Transformative Experience in Buddhism: A Case Study


  • John Brandon Chancey University of Oklahoma
  • Ji Y Hong University of Oklahoma
  • Benjamin C Heddy University of Oklahoma


transfer, transformative learning, transformative experience


The goal of our research was to explore Transformative Experience (TE) in Buddhist monks living in the monastic setting. Pugh (2011) defines TE as learning that enhances every day experience, including three components 1) motivated use, 2) expansion of perception, 3) experiential value. Our research looked to extend previous TE research by examining TE outside of formal classroom environments to gain better insight on facilitating TE. Three Buddhist monks from the American southwest were interviewed. Additionally, the primary author collected observational data from attending a traditional Buddhist ceremony. Results revealed that the monks interviewed, experience TE through a specific practice of Buddhist teachings, metta, or loving-kindness. Metta is a Buddhist practice centered upon generating thoughts of good will towards all beings. Adaptations of metta for secular use in educational settings were discussed.

Author Biography

John Brandon Chancey, University of Oklahoma

Fourth year doctoral student in educational psychology. My research interests are contemplation practices in educational settings, transformative learning, and conceptual chane.


Anderson, J. R., Reder, L. M., & Simon, H. A. (1996). Situated learning and education. Educational researcher, 25(4), 5-11.

Barnett, S. M., & Ceci, S. J. (2002). When and where do we apply what we learn?: A taxonomy for far transfer. Psychological bulletin, 128(4), 612.

Bhikku, T. (1997). Upaddha Sutta: Half (of the Holy Life)

Boyd, B. L. (2009). Using a case study to develop the transformational teaching theory. Journal of Leadership Education, 7(3), 50-59.

Buddha Dharma Education Association. (2008). The Buddhist world: Lay Buddhist’s guide to the monk’s rules. Retrieved November 4, 2016, from

Creswell, J. (2013). Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design: choosing among five approaches.

Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Detterman, D. K. (1993). The case for the prosecution: Transfer as an epiphenomenon.

Fowler, D., Lazo, M., Turner, J., & Hohenstein, J. (2015). Facilitating program, faculty, and student transformation: A framework for curriculum redesign. Journal of Transformative Learning, 3(1), 59-73.

Glisczinski, D. J. (2007). Transformative higher education: A meaningful degree of understanding. Journal of Transformative Education, 5(4), 317-328.

Goldstone, R. L., & Day, S. B. (2012). Introduction to “new conceptualizations of transfer of learning”. Educational Psychologist, 47(3), 149-152.

Gunaratana, B., (2002). Mindfulness in Plain English

Heddy, B. C., & Pugh, K. J. (2015). Bigger is not always better: Should educators aim for big transformative learning events or small transformative experiences. Journal of Transformative Learning, 3(1), 52-58.

Heddy, B. C., Muto-Nelson, K. G., Husman, J., & Goldman, J. (2016). Teaching for transformative experience in online engineering courses. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association. Denver, CO.

Heddy, B., & Sinatra, G. (2013). Transforming Misconceptions: Transformative Experience to Promote Positive Affect and Conceptual Change in Students Learning About Biological Evolution. Science Education

Heddy, B., Sinatra, G., Seli, H., Taasoobshirazi, G., & Mukhopadhyay, A. (2016). Making Learning Meaningful: facilitating interest development and transfer in at-risk college students. Educational Psychology

Kitchenham, A. (2008). The evolution of John Mezirow's transformative learning theory. Journal of transformative education, 6(2), 104-123.

Mezirow, J. (2003). Transformative learning as discourse. Journal of transformative education, 1(1), 58-63.

Miles, M. B. & Huberman, M.A., (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. sage.

Minnes, M., Mayberry, J., Soto, M., & Hargis, J. (2018). Practice makes deeper? Regular reflective writing during engineering internships. Journal of Transformative Learning, 4(2).

Neff, K. D., & Dahm, K. A. (2015). Self-compassion: What it is, what it does, and how it relates to mindfulness. In Handbook of mindfulness and self-regulation (pp. 121-137). Springer, New York, NY

Peet, M. R. (2016). Transforming students' beliefs: Developing employability skills and generative identities through the Integrative Knowledge Portfolio Process. Journal of Transformative Learning, 3(2), 15-36.

Perkins, d. N., & Salomon, G. (1994). Transfer of learning. In T. Husen & T. N. Postlethwait (Eds.), International encyclopedia of education (2nd ed., Vol. 11, pp. 6452–6457). Oxford: Pergamon Press

Pugh, K. (2002). Teaching for Transformative Experiences in Science: An Investigation of the Effectiveness of Two Instructional Elements. Teachers College Record, 104(6), 1101-1137.

Pugh, K. (2004). Newton's Laws Beyond the Classroom Walls. Science Education, 88, 182-196.

Pugh, K. (2011). Transformative Experience: An Integrative Construct in the Spirit of Deweyan Pragmatism. Educational Psychologist, 46(2), 107-121.

Pugh, K. J., & Bergin, D. A. (2005). The effect of schooling on students’ out-of-school experience. Educational Researcher, 34(9), 15-23.

Pugh, K., Linnenbrink-Garcia, L., Koskey, K., Stewart, V., & Manzey, C. (2010a). Transformative Experience: A Study of Deep Engagement in Science. Science Education,

Rahula, W. (1972). What the Buddha Taught.

Rosch, E. (2015). The emperor’s clothes: A look behind the Western mindfulness mystique. In Handbook of mindfulness and self-regulation (pp. 271-292). Springer, New York, NY.

Roeser, R. W., & Pinela, C. (2014). Mindfulness and compassion training in adolescence: A developmental contemplative science perspective. New Directions for Student Leadership, 2014(142), 9-30.

Salomon, G., & Perkins, D. N. (1989). Rocky roads to transfer: Rethinking mechanism of a neglected phenomenon. Educational psychologist, 24(2), 113-142.

Schwartz, D. L., Bransford, J. D., & Sears, D. (2005). Efficiency and innovation in transfer. Transfer of learning from a modern multidisciplinary perspective, 1-51.

Shank, G. D. (2002). Qualitative research: A personal skills approach. Columbus, Ohio: Merrill

Prentice Hall.

Zajonc, A. (2016). Contemplation in education. In Handbook of Mindfulness in Education (pp. 17-28). Springer New York.






Research Articles