Transformative Growth in an International Experience through Cultural Humility



transformative learning, international experience, cultural humility, disorienting dilemmas, critical assumptions, cultural competence, professional learning


After six years of experience in an international project with educators in the Dominican Republic team members critically reflect on assumptions about the cultural and transformative dynamics of the work. As Mezirow (2009) asserts, “the most personally significant transformations involve a critique of premises regarding the world and one’s self” (p.22). The experience details the work of faculty members at a US college of education and partner schools in the Dominican Republic (DR). The deep level of transformative learning was a humbling element especially for those who considered themselves the culturally relevant educational “experts.” This essay additionally examines the depth of the transformative process and the lessons learned as participants came to accept the realization that a more honest evaluation was needed to transform from deficit to asset thinking (Valencia, 2010). Four phases of transformation meaning making from an intercultural perspective are explored including disorienting dilemmas, critical assumptions, competence in relationships, and the reintegration of new perspectives (Mezirow, 2000). Experiences from other international projects will examine and compare the challenges of cultural competence and the impact of transformation on individuals. Through contemplative practice, critical reflection, and honest conversation about cultural capacity, transformative learning through cultural humility is recognized as the most significant area of growth. 

Author Biographies

Sherah Betts Carr, Mercer University

Sherah Carr is an associate professor at Tift College of Education at Mercer University in Atlanta, Georgia. She teaches in master’s and doctoral programs primarily in courses related to curriculum and instruction. She holds a B.S. from Mansfield University, an M.S. from Florida State University, and an Ed. S. and Ph.D. from Georgia State University.  She has worked in the educational arena for over 35 years, teaching in numerous P-12 settings and serving in leadership positions. As well as teaching students, she has been a teacher of teachers leading a school professional learning program. Her areas of writing and research include formative assessment, application of cognitive apprenticeship, and distributed cognition. Sherah is also the team leader for Mercer University’s international education project with partner schools in the Dominican Republic. 

S. Michelle Vaughn, Mercer University

Dr. S. Michelle Vaughn is an associate professor for the Tift College of Education of Mercer University. Prior to joining Mercer University, she was an elementary education classroom teacher and also served with the Florida Department of Education. Dr. Vaughn enjoys teaching literacy in the undergraduate and graduate degree programs as well as supporting students while taking part in their field experiences.Dr. Vaughn’s research interests include teacher preparation, culturally responsive pedagogy and in-service teacher support. Another research priority is the scholarship of teaching and learning. 



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