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Focus On Basics

Volume 5, Issue B ::: October 2001

TV411 and the Transformation of Self

by L. Earle Reybold
D'Amico and Capehart, in their article on TV411, emphasize a significant link between collaborative pedagogy and changes in participants' sense of self as a learner. Program characteristics of TV411 - a learner-centered format and self-directed, authentic instruction - noticeably reduce learner anxiety and encourage participant ownership of the learning process. Building on an established relationship between education and human development, I will explore how pedagogy translates to changes in learners' sense of self, particularly their sense of self as a learner.

Adult learning and development of self are connected experiences (Clark, 1993; Tennant & Pogson, 1995). Learning promotes development, while development encourages further learning. This is particularly true when educational experiences endorse learner autonomy through self-directed learning; learners have the opportunity to change their attitudes about education and knowledge, leading to a changed sense of self as a learner (Tennant & Pogson, 1995).

Development of identity as a learner is integral to adult literacy education, especially in a program such as TV411 that moves literacy instruction beyond essential academic and vocational skills. A humanist approach to adult literacy provides "an opportunity to nurture and build self-esteem among learners" (Quigley, 1997, p. 110). With the primary goal of TV411 focused on self-directed learning, the program anticipates the participants' transformation of self as learner, assuming participants eventually will take ownership of their learning process. Examples of the program's humanist thrust include student-authored portfolios of learning experiences, facilitated group work that encourages communication across differences, and an authentic curriculum oriented to participants' life contexts. This pedagogy creates an educational environment conducive to development of the self as learner.

This concept of transformation implies radical change, a developmental enterprise that "shapes people" (Clark, 1993, p. 47). Mezirow's theory of adult learning, which he calls perspective transformation, is "intimately connected to the developmental process" (p. 47) because learning has the potential to transform one's sense of self when it challenges an individual's meaning system. This meaning system is the lens through which individuals mediate and interpret their experiences, or make meaning. According to Clark (1993), "if learning is the restructuring of meaning as adults engage life experience, then learning can be conceptualized as the vehicle of  adult development" (p. 53).

The very goal of transformational learning is to develop "a crucial sense of agency over ourselves and our lives" (Mezirow, 1981, p. 20). But Mezirow's theory suggests this agency, or personal autonomy, extends beyond the educational arena into the everyday life of the learner. This "freedom of adults to act," says Clark (1993), "is directed toward their own growth and development" (p. 50). The development of personal autonomy through transformational learning encourages continued self development.

Kegan (1979) defines self as the "zone of mediation where meaning is made" (p. 6). According to Kegan, this zone of mediation "is the person" (p. 6). Perspective transformation is about changes in an individual's consciousness, changes in how a person makes meaning of the world around him or her. In other words, transformational learning has the capacity to advance the self-as-knower "toward more inclusive, differentiated, open, and integrated meaning perspectives" (Cranton, 1994, p. 28).

Transformational learning, of course, is an ideal goal of adult education. But personal empowerment through self development is only one aspect of the TV411 program. The program strives to balance the need for both technical and personal development through adult literacy education that honors the development of human potential.


Clark, M. (1993). Transformational learning. (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, No. 57, 47-56.) San Francisco:Jossey-Bass.

Cranton, P. (1994). Understanding and Promoting Transformative Learning: A Guide for Educators of Adults.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Kegan, R. (1979). "The evolving self: A process conception for ego psychology." The Counseling Psychologist, 8 (2), 5-34.

Mezirow, J. (1981). "A critical theory of adult learning and education." Adult Education Quarterly, 32 (1), 3-24.

Quigley, B. A. (1997). Rethinking Literacy Education: The Critical Need for Practice-Based Change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Tennant, M., & Pogson, P. (1995). Learning and Change in the Adult Years: A Developmental Perspective. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

About the Author

L. Earle Reybold is assistant professor and program coordinator of adult education at The University of Texas at San Antonio.

Updated 7/27/07 :: Copyright © 2005 NCSALL