the researchers may not understand. The recordings were then transcribed. The researcher listened to audiotapes to determine his themes. The researcher reports, “some of the major components of data verification were a thorough reading of the transcribed data source, as well as intense listening to the recorded data source”. He further reports that the “data reduction process involved concepts by identifying and locating ideas that are repeated, similar, contrasting, unfamiliar, and metaphorical”. This method of data collection is subject to biased interpretation without supporting objective criteria. This type of data collection requires much time. Also, the researchers reviewing the tapes and transcription must be knowledgeable about what they are studying.
The results of the study indicated that professors experienced more transformative learning when they became humble and student-focused. The professors were able to teach from the content and yet apply it to real life. Many of the participants understood the importance of being authentic and how this enhanced learning for the student. Professors became aware of their vulnerabilities and how their struggles and failures helped in the transformation of their lives. This allowed the students the opportunity to share their weaknesses without guilt or shame. The professors understood the importance of caring and fostering effective, acceptable relationships with their students, yet knowing the boundaries within those relationships.
Further research in this area is needed, including the perception of transformative learning for pastors and elders. Educators who are not members of the NAPCE should be included. Studies are required to include students’ perceptions of faculty transformative learning and authenticity. Quantitative data should be included in this data to support findings.
All the variables examined in this study are essential for ministry. However, humility is the basis for transformative learning. Transformative learning goes beyond intellectual reasoning to life change, which occurs only through Christ Jesus. Transformative learning is at the heart of discipleship. Discipleship encourages individuals to lay aside ‘self’ and follow Christ. Transformative learning is grounded in the working of the Holy Spirit and progressive sanctification. Pastors and ministerial leaders must understand the process of transformation. They must not ridicule or condemn the members of the congregation as they are continually being transformed into the image of Christ. Many unbelievers are impressed by believers who are empathetic, understanding, and able to relate to difficulties and challenges in others’ lives. Individuals must remember they have not been believers all their lives. They must recognize the love and authenticity of Christ and how He transformed their lives.
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