Role and transformation

9th October 2017 | Nicholas

So far, we have not discussed the importance of the role of the learners in transformational learning.

I was watching “Poldark” last night. In one scene there was a servant standing at the ready during a conversation between his master and another person. His master, a controlling rich guy, needed a list of names of some trespassers (actually, Methodists who wanted to use a building for a place of worship–rich guy saw them as a threat). He turned to the servant and appointed him as the new sheriff of the area. He was given a new role. In this scene the servant is acting very much the role of the subservient, obedient, one. The_sheriff.png

In a later scene, the servant in his new role as sheriff is commanding and threatening–much the opposite of his previous self.

Educationally, most programs put the student into the role of …



Sometimes we put the student in a different role temporarily. Presenter is a role when the student is required to make a presentation, for example.

But we rarely put the student into an active role such as…

the agent of change in a particular situation (of local relevance).

What do we mean? In Victor’s previous blog called It is happening he shares the reflections of one of the participants:

The two seminars we have had so far are fruitful. Many time pastors do not notice that they have to balance ministry and family. This was my case. Before the seminars, I was not able to differentiate between my ministry and my family. I gave almost all of my time for ministry and ignored my family. After the seminars, I am now able to balance between ministry and family and have resolved (1) To spend time with my family as husband and father; to provide for my family needs as the bread winner. 

Did you catch it?

  • Husband
  • Father
  • Bread winner (provider)

It was the legitimizing of these roles that freed him from the overemphasis of the one role, pastor.

RolesThe other pastors who reflected on the seminars did not state so plainly the role but practically speaking, they did take on new roles.

Caring husband. Involved father. Provider.

As I said, we have not discussed this much. I suggest that when the student is allowed to see themselves in a new role, it is a powerful contributor to transformational learning. It is worth exploring when it might be appropriate to define the role more clearly at the development of the learning response. Perhaps it is better, as we have seen above, to let the students decide what their role will be called, if anything at all.

One final thought here. It was the role of pastor that was getting in the way of these other roles, so this training was developed because of the situation of those pastors in that role.

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Richard Morris

10th October 2017 7:32am

Thanks, Nicholas.

I think that looking at role in learning design is important in two respects. As you have indicated, it is helpful in the design of transformative learning for the designer to consider roles. Do roles need to be clarified? Are new roles to be introduced and experienced? Do existing roles need to be rebalanced etc.?

This can then lead to activities for the learner in reflecting on current roles and maybe to embrace a new role. In the case of Victor's example a key goal of the learning needs to be to help the learner bring all three roles into focus and learn how to bring them into balance.

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