Preparation of learners who can take part in a multi-ethnic, multilingual and multinational environment in the global integrated economy has been a challenging issue in modern world. Many universities and colleges have been affected by this challenge and there has always been a need to create various learning environments. This concern forced administrators make thorough preparations for accreditation (King, 2005). At the same time, setting priorities in internationalization and diversity in the system of higher education is desired due to the external demands of preparing students for more international jobs. Such priority emerges from benefits that students can get as they interact with other students from different social and cultural backgrounds. Research shows that supporting students’ experiences across difference is connected to enhanced students’ results and that under maximum conditions, enhancing diversity off and on college campuses promotes inter-group relations and understanding, ability of learners to take part in more complicated thinking, and learners’ consideration of different perspectives (Turner, 2002).
Transformative Learning Process
The transformative learning theory has been evolving since its introduction by Mezirow in 1978. It has resulted in a complex and comprehensive description of the manner in which students construe, reformulate and validate the meaning of their encounters. As such in a multicultural learning environment, learners are expected to change their meaning schemes like attitudes, emotional reactions and particular cultural beliefs. This has been realized through the engagement in a critical reflection on encounters, which amounts to a transformation of perspective. This is defined as the procedure of being vitally informed of why and how hypotheses have come to restrain the manner in which people understand, view and feel concerning the world they live in. The changes brought into these organizational structures of regular expectation are meant to enable a more discriminating, integrating and inclusive perspective and, finally, making options or may be acting on these new concepts.
Transformative learning has been critiqued as being concerned a lot on the rational process and makes a suggestion on emotion and intuition based on analytical psychology. According to Cranton (2006), such differences in strategy (emotional versus rationale) and the various ways learners experience transformation, show that no particular transformative learning mode exists. These differences in learning contexts, teachers and learners affect learning. Cranton (2006) believes that not every learner and teacher could feel comfortable with this kind of transformative learning since not each situation will lend to it. While not disputing this, a more crucial limitation to recognize, cross-cultural experiences offer the ideal environment needed for transformative learning. However, students and teachers who are inclined to transformative learning will definitely have a firm base for change (Mezirow, 2000).
As students’ cross racial, gender, religious, social, ethnic, cultural or economic boundaries with faculty support those who offer structured academic assignments showing reflection, a lot of change can be realized. This change has been described by researchers, educators and other scholars as neighbors out of strangers, a humbled sense of connectedness, an awakening of the entire soul and an enlarging of our circle or compassion among other definitions (O'Sullivan, 2003). The experiences of a transformative process change people’s consciousness, compelling humans to see things differently; a concept that is entirely useful in a multicultural learning environment. These are not usually dramatic or sudden epiphany, although are normally a steady incremental change that occurs due to various events.
A number of programs have been established having a potential for learners to encounter transformation. This has been evident, for instance, at AzusaPacificUniversity in the Global Studies & TESOL department. Transformative potential in this department has been realized in such programs as the Global Learning Term, The LA Term and the Burma Border Teaching Trip (Wong, 2006). Undergraduate students in the Global Learning Term get involved in learning and living environments where collaboration and cross-cultural communication are expected. In this model, learners live between 4-7 months in a country of their choice normally in the global south where they engage in meetings with guided readings, faculty, assignments and sessions both prior before and after the end of the term. This transformative program of learning involves deconstruction, discussion and making sense of experiences.
For LA term, learners are supposed to live with families that are culturally different in the Los Angeles, Central and Southern parts of the country while learning and working with the urban poor population. On a different note, the Burma Border Teaching Trip makes provision for graduate student groups to travel with the faculty to teach English in refugee camps, mainly in Thai/Burma border to see the local teachers and also take part in the mutual development of professions (Wong, 2006). These programs with transformative learning models have been linked to increased student performance. A wide scope of experiences is supported through well-structured international programs that help to understand and gain awareness and appreciation of the host language and culture. There has been an increased critical thinking, independence, adaptability, interest in other people’s welfare and in reflective thought (Kligyte, 2011). The goals and objectives of multicultural learning environment have largely been met through these models fostering transformative learning possibilities. They have been able to promote tolerance and are acceptable for individuals with different backgrounds and actively taking part in the activities with international orientations removing all barriers that may hinder intercultural interactions and relations. They have also made multicultural learning possible through enhanced open mindedness to other different cultures and a highly decreased ethnocentrism.
Diversity and internationalization are important aspects that are needed to diversify learning environments in order to prepare learners willing and in a position to co-exist with others from different backgrounds. Transformative learning has played a very imperative role in the amalgamation of different cultures to promote a common goal of achieving international excellence (Brookfield, 2000). The need of fostering the transformation learning of teachers cannot be accentuated given that quite a number of teachers being European Americans, middle-class who perceive themselves without culture, culturally summarized, socialized to conservative mind frames and ideologies that negate their capability to take part in effective culturally responsive and cross-cultural teaching.
Scholars in multicultural learning environments have held differences in their views on what are the best approaches and strategies of engaging in-service and pre-service teachers in confronting their cultural values and beliefs, power issues, inequalities, privilege and policies (Nieto and Bode, 2008; Swanson, 2010). However, there is a belief that they have done so in strategies that are counter-productive, engendering and demoralizing student resistant. Some people argue that transformative learning is hard to come by, if not attainable by learners based on one of the courses of university. At the same time, proponents and supporters of transformative learning have a belief that it is attainable and takes place in discrete classes since transformation is realized in various sizes (Torosyan, 2007).
Multicultural Learning Achievement
The instructor who is usually a mentor of those undergoing the transformation is entitled to various roles and duties in reference to the learner. Adult educators need to adapt their philosophy and roles to enhance the learners’ transformative learning (Cranton, 2006). In addition, the educators should have varying needs, preferences, interests and experience to put them in a better position to respond to the diverse individual characteristics inherent in their students. The focal point of attention in a positive school climate should be the learner and, therefore, the institutional beliefs as educators are detrimental in determination and development of the learner (Lysaker & Furuness, 2011). Overall, in the process of defining purpose of the student learning, attention is directed at the beliefs held towards the aims and goals the learner should achieve. Emphasis should be made on the targets and accomplishments that the learning process is in attempt to get and the underlying reasons for these targets (Fletcher, 2007). Therefore, it is imperative for the school to have the overall purpose of the learning process defined. Student connectedness and success involves transformative knowledge and skill dissemination to children who have a lot of curiosity to establish who they are in life. As a result, the students’ teacher is a very important figure in the education since he determines successful implementation of this change.
A key determinant of transformational learning success is the educator’s example. People have an inborn tendency of doing that which is known to them and what they have had a prior experienced in. Thus, it follows this contention that in order to alter behavioral patterns, there is a need to begin with having different experiences. In this regard, the educator has to be in a good position to help pioneers with a new and required experience. In order to do this one must be able to model what is taught and through continuous critical self-reflection try to embody in every action empowering ideals. The perception of the stakeholders in a multicultural learning environment is a function of the ever dynamic life philosophy due to the changes in demands and life encounters in the course of life of an individual.