The role of spirituality in transformative learning

Nella Ann Roberts, Florida International University


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the role of spirituality in Mezirow's (1978, 1990, 1991, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2003) 10-phase process of transformative learning. This study used Mezirow's transformative learning theory as its theoretical framework. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, transcribed, and analyzed for 12 doctoral students and candidates who had a transformative learning experience and who identified themselves as being spiritual. ^ Interview data were analyzed using inductive, deductive, and comparative analyses. Four themes emerged from the inductive analysis of the data: (a) the nature of spirituality, (b) the variety of emotions, (c) the influences of spirituality, and (d) the nature of personal changes. The theory's 10 phases were used as a guide in deductively analyzing data concerning the participants' experiences. The deductive analysis revealed that spirituality played a role in at least 7 of the 10 phases of transformative learning for each participant. Overall, from the participants' perspectives, the role of spirituality was that of a guide in influencing their cognition and behavior, and that of a supporter in influencing their emotions. The comparative analysis revealed that at least three of the four themes from the inductive analysis were reflected in each of the 10 phases of transformative learning used in the deductive analysis. ^ Based on the findings from this study, the researcher proposed a modification of Mezirow's phases of transformative learning. An additional phase was identified: framing and naming the transformed perspective, and two phases were renamed. The findings from this study imply that given the importance of the role participants attributed to spirituality in their transformative learning in influencing their cognition, behavior, and emotions, the role of spirituality should be considered for inclusion in transformative learning theory. Recommendations for further research on the validation and replicability of the proposed modification to transformative learning theory are given. ^

Subject Area

Religion, General|Spirituality|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Roberts, Nella Ann, "The role of spirituality in transformative learning" (2009). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3377924.