Can adolescents undergo a transformative learning and teaching process? Extending Mezirow’s Transformative Learning Theory (A South African Perspective)


  • Ashne Billings-Padiachey Wits University
  • Casey Motsisi


Transformative learning engages learners in drawing on relevant experiences, peer dialogue, and self-reflection in order to respond to challenges encountered in their lives. While much literature suggests that transformative learning is for adults only, our findings, together with those from several recent international studies, as well as authors who have contributed to seminal work, indicate that transformative learning and teaching is also applicable to and valuable for adolescents. This paper also suggests that although South African adolescents in a pre-university program—The Targeting Talent Programme—do not meet the pre-conditions for transformation learning set out by Mezirow, they do however meet the preconditions indicated by other seminal theorists; this is as a result of the peculiar context that these adolescents come from. Additionally, although literature reviewed for this paper focuses on the lecturer-student dynamic in transformative teaching and learning, we use findings from an analysis of questionnaire data obtained from young adult mentors and adolescent mentee in the preuniversity program to argue that mentors, and not just lecturers, can usefully facilitate such learning and that such learning is bi-directional. Mentorship is also regarded as a form of intervention support that student programs use to buffer poor student feedback and address retention and attrition rates. The findings show that mentoring indeed does facilitate intervention support and fosters transformative teaching and learning for higher educational success. Literature also reveals the need for various higher education institutions to put in place a mechanism which optimizes on the support of mentors to uphold students. Given the evidence from the Targeting Talent Programme and the value of transformative teaching and learning for both the psycho-social and academic development of adolescents and young adults, we recommend that higher education institutions consider including this approach in support programs offered at pre-university and undergraduate levels.

Author Biography

Casey Motsisi

Casey Motsisi is a PhD (psychology) student at the university of South Africa.  He developed his research interest in the topic of transformative learning in 2018 while working as a research intern at the Student Equity and Talent Management Unit, commonly referred to as SETMU. During this period, He became actively involved as a researcher in the monitoring and evaluation of a pre-university access programme aimed at enhancing academic and psychosocial preparedness of selected high school learners from disadvantaged backgrounds for university access. He continued to work with colleagues at SETMU researching the application of transformative learning within the pre-university access programme, even beyond his departure. In 2019, Casey started a new role as a post graduate research assistant at a higher learning institution where was involved in various aspects of teaching and learning in the psychology modules until 2021. Casey obtained his MA Psychology (with special focus on research consultation) qualification in 2022. He currently works independently as a psychometrist specialising in cognitive assessments and career guidance as well as researching neuropsychology. He also currently supervises the psychology honours students at a private higher learning institution with their research projects around the topics of transformative learning and mitigation of students’ challenges within higher education.






Research Articles