Walking Thought by Etan Pavavalung

ITLA History and Next Generation

A Living Theory

Jack Mezirow’s intention for Transformative Learning theory was that it would be a living theory; that it would expand and evolve to adapt to the increasing complexity of our world.

In January 2013, a group of Transformative Learning thought leaders, seasoned scholars, advanced practitioners, and novice academics began to meet occasionally to explore and live into the inquiry. They named themselves “The Stewards” and asked: Who have we been? Who are we becoming as a community devoted to the living theory of Transformative Learning? How can we ensure that the conferences are reflective of shared values and beliefs as well as questions of inclusion, diversity, and thoughtful engagement of theories and practices of transformation?

Stewarding an Emerging Community

A collection of Stewards continued to gather both virtually and in person prior to the Transformative Learning Conferences held in the United States in 2014, 2016, and 2018. A smaller group met during the 2013 ESREA conference in Berlin, Germany, the 2016 Conference in Maynooth, Ireland, and the 2018 ESREA Transformative Learning Network conference in Milan, Italy.

Steward activities since 2013 have been focused on applying for not-for-profit status; supporting the steering committees of Transformative Learning Conferences primarily in the US; developing the Jack Mezirow Award (2014) for excellent conference paper, as well as the establishment of the International Transformation Learning Association Patricia Cranton Distinguished Dissertation Award (2018). The award was inspired by Jack Mezirow’s efforts to engage the field of adult education in thinking theoretically about adult learning.

Formation of ITLA

The Stewards formed The International Transformative Learning Association (ITLA), a not-for-profit organization intended to provide vision and continuity for the Conferences in North America and in affiliation with other conferences hosted around the world. An additional intention is to foster possibilities for the creative engagement of the growing associated community between conferences and gatherings.  In 2019, the ITLA received approval as a nonprofit organization.

In developing the bylaws that govern the ITLA, the founding Steward group collaborated to reach consensus on a definition of transformative learning and a statement of purpose for the association.

We define Transformative Learning:

Transformative learning is the process by which we call into question our taken for granted frames of reference to make them more inclusive, discriminating, open, and reflective so that they may generate beliefs and opinions that will prove more justified as a guide for action.  Although this definition of transformative learning originates from Jack Mezirow’s theory of adult learning, this Association embraces the wide array of disciplines that explore learning that cultivates fundamental change in human systems — individual or collective — in how they perceive themselves and take action in the world.

We state the purpose of ITLA:

The purpose of the Association shall be to promote critical scholarship, research, teaching, application, and praxis of the social, scientific, artistic, and humanistic principles of transformative learning theories and praxis. The Association, a not-for-profit organization, exists for educational and scientific development of its members, research and practice collaborations, and literary purposes only. No part of the Association’s net revenues may be used for the private benefit of any individual or group.