Transformational Learning: What Does One of RMC’s Core Values Actually Mean?

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By Margaret Klein –

Jean Piaget, author of “The Psychology of Intelligence”, once said, “The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered.” This idea is at the very heart of one of Rocky Mountain College’s core principles: transformational learning. What is transformational learning, though? Why is it important? Also, why does it matter to students at RMC?

According to RMC, transformational learning accomplishes two critical objectives for students: exhibiting preparation and maturity appropriate for the next stage of their academic or professional lives, and giving students the ability to achieve goals by working effectively with others. Transformational learning encompasses change in both interpersonal communication and academic success. Professor Barbara Vail expressed her view about this core value for the college, saying, “My feeling is that after four years at Rocky you really are transformed.”

In short, transformational learning encompasses learning to think critically, broadening one’s worldviews, and becoming a better person. This applies to both a student’s academic and personal life.

Why was transformational learning deemed so important that it was made a core value though? Academic Vice President Stephen Germic said that through transformational learning, “…they [students] become more rounded human beings, capable of engaging the world in positive and in critical ways.” College is often accepted as not simply preparation for a job, but preparation for life. From that point of view, transformational learning is critical to the college experience because it equips students with the tools necessary for life as adults. Through transformational learning a student is, very literally, transformed into a person who is not only academically intelligent, but prepared to face the challenges of working with other people and solving real world problems. When a student graduates from college they should be fully prepared to take their place in society as an adult and a responsible citizen. That is exactly why this core value was chosen.

In life, people will always meet others who disagree with them. It is incredibly important to learn how to act in these potentially explosive situations. College is a time where students find themselves. As Professor Vail said, “In some respects you might think of this just as being a place that for four years people can practice becoming who they are going to become.” College is, in a sense, a training ground. This is where students learn, not only academically, but socially. If utilized correctly, college can prepare a student to deal with situations of all kinds, from politics to disagreements over moral issues. Through transformational learning, students grow academically but also socially, becoming educated but also learning how to interact in healthy ways with other people. Is it uncomfortable? Yes, of course it is, because change is always uncomfortable. But it is also wonderful, it is worth it, and it is absolutely necessary. As Author Gail Sheehy once said, “If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”


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