transformative learning, prison education, transformative experience, meaning schemes, power, trust, student resistance, pushback, empowerment.


This article does three things. First, it asks a new question about transformative education, namely ‘what is the role of power and trust in the decision of whether to transform one’s meaning scheme in the face of new information or whether to simply reject the new information?’ Secondly, it develops a five-stage model which elaborates on the role of this decision in transformative learning.[1] Finally, it uses grounded-theory and the five-stage model to argue that power and trust play an important role in facilitating transformative learning.

[1] This account should be thought of as complementary to (not exclusionary of) Mezirow’s account.

Author Bio

Fran Fairbairn is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Colgate University. She received her Ph.D. from Cornell University in 2019 and has specializations in Philosophy of Science, Metaphysics, and Epistemology.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Bender, K., (2018, March 2). Education opportunities in prison are key to reducing crime. Center for American Progress. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-k-12/news/2018/03/02/447321/education-opportunities-prison-key-reducing-crime/

Boltanski, L., (2011). On critique: A sociology of emancipation (G. Elliott, Trans.). Polity Press.

Brewster, L. (2014). The impact of prison arts programs on inmate attitudes and behavior: A quantitative evaluation. Justice Policy Journal, 11(2), 1-28.

Bumiller, K. (2013). Transformative learning in prisons and universities: Reflections on homologies of institutional power. In S. W. Davis & B. S. Roswell (Eds.). Turning teaching inside-out: A pedagogy of transformation for community-based education (pp. 177-187). Palgrave Macmillan.

Bryman, A. (2008). Social research methods (3rd ed). Oxford University Press.

Carel, H., and Kidd, I. (2020). Expending transformative experience. European Journal of Philosophy, 28(1), 199-213. DOI: 10.1111/ejop.12480

Cecil, D., Drapkin, D., MacKenzie, D., & Hickman, L. (2000). The effectiveness of adult basic education and life-skills programs in reducing recidivism: A review and assessment of the research. Journal of Correctional Education, 51, 207–226.

Coley, R. J., & Barton, P. E. (2006). Locked up and locked out: An education perspective on the U.S. prison population. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service, Policy Information Center.

Costelloe, A. (2014). Learning for liberation, teaching for transformation: Can education in prison prepare prisoners for active citizenship? Irish Journal of Applied Social Studies, 14(1), 30-36. DOI:10.21427/D7TM7H

Crabbe, M. (2013). Inside-out in Oregon: Transformative education at the community level. In S. W. Davis & B. S. Roswell (Eds.). Turning teaching inside-out: A pedagogy of transformation for community-based education (pp. 27-35). Palgrave Macmillan.

Davis, S. W. & Roswell, B. S. (Eds.). (2013). Turning teaching inside-out: A pedagogy of transformation for community-based education. Palgrave Macmillan.

Davis, L. M., Steele, J. L., Bozick, R., Williams, M. V., Turner, S., Miles, J. N., Steinberg, P. S. (2014). How effective is correctional education, and where do we go from here? The results of a comprehensive evaluation. Rand Corporation.

DelSesto, M., Chaparro, D., & Pyo, A. (2020). Advancing transformative learning partnerships: A report on the Boston College inside-out program at the Suffolk County House of Correction. Accessed at: https://www.bc.edu/content/dam/bc1/schools/lsoe/our%20community/EngagedPedagogy/BC%20InsideOut%20Report-FINAL%20.pdf

Dhami, M, K., Ayton, P., Loewenstein, G. (2007). Adaptation to imprisonment: Indigenous or imported? Criminal Justice and Behavior, 34(8), 1085-1100. DOI: 10.1177/0093854807302002

Duguid, S. & Pawson, R. (1998). Education, change, and transformation: The prison experience. Evaluation Review, 22(4), 470-495. DOI: 10.1177/0193841X9802200403

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Seabury Press.

Habermas, J. (1973). Theory and praxis. Beacon Press.

Harkins, G. (2013). Access or justice? Inside-out and transformative education. In S. W. Davis & B. S. Roswell (Eds.). Turning teaching inside-out: A pedagogy of transformation for community-based education (pp. 187-199). Palgrave Macmillan.

Inderbitzin, M. (2012). Prisons as places of hope and transformative learning. AI Practitioner, 14(1), 21-27.

Keen, C., H., Woods, R. (2016). Creating activating events for transformative learning in prison. Journal of Transformative Education, 14(1), 15-33. DOI: 10.1177/1541344615602342

Kitchenham, A. (2008). The evolution of John Mezirow’s transformative learning theory. Journal of Transformative Education, 6(2), 104-123. DOI: 10.1177/1541344608322678

Kristjánsson, K. (2017). Teachers as facilitators of student flourishing in positive education: What are the political implications? In. M. A. White., G. R. Slemp., & A. S. Murray., (Eds.). Future Directions in Well-Being: Education, Organizations and Policy (pp. 187-191). Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-56889-8

Kuhn, T., (1962). The structure of scientific revolutions (3rd ed.). University of Chicago Press

Lanterman, J. (2018). Transformative and social justice dimensions of a jail-based college course. Dialogues in Social Justice, 3(1), 46-65.

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

Mezirow, J. (1990). Fostering critical reflection in adulthood. Jossey Bass.

Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. Jossey-Bass.

Mezirow, J. (1995). Transformation theory of adult learning. In M. R. Welton (Ed). In defense of the lifeworld (pp. 37-70). SUNY Press.

Paul, L., A. (2014). Transformative experience. Oxford University Press.

Pike, A., & Hopkins, S., (2019). Transformative learning: Positive identity through prison based higher education in England and Wales. International Journal of Bias, Identity and Diversity in Education, 4(1), 48–65. DOI: 3A10.4018/2FIJBIDE.2019010104

Pluye, P., & Hong, Q. N. (2014). Combining the power of stories and the power of numbers: Mixed methods research and mixed studies reviews. Annual Review of Public Health, 35, 29–45. DOI:10.1146/annurevpublhealth-032013-182440

Pompa, L. (2013). Drawing forth, finding voice, making change: Inside-out learning as transformative pedagogy. In S. W. Davis & B. S. Roswell (Eds.), Turning teaching inside-out: A pedagogy of transformation for community-based education (pp. 13-27). Palgrave Macmillan.

Quine, W. O., & J. S. Ullian. (1978). The web of belief (2nd ed.). McGraw Hill Inc.

Reuss, A., (1997). Higher education and personal change in prisoners. [Doctoral Dissertation]. University of Leeds. Ethos ID: 289548

Taylor, E., W. (1998). The theory and practice of transformative learning: A critical review. ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, Center on Education and Training for Employment, College of Education, the Ohio State University. ERIC Number: ED423422

TBS Staff, (2021, April 22). Prison education: Guide to college degrees for inmates and ex-offenders. The Best Schools. https://thebestschools.org/magazine/prison-inmate-education-guide/

Van Wyk, S. A. (2014). From incarceration to successful reintegration: An ethnographic study of the impact of a halfway house on recidivism amongst female ex-offenders [Unpublished master’s thesis]. University of Stellenbosch.

Vandala, N., G., (2019). The transformative effect of correctional education: A global perspective. Cogent Social Sciences, 5(1), 1-15. DOI: 10.1080/23311886.2019.1677122.

Wilson, D., & Reuss, A., (2000). Prison(er) education: Tales of change and transformation. Waterside Press.

First Page


Last Page