Response: June 2017 Issue

Responsively Yours: What Is Transformative Education?

Responsively Yours: What Is Transformative Education?

I love learning. New books, languages and sounds, immersive experiences, creative museum displays, fresh notebooks—I love it all. Each learning opportunity connects to something else, and sometimes new insights and perspectives just start unfolding. I love learning—until I don’t.

When facts, opinions or theological claims are presented that threaten something I “know” or believe, I start pressing. What about this or that? What’s the authority for this claim? Who else agrees with this description or analysis? Sometimes this is a way of understanding that helps me to learn faster because I see the points of connection with my existing knowledge and belief. Sometimes I discover that the startling claims were not reliable or that they were exaggerated. Critical thinking is important and helpful to learning.

At other times, my questions are a way of distancing myself from new claims or new information that troubles me. Sometimes this information even makes me angry. I have learned that this is a good time to take a breath and begin listening even more deeply. Something has gotten under my skin, and I have the opportunity to learn something about myself and my perspectives and, often, something important about the world.

For me these are experiences of transformational learning, when I am hearing stories of our national mission institutions or of the cumulative burden that some of our sisters carry and the laws, policies and prejudices that are part of that burden have changed how I see the world. Seeing the similarities of the aspirations of women around the world and the variety of barriers they face have changed how I see the world.

I think these sorts of experiences may be transformational for you as well.

I met one of our members at an event not too long ago, and she started conversation about the mission study Immigration and the Bible. She told me that she went to Mission u "expecting to be angry all weekend.” She works as a paymaster and had clear views about immigration, and her expectations were met: she was angry all weekend. However, while she was driving home, “God began to work on me,” she said. “I am a different paymaster today.” We didn’t have time for more conversation, and both of us got a little choked up as she was speaking, so I don’t know what this looks like for her now, but it’s proof of transformative education at work.

Like our sister at Mission u, each of us comes to learning with background and experience. We have a framework through which we see the world and see God at work. Sometimes learning new things messes with our framework. Sometimes our thinking shifts gradually and naturally, and sometimes we have a radical shift in perspective.

It’s only natural that some of us sometimes fight those radical shifts. We feel that our existing frameworks have served us well. But if we have too small a view of God’s activity, or too negative a view of our own capacity, or an uninformed view about another person or a group, our perspective needs to shift, and our new thinking should lead us to new ways of speaking and acting.

What a blessing that our God is in the transformation business and that education is one of God’s tools.

Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary
United Methodist Women

Posted or updated: 6/2/2017 12:00:00 AM