Transformative learning: An exploration of the BA in Community and Family Studies graduates’ experiences
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This thesis explored the existence and impact of transformative learning experiences among adult learner graduates of the BA in Community and Family Studies programme (BCFS). The researcher sought to consider whether graduates of the BCFS programme which is a part-time distance learning degree programme for adult learners accredited by NUI Galway; experienced transformative learning during the course of the BCFS programme. The overarching research question that this empirical study sought to respond to was: What effect(s) has the BCFS programme on the personal and professional development of graduates’ life paths? Therefore, this core research question was addressed in this study through four study objectives which underpinned the research purpose and mission of this empirical study. Comparisons across and between BCFS graduate participants’ experiences and their fellow graduates’ respective experiences were drawn. The empirical study sought to inform future andragogical practice, teaching and policy both nationally and internationally based on the learning and insight drawn from the diverse graduate perspectives, programmes of study (BCFS and Non-BCFS), modes of study (full-time and part-time), and personal life circumstances. Transformative Learning theory (TL) according to Mezirow (2000) is constituted from historical, social and development experiences that occur in ‘epochal’ and/ or ‘incremental’ stages for learners. Mezirow developed TL theory to document the positive stages of development that were identified in adult learners’ personal and educational life paths. The study participants were all graduates of the BA in Community and Family Studies programme (BCFS) between the years 2010-2014. The graduate participants for this study were selected based on the premise that they were BCFS graduates. The emprical data was collected through a mixed methods approach which included surveys, interactive management and semi-structured interviews. Interactive management was used in this study as it is a new methodology to the social science discipline. It is a thought and action mapping strategy to aid individuals and groups from diverse perspectives to develop dispositions and outcomes through engagement in discussion and deliberations as a collective. The multi-modal approach used in this study enabled respondents to deliberate upon their experiences in Higher Education and to offer insight on future andragogical research, policy and practice. The overall study findings indicated that the developmental experiences; emotional intelligence awareness and growth were the most self-professed evident aspect of the TL journey for the BCFS graduates. In particular, the impact of the transformative learning experiences through participation on the BCFS programme increased graduates’ interest in community engagement; the second impact of the BCFS programme was that it enhanced graduates social relationships and networks at a personal and community level. Thirdly, the graduates shared that their participation on the BCFS programme had developed their mentoring and peer support roles towards other learners in their social network. In conclusion, Transformative Learning (TL) was considered a key experience of the BA in Community and Family Studies programme (BCFS) graduates within this study. The andragogical process was considered core to the acquisition of the skills and qualities the graduates now possess. All respondents agreed that these attributes belonged to them on completion of the programme and have positively impacted on their life paths.