[6.1] Theoretical Approaches DiscussionRead chapter 26 in the Routledge Handbook (Soeters et al. (20


[6.1] Theoretical Approaches DiscussionRead chapter 26 in the Routledge Handbook (Soeters et al. (2014)) (Theory-building) and then skim the articles in course resources on participatory action research, developmental perspectives, scholar-practitioner integration, and transformational learning to see which of these theoretical approaches most interests you. Select one or more of these articles and post a short reflective piece explaining why this theoretical perspective interests you, and how you might work further with these conceptual models of practice or inquiry. 250 words minimum with reference and citation


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Resonance as
Transformative Learning
Moment: The Key to
Transformation in
Sociocultural and
Posttrauma Contexts
Journal of Transformative Education
2014, Vol. 12(1) 95-119
ª The Author(s) 2014
Reprints and permission:
DOI: 10.1177/1541344614541547
Yabome Gilpin-Jackson1,2
This article describes the findings from a study of the transformation experiences of African
war survivors to understand how the process of transformative learning is experienced in
posttrauma contexts. A narrative inquiry was conducted based on 12 interviews of African
war survivors in Canada and 6 autobiographical accounts of survivors living in Canada,
United States, and England. The results show that the following six themes of a postwar
narrative define the process of transformation: (1) resonance as transformative learning
moment, (2) realizing purpose in the postwar narrative, (3) social consciousness as an
outcome of transformation learning, (4) determination: the will to achieve postwar goals,
(5) spiritual and moral development, and (6) value of life. The theme of resonance as
transformative learning moment is the core of this process and raises questions for the
practice of transformative learning where trauma and social change are part of the context.
transformative learning, social change, personal transformation, sociocultural
perspectives, posttraumatic growth, African narratives, war trauma
Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada
Human and Organization Development Department (alumni), Fielding Graduate University,
Santa Barbara, CA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Yabome Gilpin-Jackson, Port Coquitlam, BC British Columbia V3B 8A2, Canada.
Email: yabome@supportingdevelopment.com
Journal of Transformative Education 12(1)
The overall context for the intentional practice of transformative learning has shifted
from andragogy to include workplaces, communities, and international settings,
where informal learning is significant (Mejiuni, 2012; Mezirow, Taylor, & Associates, 2009; Ntesane, 2012; Taylor, Cranton, & Associates, 2012; Watkins, Marsick,
& Faller, 2012). By transformative learning, I mean learning that occurs when individuals and society arrive at broader meaning perspectives and worldviews as a
result of reconceptualizing previously unquestioned assumptions through rational
and extrarational processes (Cranton & Roy, 2003; Dirkx, Mezirow, & Cranton,
2006; Sands & Tennant, 2010).
Transformative learning has been applied to facilitate change in developing world
contexts where social trauma or traumatic events have required social healing, social
justice, and social change (Belenky & Stanton, 2000; Bloom, 1998; Brookfield,
2000; Daloz, 2000; Mezirow et al., 2009). However, the intersection of transformative learning and posttrauma contexts remains largely unexplored. Existing studies
of transformation in the context of trauma tend to be studies of individuals surviving
individually traumatic or chronic events (Rosner & Powell, 2006; Sands & Tennant,
2010). This article provides a summary of findings from a study of the transformational experiences of war-affected African immigrants and refugees in Canada, the
United States, and England.
The Process of Transformation Learning in the Context of Trauma
One missing piece in the theory and practice of transformative learning in broader
sociocultural and non-Western contexts is an understanding of how the process is
experienced in these arenas. The default for the transformative learning process in
practice is Mezirow’s 10-step process of transformation (Mezirow, 1991). This is
a process oriented in Western understanding and the individual psychocritical
approach to transformative learning, not the sociocultural and holistic perspectives
to transformation that apply in this case. This raises the question, how do people in
posttraumatic contexts that require social change, experience the process of transformative learning?
Some insights from traumatic learning theory and neurobiology have contributed
to our understanding of how transformation occurs in posttraumatic contexts. Neurobiology research from Janik (2005) has shown that structural changes occur in the
brain that support learning in posttrauma contexts, proposing among other things
that, ‘‘transformative learning (1) requires discomfort prior to discovery; (2) is
rooted in students’ experiences, needs, and interests; (3) is strengthened by emotive,
sensory, and kinesthetic experiences . . . ’’ (Janik, 2005; Taylor, 2008, p. 8). A biopsychosocial perspective also shows that in posttrauma situations, transformative
learning is possible because the metaschema which includes concepts of self, society, and nature are shattered and requires reconstitution such that metalearning and
posttraumatic growth can be expected outcomes after trauma (Christopher, 2004).
Most relevant for this study was the work of Sands and Tennant (2010). Their study
showed that transformative learning in the context of bereavement trauma generally
aligns with Mezirow’s process but also highlights emotional engagement as the heart
of the transformative learning process (Sands & Tennant, 2010).
Posttraumatic Growth and Transformative Learning
A significant body of work that has contributed to knowledge of growth and transformation in posttrauma situations is the literature on posttraumatic growth (PTG).
PTG refers to the experiences (inclusive of the process and the outcome) of individuals who attain greater growth and develop more humane social behaviors following
a trauma of seismic proportions (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 1998, 2006a, 2006b;
Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1995, 2004; Tedeschi, Park, & Calhoun, 1998). A trauma of
seismic proportion means a trauma that deeply challenges existing cognitive schemas such that cognitive structures holding fundamental assumptions about the world
must be replaced. PTG is defined in three growth outcomes identified by Tedeschi
and Calhoun (1995) through qualitative research as perceived changes in self, interpersonal relationships, and philosophy of life or worldview.
The congruence between PTG and transformative learning is self-evident. Meaning making, perspective transformation, and a trigger event or process that challenges one’s presuppositions and assumptions are all shared requirements of the
two processes. Overall, we can expect to see both epistemological and ontological
changes realized from transformative learning and PTG (Kegan, 2000; Lange,
2004; Mezirow, 1991, 2000; Morland, Butler, & Leskin, 2008; O’Leary, Alday, &
Ickovics, 1998; Sands & Tennant, 2010).
Therefore, the maturation of the PTG process could inform an expanded view of
transformative learning in sociocultural context where individual and social change
agendas intersect in posttraumatic contexts. The PTG process more fully accounts
for sociocultural influences and the role of multiple ways of knowing in both the
attainment and the outcomes associated with growth. For example, the impact of
sociocultural influences on how the process is experienced has been articulated and
the role of narrative, wisdom, religion, and spirituality more fully integrated (Aldwin
& Sutton, 1998; Calhoun, Cann, & Tedeschi, 2010; Calhoun, Cann, Tedeschi, &
McMillan, 2000; Weiss & Berger, 2010). Thus, an understanding of the PTG process
was also used to inform the research methodology.
The Contextual Influences of War and Immigration
It is necessary to hold awareness of the contexts of war and immigration from which
the transformational growth and development experiences of the participants
described in this study emerged.
Journal of Transformative Education 12(1)
Multiple factors have been identified as causes of African wars, and there is no
single or simple cause (Mazrui, 2008; Zeleza, 2008). There, however, are two distinct strands into which various arguments and explanations of the causes of African
wars seem to fall. One strand covers the local or internal causes of war within the
borders of the country or subregion (Amoako, 1999; de Waal, 2000; Docking,
2002; Granville, 2008). By contrast, the critical examination suggests that the oftcited internal causes of war are merely symptoms and consequences of deep and
complex historical, colonial, economic, and political problems, exacerbated in the
context of a world system that marginalizes Africa (Collier & Hoeffler, 2002; de
Waal, 2000; Elbadawi & Sambanis, 2000; Hawkins, 2008; Mazrui, 2008; Shah,
2010; Tshitereke, 2003; Zeleza, 2008).
For the purpose of this study, I wish to highlight through the debate on African wars that the African situation is complex, systemic, and local as well as
global, with many actors and many competing interests. For example, the Sierra
Leonean and Liberian wars are notable examples of war transference across borders, where Sierra Leone has been explained as an ahistorical civil war of social
banditry fueled by an economic world system that facilitated export of blood
diamonds traded for unwanted arms (HistoryWorld.net, 2009). As reported,
‘‘Liberia’s Charles Taylor shows how successful war entrepreneurs think globally but act locally, using violence to exploit marketable natural resources without necessarily controlling the state’’ (Luckham, Ahmed, Muggah, & White,
2001, p. 1). The goal is to use social banditry, tactics of violence, and widespread chaos against the state, social institutions, and civilians, to show the
inability of the powers that be to govern and protect the people (Zeleza,
2008, pp. 7–8). Other African countries that have experienced social banditry
include Congos, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Uganda. The wars in the Great Lakes
of East and Central Africa have interlocked histories and genesis rooted in ethnic violence and genocide. It has been argued that it is a moot point as to
whether these wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi
are viewed as separate or as a single conflict zone (Luckham et al., 2001). The
wars in Northern Uganda and both Sudan’s are likewise characterized by a combination of internal and external factors, ranging from ethno-religious reprisals
to regional and international collusion for the furtherance of the resourcedriven, economic and political agendas of self-interested parties (P’Okot,
1997; Suliman, 1994).
Survivors of African wars have described the human impact in terms of lives lost
and destroyed, families separated, atrocities suffered, violence enacted, children
forced into becoming soldiers, forced acts of cannibalism, violence, rape (including
children), and mutilation of own family members (Stepakoff, 2007). The impact of
wars in Africa has further social and economic repercussions. It destroys the economy and infrastructure and promotes capital flight. Amoako projected back in 1999
that as a result of wars, Africa had not accomplished the economic growth needed to
reduce poverty to half by 2015:
as we saw so tragically in Rwanda, Liberia and Sierra Leone, civil war not only devastates the lives of civilians: it damages the environment; it wreaks havoc on social, education and health services; it traumatizes whole generations of youth; and it forces
people to abandon homes and farming land, engulfing once stable family units in a
flood of refugees. (Amoako, 1999, p. 3)
All these African nations represented by the participants in the scope of this discussion continue to rank lowest globally, according to the 2012 United Nations human
development index report (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
[UNHCR], 2012).
The traumatic impacts of wars are not always mitigated by immigration. In fact,
immigration experiences can compound traumatic war experiences. Immigrants and
refugees are exposed to complex stressors at every level of their individual and
social selves. At the individual level, newcomers are faced with cognitive, physical/biological, social, psychological, spiritual, and cultural challenges as a result
of migration (Este, 1999; Fong, 2004). In addition, for refugees, war and violence
exposes these individuals to multilayered and often prolonged periods of emotional
distress and trauma specifically because migration is involuntary (Aldous, 1999;
Weiss & Berger, 2008). Research shows that the migration process exposes immigrants to significant stress due to the challenges they experience in transit and in
adapting to their country of settlement (Berry, 1997; Reitmanova & Gustafson,
2009; Shakespeare-Finch & Wickham, 2009).
As such, African postwar narratives are depicted as narratives of trauma within
Western-defined constructs of psychopathology such as posttraumatic stress disorder (de Jong & Kleber, 2006; de Jong, Mulham, & van der Kam, 2000; Galea
et al., 2010; Kienzler, 2008). Africa postwar experiences have been essentialized
with little regard paid to African worldviews and human development perspectives
(Nsamenang, 2003, 2005, 2007; Ntesane, 2012). This is in spite of the fact that African sociogenic, community-based, and holistic ways of knowing and being do support transformation possibilities, especially posttrauma (Arenliu & Landsman, 2010;
Shakespeare-Finch & Enders, 2008; Shakespeare-Finch & Wickham, 2009; Simich,
Maiter, & Ochocka, 2009; Weiss & Berger, 2008). This study presents a fuller picture of the African war narrative—that of people who not only have defied the
trauma narrative but have thrived and are living out positive lives despite the harm
they have suffered.
The study was a narrative inquiry to explore how African war survivors describe their
transformational growth and development experiences. In attempting to understand
the philosophies, ways of knowing, and being of Africans, Bell (2002) explained that
Africans have a long tradition of story and narrative in literary and iconic forms as a
basis for critical reflection and expression. Fictional and autobiographical accounts of
Journal of Transformative Education 12(1)
African experiences are therefore a means of understanding African experiences.
They provide aesthetic entryways into African experiences as is and present a
forum to ‘‘see and hear the realities that are African; . . . enable non-Africans to
encounter’’ ‘‘‘an aspect of’ that experience . . . [and] become ‘present to’ how an
African gives voice to the truths of her world’’ (Bell, 2002, p. 14). This type of
understanding of experience is at the heart of this study, and Bell (2002) asserts
that non-African audiences must be open to seeing and understanding African
experiences from within the ways that they give expression to their lives. Narrative
is also congruent with the theoretical constructs of transformative learning and
posttraumatic growth.
The study included analysis of 6 published autobiographical accounts of African
war narratives and 12 accounts collected through narrative interviews. Focusing on a
few cases is seen as common practice within the narrative research tradition (Chase,
2005). Indeed, a study targeted at Ghanaian and Nigerian women has shown that
meta-themes emerge as early as at 6 interviews, with 12 interviews marking the
point of theoretical saturation (Guest, Bunce, & Johnson, 2006). My conceptualization of narrative followed the ‘‘phenomenological assumption that experience can,
through stories, become part of consciousness’’ (Squire, 2008, p. 1). This orientation
presumes that experience can be re-presented and reconstructed to create meaning
and transformation.
The 12 narrative interviews were designed to uncover stories of transformational
growth and development following war experiences. All 12 interviewees were Canadian immigrants and refugees who had been through a recent civil war or prolonged
armed conflict defined as a war that took place or was ongoing from 1990 to date.
Interviewees were nominated by community members who identified themselves as
leaders, advocates, or active participants in their communities or who are otherwise
taking actions that constitute significant personal, professional, and social interest/
change following their war experience. The published works were selected because
they were autobiographical, based on accounts of Africans who experienced an African war. Although interviewees were all immigrants and refugees in Canada, these
autobiographies added texture by including the immigration contexts of England and
the United States also.
The final group of 12 interviewees included five Sierra Leoneans, two Liberians,
one Burundian, one from Congo Brazzaville, one Ethiopian, and two Rwandans. The
published autobiographies represented narratives from Sierra Leone, Uganda, the
Sudans (South Sudan and Darfur), and Rwanda. There was an exact 50% gender balance in the final group, with six men and six women interviewees. The age range of
participants was 25–62 years, with four participants in the age range of 25–35, seven
in their 40s, and one over 60. The combined interviewees and autobiographers represented a variety of war perspectives and experiences, including internally displaced people, genocide survivors, refugees who escaped and lived in camps,
victims of atrocities such as rape and amputation, forced combatants—both a girl
and boy soldier, a war hostage, and asylum seekers.
I allocated up to 2 hrs for the interviews, which is standard practice for narratives
that include aspects of life stories (Atkinson, 2002, 2007). I used thematic narrative
analysis and the zoom model to analyze a total of 144 pages of transcripts generated
from the interviews as well as the selected narratives for interpretation within each
autobiography (Pamphilon, 1999; Riessman, 2008). The selected narratives from the
autobiographies were bounded segments of text that felt like narratives of transformation or growth, whether defined by theme, structure, metaphor, poetry, affect, or
otherwise. The zoom model is a narrative analysis model that provides a systemic
way of analyzing narratives at four levels of focus, the macrozoom, mesozoom,
microzoom, and interactional zoom (Pamphilon, 1999). I used the first three of the
zoom levels for analysis as described in the findings and chose to diminish the interactional zoom in service of focusing on the content and process described by
The macrozoom is the zoom level that focuses on uncovering dominant discourses,
narrative forms, and cohort effects that are inherent in and frame participants’ narration. Dominant discourses refer to sociocultural influences narrators refer to that
impact their postwar growth. Narrative forms refer to the type of story narrators signify and cohort effects refer to the subsequent influence of external and historical
events on the groups of people affected. Cohort effects were not examined.
In this study, the macrozoom surfaced three dominant sociocultural discourses:
(a) holistic knowing; (b) social norms: family, community, and taboos; and (c) storytelling. Holistic knowing reflected a spiritual and existential frame of reference that
participants arrived at through extrarational cognition. The narrators’ stories were
bounded within social norms surrounding family values, connection to community,
and social taboos. Storytelling and related oral genres were reflected in how the stories were told and in how narrators made meaning of their experiences.
The dominant sociocultural discourses combined to unveil a narrative form of
transformation, confirming that participants perceive themselves to have experienced transformation from their war trauma. Each narrator included at some point,
a signal to how they had arrived at a narrative of transformation, using metaphors
and key phrases that signaled their overcoming of trials and war …
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