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EPALE discussion: Transformative learning and life skills

Tell us yours about transformative learning and life skills!


On 27/10/2021, 10 am CET EPALE will host a live-streamed discussion on transformative learning and life skills, moderated by Gina Ebner and Christin Cieslak of the EAEA; joined by George A. Koulaouzides and Suzanne Kyle.

We will discuss transformative learning and life skills, what we mean when we use these terms as well as potential chances and challenges which might come with them.

Our guest speakers will provide insights into the academic, policy and praxis aspects of the topic. We will also have a look at the current stand of transformative learning in Europe and will explore whether and how the EU currently supports the development of life skills. We will discuss what best practice examples can teach us about how to foster transformation and life skills in a realistic way, and thus support sustainability and cohesion in Europe.

Guiding questions could be:

  • What do we mean by transformative learning? What do we mean by life skills?

  • What is the connection between life skills and transformative education?

  • Which do you see with implementing a transformative learning approach?

  • How could transformative learning support a more open, less instrumentalized view on education?

  • George A. Koulaouzides, Assistant Professor of Adult Learning and Education at the Hellenic Open University

  • Suzanne Kyle, Senior Community Education Officer at AONTAS


With this discussion we want to provide the participants with a kick-off point for the topic of transformative learning and life skills, and show what benefits they bring for the individual learner and for society as a whole. We will give a quick introduction into some of the challenges but also the potential that comes with their fostering and implementation. Particularly we want to put the focus on academic, policy and praxis aspects of transformative learning and life skills and what these three sectors have to contribute to make transformative learning a reality for all Europeans.


The discussion will be kicked-off at 10:00 am CET with a live-streamed exchange between experts in transformative learning, and will continue the conversation with EPALE users in a written discussion in the comments section until 4:00 pm CET.

Comments will be open starting from 13 October to let you share your thoughts and questions!


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For me, an interesting hint is that transformative learning should bring contrasting articles on a topic, and ask learners their thoughts and insights on the different elements of each article. It is a part of critical thinking approach. This helps them to question their own understanding and move through the process of learning.

This, further, brings a lot of benefits, like:

  • Better problem-solving applications
  • Changing habitual perspectives
  • Struggling with developmental and reriodical transition problems
  • Job and workplace adaptation
  • Social education projects


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I received this comment from Mary Maher of Dublin Adult Learning Centre (website: which she gave me permission to share:

"I think methodologies are really important in transformative learning. As tutors/ facilitators we have to create safe spaces where people can share their stories, experiences and feel listened to and respected. This creates the conditions that facilitate/support and nurture change. People sharing their humanity and authentic voice is the most powerful tool for change. The tutor models this in the classroom".

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Thank you, Suzanne, for this!

I would also like to add the EPALE Community Conference event (18/19 October) page on Diversity and safe space in adult learning:


Please also visit the project website on safe spaces in ALE:


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When it comes to Life Skills (and transformative learning), we introiduce the concept the following way: we don't put people into a curriculum, but we start with the learner and build a curriculum for / around them.

In adult education practice, tbh, this is very often not the case, we follow more traditional methods and structures.

How can we / what do we need to move in the direction of transformative learning / life skills? (I mean this more from an organisational point of view)

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Referring back to some points made below, it seems that we should:

- better convey the benefits learning can have on the learner, their well-being and their happiness

- acknowledge the crucial role emotions are having when it comes to transformative learning and that therefore meaningful is a keyword here ⇒ Not every circumstance can trigger transformative learning experiences - but transformative learning experiences can happen anywhere

- we should provide guidance to educators and teachers, but also they have to invest in their teaching habits by taking enough time to get to know their learners and be able to respond to their needs 

- educators and teachers do not necessarily benefit from theoretical papers but rather grass-root approaches and hands-on praxis examples

- transformation is a necessity and will only increase in importance due to the fast changing circumstances we are living in

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At my organisation we are runnign a project where we study tranformative learning and Bildung in adult education in voluntary organisations, with sustainable developemnt as a specific theme.

Our first results resonate very much with what Suzanne Kyle said in the debate about bringing people together, as there is a need to reflect the factual side of the learning process with others to make sense of it and to be able to help it shape the learner's own world view.

The problem with learning in the voluntary sector and perhaps with adult education in general is time: We have detected an ongoing trend that courses and other learning activities become shorter, making them also highly factual. As a result, learners will know a lot but this knowledge won't necessarily transform them. Peers and other people are needed for that.

Another thing is the role of emotions. In a functioning peer group it's easy to share, for example, climate anxiety. Emotions are often neglected in learning, but a vital part of transformative learning.

In our study we noted that learners relied on their families, friends and other people as well. Adult learners aren't as self-directed as we often think!

I have blogged about our results in Epale:…;

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We've also realised that the fast-pace mode of learning with short courses causes problems for voluntary organisations: They want to educate people to take up volunteering roles, but they don't always have time to use methods that would help them learn skills and attitudes in a way that allows them to transfer them into a real volunteering setting. We sometimes say that you learn about active citizenship instead of learning to become an active citizen.

So, we are now trying out small-scale interventions and tools with 9 NGOs to introduce more interaction in the courses and to get learners more focused on their own learning in a short period of time.


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Hello! I would like to disagree that MOOCs and microcredentials are creating an obstacle to time-consuming transformative learning. I would view them rather as additional learning opportunities, especially to obtain specific and practically applicable skills. BUT of course that longer programmes that are better at developing transversal and basic skills are offer transformative experience, are also important and should be promoted and supported, but not at the expense of microcredentials.

The problem is that adults with all their responsibilities might not be able to find time for longer programmes, so this obstacle should be overcome in order to facilitate access to them.

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Indeed...a book maybe transforming... My suggestions : Jarvis, P. (2009). Learning to be a person in society., Brookfield S. & Holst, J (2010). Radicalizing learning: adult education for a just world. O'Sullivan, E. Transformative Learning: Educational Vision for the 21st Century and one of my favourites Palmer, P. "The Courage to Teach"....Great books

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Covid19 is a major one. And it can be used in multiple ways in adult education. In a more everyday approach, it is a simple daily habit that is changed by a simple transformative stimulus. For example, small media spots during the day, reminding people of the benefits of being active and eating right. Unfortunately, people are bombarded with only consumer content and scattered well-being information in a confusing way.

Even more effective would be for this reminder to be done in real-time and out in real life, on the streets, at work, with experiential events and human interaction.

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It almost sounds like "we should normalise learning!" and I am fully on board with that. Personal development and learning should be waved into the daily lives of people. For that, it has to be put into perspective. At the moment, education is often displayed as a big formal event and is often instrumentalised as a tool serving the labour market.

If we want adult education to be implemented in peoples' daily lives, we have to raise awareness of its multifacetedness and convey the benefits of learning for peoples' well-being.

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In my opinion, motivation is the most important factor in adult education. And, of course, the coherence of training with daily and / or professional needs is a strong motivator for transformative learning.

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Motivation is always a determining factor to ensure a successful learning journey.  Transformation emerges from the innovative practices implemented in adult learning settings together with the individual commitment of learners to apply knowledge in their context.  

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Here below the link to a beautiful ERASMUS+ project focused on transformative learning for sustainable action through a proper use of ICT devices and services. Its name is: Conscience Numérique Durable (Digital Sustainable Conscience"),

it is inspired to: the PCE - Pédagogie de la Conscientisation et de l'Engagement by Catalina Ferrer and Jacques Perrenaud (inspired at its turn by Paulo Freire) and the Edgar Morin's "Éducation au futur" (education to the future) oriented to form "a planetary consciousness of our human condition, whereby humans are biologically part of Planet Earth which is in danger (we as well, our health and well-being as well) and can be preserved only if we understand our role, our responsibilities, the impacts of our daily behaviors and actions. A critical and informed thinking (on our positive and negative impacts) is necessary to activate transformative micro and macro actions, individually and in group.

In the end, transformative action requires ongoing transformative lifelong learning, and vice-versa, hopefully. 

We search for exchanges on these topics. Thanks, I'll take a look to the Future Lab AE Change Oriented Adult Education project!

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I would recommend that the trainer starts by getting to know his/her student better in order to find the best way to help him. In my opinion, projects come later and should aim to respond to what the learner needs.

We usually see very interesting projects but they do not always respond to what students need, so they are not transformative for these students. They just produce written reports to someone read.

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Methodologies of implementing transformative education has to become as a very important point in designing any course in adult education centres. We have to look on learners needs and how the programm is meeting them,how the adult educators are prepared to implement the programm.There are a wide range of methods such as problem solving, task based method,sharing of experiences, mind maping,........... It would be interesting to hear also about the use of such methods to enrich personal capacity of the participants of this discussion.

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PDL is a method to teach and learn languages. The progression in a PDL class is not based on pre-determined contents.

The members of the group are seen as “participants” because they participate in their own acquisition and learning process and determine the themes and situations themselves and because they “take part” in the life of the group. The concept of the learner is only used in the context of conventional teaching. The teaching method allows the participants to relate to themselves, to the other participants, to the group as a whole and to their environment and world at large. It is not only about linguistic autonomy, but also about developing a sense of solidarity and joint responsibility, i.e. to be aware of the constructive interdependence of every individual within the group or, for that matter, society at large.

More information about PDL:…

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Jebkura indivīda iegūtās dzīves prasmes transformējas kavlitatīvā personīgās mācīšanās prasmju ieguvē. Uz personīgo mācīšanās prasmju apguvi pārsvarā ir orientēti sabiedriski un ekonomiski aktīvi cilvēki, jo tas ir nepieciešams lai pilnvērtīgi varētu iekļauties darba tirgū un sekot darba prasmju tendencēm mūsdienu mainīgajā darba vidē.Katra privātpersona,kas apgūst un papildina savas zināšanas dod ieguldījumu sabiedrības kopīgajā attīstībā. Dotajos apstākļos, kad publiskajā telpā ir plaša dezinformācija par dažādām norisēm valstī un pasaulē ir svarīgi sabiedrībai mācīt medijpratību un prasmi atšķirt objektīvu informāciju no maldinošās vai dezinformējošās. Liels paldies diskusijas organizatoriem par mācību prasmju un to sabiedrisko nozīmi kopienā  aktualizēšanu!!!

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Dārgā Erodeja, liels paldies par jūsu komentāru. Jūs runājat par dažādiem aspektiem.  Attiecībā uz personīgajām prasmēm, kas kļūst par personīgajām kognitīvajām mācīšanās prasmēm; ja es jūs pareizi saprotu, tad jūs sakāt, ka individuālā mācīšanās vienmēr palielina arī pašu mācīšanās prasmes. Tas ir lielisks punkts. Tas lieliski sasaucas ar jūsu piezīmi, ka individuālie izglītojamie vienmēr dod ieguldījumu arī sabiedrībā. Es pilnībā piekrītu. Mēs nespēsim risināt 21. gadsimta izaicinājumus, ja nepārtraukti neizglītosim savus iedzīvotājus

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The discover of the PDL method, to teach foreign languages, changed my way of teaching. More than that, it changed me. There is no programme in a PDL class, it means, the trainer has to be absolutely present, he/she goes with his/her participants. He/She must follow and not go ahead. The participant and the group are at the centre. 

This is a method that can be called "pedagogy of being". Attitudes like empathy, spontaneity or creativity are also trained, in order to develop competences that facilitate communication. The language is just a middle of communication. This is really exciting. Each class is different and there is a real encounter between people. We meet as human beings, and not in a hierarchical setting teacher/learner. People feel recognized and accepted. 

Please have a look on the fundaments of the method:…

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I think the attitude of the trainers is crucial. They have to accept and to respect the participant in front of them,they have to be open and present. Only this way, the can encounter the person with all his/her experience. A "pedagogy of being" instead of a "pedagogy of having" can be a chance to reconsider the relations between participant and trainer.

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Well, children have experiences too....They do not live in a social vacuum...But as they are in a process of socialization, children may learn how to examine things from different perspectives, how to relate, how to appreciate nature, how to respect others... In kindergarten we may lay the foundations to develop adults that have a transformative mind...and this may be proven helpful for them in the future.

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