Kathy Kaya, Fielding's School of Human & Organizational Development
Although much has been written recently about holistic orientations to transformative learning, including its theoretical foundations and frameworks for designing learning experiences that engage multiple epistemologies, little is known about learners’ experiences and about how engaging multiple epistemologies can foster learning that is transformative. This qualitative study explored roles that expressive practices, which have been shown to engage various ways of knowing, can play in a holistic group learning process. The exploration was conducted with 12 Sansei women participants who examined their experiences of oppression and privilege. Heron’s extended epistemological framework was used to construct the learning process to engage multiple epistemologies, and a feminist research paradigm informed the research methodology.
The findings resulted in a taxonomy that comprises 19 roles of expressive practices organized into four learning functions: foster presencing, nurture empathic understanding, catalyze deeper inquiry into experiences, and engage in expressive ways of knowing. The findings contribute to the transformative learning literature by identifying learning functions not characterized previously and by illuminating the ways expressive practices help bridge experiential knowing and propositional knowing. They also advance existing theories by demonstrating that multiple ways of knowing are equal partners in the process of meaning making and transformation.
The study contributes in two other ways. It illustrates the potentially transformational power of a holistic approach to social justice education and suggests possible application to other learning contexts. Because the study was conducted with Sansei women, whose cultural perspectives, values, and practices influenced their experiences with the various expressive practices, findings suggest the need for educators to consider the cultural backgrounds of learners in designing and facilitating learning processes.