“Rat” Removal and Transformative Learning

In the first chapter of Contemporary Theories of Learning, by K. Illeris, he outlines the four types of learning that individuals can experience: cumulative, assimilative, accommodative, and transformative. The one that peeked my interest and the level that I would like my students to attain is the transformative, as this is where reflection, perspective changing, and thorough learning occurs. Yet, after reading the chapter, I struggled to understand how exactly this would look in the classroom and whether or not it is attainable. Can we expect our students to have these transformative moments as learners? Or is this process that occurs throughout a school career?

I came across an article by K.P. King that deepened my understanding of transformative learning. Although her article emphasized this learning through adult educators’ experiences with technology, it provided insights into what this would look like at the elementary school level. Below is an outline of the stages of transformation as summarized by K.P. King:

photo (3)

From reflecting on this chart, one idea of what it would look like in the classroom is through genius hour. Through genius hour it is obvious that students experience several moments of uncertainty, but through exploring, reflecting, and problem solving are able to rationalize new ideas that change their perspectives. However, I am still grappling with other examples of how this transformation learning would occur in elementary school children.

Throughout chapter one, another concept that stood out for me was the difference between defense learning and resistance learning. I initially was puzzled with how to distinguish between the two. A student could come to class disengaged because he/she does not understand a concept, or it could be from an earlier event that occurred in his/her day. In the busy and always lacking time day of a teacher, how do we find means to discover whether a student is demonstrating defense or resistance learning?

During the last school year, I read a wonderful book called, You Can’t Teach Through a Rat, by Marvin Berkowitz. Berkowitz acknowledged the idea that students come into classrooms with “their lives,” thus are not always ready to learn and instead can put up defensive learning mechanisms. As teachers, we are responsible to remove, what Berkowitz called “rats” in order for learning to occur, and through the process listed below:

Berkowitz, 2012, pg 17

Berkowitz, 2012, pg 17

Although this may seem like a daunting task, if we ultimately want our students to be active learners, we need to set them up for success. We need to show them that we care not only for them a learner, but also as a person. I think only then can true learning occur.

Illeris, K. (Ed.). (2008). Contemporary Theories of Learning: Learning Theorists…In Their Own Words. Florence, KY, USA: Routledge. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/alltitles/docDetail.action?docID=10296951 (Introduction, Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 14 and 15 [5 and 11].

King, K. P. (2002). A journey of transformation: A model of educators’ learning experiences in educational technology. In J. M. Pettit & R. P. Francis (Eds.). Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Adult Education Research Conference, (pp. 195-200). Retrieved from: http://www.adulterc.org/Proceedings/2002/papers/King.pdf

Berkowitz, M.W. (2012). You Can’t Teach Through a Rat. Boone, NC, USA: Character Development Group Inc.


One thought on ““Rat” Removal and Transformative Learning

  1. I really like the rat analogy for what students bring with them from their lives outside of the 6 hours in our buildings and the 5 years before we saw them.

    Great post, I like how you connected to your classroom and a resource that worked to help you understand your students’ learning better.

    Thanks for sharing,


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