Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration

First Advisor

Marc Lavine

Second Advisor

J. Keith Motley

Third Advisor

Maureen A. Scully


While learning involves the acquisition of new skills and the development of existing repertoires, some educators harbor even more profound learning goals. They seek to enable learning that is transformative. Jack Mezirow, who is credited with establishing transformative learning theory, defines transformative learning as “an enhanced level of awareness of the context of one's beliefs and feelings, a critique of their assumptions and particularly premises, an assessment of alternative perspectives, a decision to negate an old perspective in favor of a new one or to make a synthesis of old and new, an ability to take action based upon the new perspective, and a desire to fit the new perspective into the broader context of one's life” (Mezirow, 1991, p. 161).

Core theorizing about transformative learning posits that it requires, and is precipitated by, a disorienting dilemma (Mezirow, 2000; Mälkki & Green, 2014; M. B. Taylor & Hill, 2016). A disorienting dilemma may be thought of as a time when new information has caused a person to call into question their values, beliefs, or assumptions. While transformative learning can occur through rich, experiential learning experiences or life events, it can also occur in the classroom (Dencev & Collister, 2010; George M. Slavich & Zimbardo, 2012; Edward W Taylor, 2007) While much has been written and understood about transformational learning, the teacher’s role in the process is undertheorized. The research question I explored was how does the aim of transformative teaching enable the exploration of disorienting dilemmas?

To address this research question, I conducted field research over multiple sections of a graduate course with deliberately transformational aims. Faculty clearly articulate these aims in the course catalog description as well as the course objectives within the syllabus. Using written course assignments, classroom observations, interviews with the faculty, and archival data pertaining to the course, I undertook a qualitative analysis to address the research question. Through this research, I explored and clarified interaction between transformative teaching and transformative learning as it occurs in the classroom. In doing so, I contribute to the transformative learning and transformative teaching literatures by demystifying how the relationship between the two functions in practice.