Teaching and Learning Innovations Conference 2024

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Teaching and Learning Innovations Conference 2024

MAY 8 - 9, 2024

The University of Guelph

Registration for the 35th Teaching and Learning Innovations Conference is now closed! See you May 8-9th, 2024

Fostering Transformative Learning: Challenging Assumptions, Reflecting Critically, Learning Together, and Taking Action

At the University of Guelph’s 35th Teaching and Learning Innovations Conference, we will come together to explore the theme of transformative learning as it weaves through the learning experiences of students, faculty, and staff.

On Wednesday, May 8th, we will connect in person at the University Centre for speakers, interactive sessions, and presentations. On Thursday, May 9th, a different set of interactive sessions and presentations will be delivered synchronously online.  

Higher education institutions confront the continuous need to adapt to a rapidly changing world, marked by technological advancements, changing climate, global conflicts, and ever-evolving societal dynamics. A model of education that focuses solely on the acquisition of disciplinary knowledge and skills is increasingly being challenged. There is growing recognition that learners need more than content and information. They need the ability to navigate complexity, think critically and reflexively, and engage in respectful dialogue. 

Transformative learning addresses these challenges and learners' needs. It facilitates profound and lasting changes in an individual's perspectives, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours (Mezirow, 2003). It involves a fundamental shift in one's worldview and understanding of oneself and the world through personal growth, increased self-awareness, and the development of a more critically reflective and open-minded individual. 

Jack Mezirow, who developed the transformative learning theory, described the process as a "perspective transformation," where learners undergo a fundamental reevaluation of their assumptions, beliefs, and values (Mezirow, 1978). As a result of this process, individuals become more autonomous thinkers, question existing frames of reference, make meaning of their experiences, and construct new, more inclusive and adaptive perspectives and act in ways that align with their newly acquired understandings.  

Taylor (2009) identified six core elements that foster transformative learning environments: 

  • Inclusion of the learner’s current and prior experience
  • Promotion of critical reflection
  • Relational and trustful dialogue
  • A holistic perspective to teaching
  • Awareness of sociocultural and personal contexts of learners 
  • Development of authentic relationships 

Embracing transformative learning principles allows us to prepare learners with the knowledge, skills and ways of thinking to thrive in a dynamic and uncertain future. These principles aim to increase learners’ resilience, adaptability, and provide them with a greater capacity to engage with the complexities and challenges of our world.  

The following questions are intended to inspire your thinking: 

Fostering Transformative Learning: How are we fostering transformative learning in our teaching practices, learning spaces, course design, and curricula? What emerging trends and technologies hold the potential to further enhance transformative learning experiences? 
Challenging Assumptions: How and where are we creating spaces to foster critical examination of assumptions? What innovative strategies can be employed to create a learning environment that actively challenges preconceived notions and biases?
Reflecting Critically: What opportunities are we providing to learners to grow and critically reflect? How are we actively engaging learners in reflecting on their own experiences? How can technology support critical reflection among learners, fostering deeper understanding and self-awareness?
Learning Together: How do we include our learners’ whole selves in the learning environment? How do we support engagement in respectful, open-minded, empathetic, critical discourse with each other? How do we get to know learners? How are we engaging in authentic relationship building?
Taking Action: How do we support learners to engage in ways that align with their newly acquired understandings? What opportunities do we provide learners to acquire the knowledge and resources they need to move forward in their learning and make change? How can educators empower learners to translate their transformative experiences into meaningful actions within their communities or professions?

The Calls for Proposals, Reviewers, and Volunteers is now closed. Registration is now open.

Further reading on Transformative Learning

Baumgartner, L. (2019). Fostering Transformative Learning in Educational Settings. Adult Literacy Education: The International Journal of Literacy, Language, and Numeracy. 1. 69-74. DOI:10.35847/LBaumgartner.1.1.69

Mezirow, J. (1978). Perspective transformation. Adult Education, 28, 100-110. 

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

Taylor, E. W. (2009). Fostering transformative learning. In J. Mezirow & E. W. Taylor (Eds.), Transformative learning in practice: Insights from community, workplace, and higher education (pp. 3-17). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 


The Office of Teaching and Learning and the 2024 Teaching and Learning Innovations Conference Co-chairs would like to thank the following for their support of the conference: 

  • Offices of the Provost and Associate Vice-President (Academic) for financial support.
  • Open Learning and Educational Support (OpenEd) for technological support.
  • Graduate Student Association for financial subsidy for graduate students presenting at the conference.
  • The Physics Department for in-kind use of poster boards.

 AVPA, OpenEd, GSA. and Physics Department Logo

For More Information:

For more information about the conference, please contact us at otl@uoguelph.ca