Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Triggering Transformative Possibilities: A Case Study of Leaders’ Quest in China

Kenzie Lau-Kwong, Fielding’s school of Human &Organization Development

This study explored the nature of transformative learning experiences among global executives who participated in Quest program, a learning journey program designed to facilitate shifting mindsets and worldviews through one-week intensives in countries such as China. A mixed methods, multiple case study approach was employed. First, a secondary analysis of existing documentation on China Quest participants yielded ten particular individuals who displayed convincing evidence of what one might describe as “transformative learning.” Next, semi-structured interviews were conducted to uncover more fully the nature of each participant’s experience, and possible triggers, which might have elicited transformative learning. Participants from seven countries of origin (five men and five women) reflected both business and non business societal sectors.

The analysis revealed that seven of ten participants clearly displayed transformative learning emanating from their China Quest experiences. The nature of their experiences is displayed through an application of selected concepts that arose from a critical review of transformative learning (TL) theory, intercultural inquiry, and critical reflection through the lens of Confucian thinking. The overarching outcomes are organized as an illuminated understanding of self, and illuminated understanding of others, leading to significant shifts in participants’ belief systems and worldviews. The findings highlight the relevance of private and open reflection, cognitive, affective, and deeply connected experiences. It is evident also that contextual precursors (such as a safe place to share, and vulnerable moments) were essential factors in fostering the possibility of a transformative experience.

The empirical evidence challenges the current attitude within TL theory that such shifts are either epochal or incremental. The study shows that it is the feeling of time as compacted rather than total time on task that mattered. The research also reinvigorates critical reflection as a regular practice and the value of reflecting in silence, a central component of Confucian teaching.

The study concludes by advancing a new model for Leaders’ Quest learning journeys that includes informative learning, bracketed time, and lived experience as emergent components, which are not well developed in transformative learning theory. This reflects the efficacy of applying rigorous empirical case study to topics relevant to emerging scholar-practitioners.

Key Words: adult and transformative learning, intercultural experience, critical reflection, lived experience, case study, Leaders’ Quest, model of learning journey, transformative triggers, Confucianism

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