Educational Studies (EDST) 630

Transformative Learning for Social Change (Revision 4)

EDST 630 Course Cover
**Note: Students in Group Study courses are advised that this syllabus may vary in key details in each instance of the course. Always refer to the Moodle site for the most up-to-date details on texts, assignment structure, and grading.**


Since classical times, education has been identified as fulfilling the contradictory roles of reproducing and transforming the existing social order. In EDST 630: Transformative Learning for Social Change, we will specifically examine theories of transformative education within the field of adult education—particularly theories that are meant to catalyze social transformation as well as individual change.

In Part I of the course, we begin by interrogating the core concept that underpins the idea of transformation, namely progress in all of its modernist clothing. Then we will review the three dominant sociological approaches to social change—the functionalist, interactionist, and conflict schools. From there, we will narrow our focus to the radical tradition in adult education, particularly its links to critical theory and critical pedagogy. This section provides vital background in which to contextualize transformative learning theories.

In Part II of the course, we will focus our gaze on transformative learning theory by exploring the history of critical transformative education in various political, economic, and geographical contexts. We will examine the key North American theorists and their current debates, shift to the conceptualization of transformative education in Southern contexts, and finally consider the new voices that are contending and extending existing theory, including feminist, anti-racist, anti-classist, Jungian, spiritual, and ecological perspectives. Throughout Part II we will study the intersection of theory and practice embedded in pedagogy as it is undertaken both inside and outside formal classrooms, particularly in nonformal community settings and social movements. The course then returns to the important question regarding the consequences of transformative education, in light of the most pressing global issues.

Course Objectives

The course objectives for EDST 630: Transformative Learning for Social Change, are eightfold. By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify and critique the dominant theories of social change and education.
  2. Outline the links among critical theory, critical pedagogy, and critical adult education.
  3. Understand and discuss the competing agendas in adult education and the key debates around Mezirow's transformative learning theory.
  4. Distinguish between Freire and Gramsci's contribution to radical adult education and how Northern and Southern perspectives have shaped transformation-education theories.
  5. Outline the principal tenets of the feminist, anti-racist/anti-classist, ecological, Jungian, and spiritual perspectives on transformation education.
  6. Critically discuss the various social, political, and economic variables that impact the practice of radical adult education, particularly in the context of neoliberal globalization.
  7. Carry out an integrative analysis of a topic pertaining to transformation education.
  8. Demonstrate a high level of reflection about your knowledge, learning process, and habits of mind as a learner.

Student Evaluation

To receive credit for this course, students must participate in the online activities, successfully complete the assignments, and achieve a final mark of at least 60 per cent. Students should be familiar with the Master of Arts- Interdisciplinary Studies grading system. Please note that it is students' responsibility to maintain their program status. Any student who receives a grade of "F" in one course, or a grade of "C" in more than one course, may be required to withdraw from the program.

The following table summarizes the evaluation activities and the credit weights associated with them.

Course Activity Weighting
Online Participation 30%
Assignment 1: critical review and moderation of online discussion 15%
Assignment 2: critical review and moderation of online discussion 15%
Assignment 3: integrative (theory/pedagogy/reflection) paper 40%
Total 100%

Course Materials

The package you receive should contain each of the items listed below.


Allman, Paula. (2001). Revolutionary social transformation: Democratic hopes, political possibilities and critical education. Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey.

O'Sullivan, E., Morrell, A., O'Connor, M. A. (Eds.). (2002). Expanding the boundaries of transformative learning: Essays on theory and praxis. New York: Palgrave.

Athabasca University Online Materials

Course Home Page You will find Course Information (including the Assignment File and other pertinent information) at the top of the course home page. You will also find your Study Guide presented unit by unit online. You will find your assignments and links to submit your work to your professor on the course home page.

Athabasca University Library: Students are encouraged to browse the Library's Web site to review the Library collection of journal databases, electronic journals, and digital reference tools:

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 4, May, 2020.