World Trust

Transformative Learning & Diversity: Getting at Embedded Assumptions

Posted by Lisa Abbott on June 17, 2014

Men at Skyline College WorkshopTransformative Learning asks adult learners to engage in critical reflection on their experiences, which in turn leads to a perspective transformation  -- the transformation of specific beliefs, attitudes, and emotional reactions.  In the context of cultural diversity & inclusion education, what kind of “perspective transformation” are we trying to achieve?

One goal is to shift dominant cultural assumptions about the way society works. The perception of the United States as a place where “all men are created [and treated] equal”  is largely a reflection of the white experience and is reinforced by media, education and other institutions.  For example, a white person who diligently applies for jobs and lands one, might assume that people of color who put forth the same effort will also find employment.  If a white person abides by laws and has never been stopped by police, they might assume that people of color who are stopped by police are being pulled over "for good reason."

Adult learners can resist narratives and concepts that do not align with their own life experience. For example, when white people hear stories of oppression from people of color, they may dismiss them as exaggerations, exceptions, or even deny the person of color's experience, as they do not align with the white person's reality:  "You must have been acting in a suspicious way if you got pulled over."

Transformative learning pedagogy can be used to uproot these embedded assumptions about how the world works.  It can support all participants in a diversity & inclusion workshop to enage, and envision a world in which all people have access to resources needed to build a thriving life, and commit to change.


World Trust diversity workshop facilitators achieve this "perception transformation" in live events using a variety of modalities.  Information about how you can apply this approach in your diversity training is available in 5 Hallmarks of Effective Diversity & Inclusion Events by World Trust Founder, Shakti Butler, PhD.


Topics: Diversity Workshops