Transformative Learning Competencies for Trainers and Catalysts

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Introduction

Both the learner and the trainer will share a range of competencies required to engage in transformative learning, albeit at different levels. From the learners side, there will only be a few prerequisites for embarking on a transformative learning journey. These are:

  • An eagerness to learn about oneself and a level of self-awareness
  • Self-responsibility
  • Curiosity
  • Willingness to develop a discerning but non-judgmental attitude

In the context of socio-ecological transition, because truly transformative learning only happens when it is applied in a collective/social context, it is also prerequisite that there is:

  • A motivation to be of service, or an altruistic or social/ecological commitment, alongside a motivation of ‘enlightened self-interest’ so the learner(s) understand how they and others will benefit from the learning
  • Some degree of being embedded in collective/community networks/groups/organisations or an intention to become embedded in this way

During the process of learning, learners will hopefully develop certain competencies (see Appendix) to at least a foundational level (Novice), and over time that these will be developed further to an intermediate or advanced level (Competent/Proficient). Trainers and catalysts will be expected to start with at least an intermediate level (Competent) of the same competencies, and to further develop these to an advanced, expert level (with well developed multiplier competencies) in order to have the greatest impact on learners, or communities. The following tables address the additional competencies that exclusively apply to those in trainer/catalyst roles.

Transformative Learning Competencies for Trainers and Catalysts

Intrapersonal (being) competencies

INTRAPERSONAL (BEING) COMPETENCIES in which individual trainers and training teams develop their inner world and way of being - for transformative learning competence, this includes: Current & Target Level of Competence
TL1: Developing self-awareness of thoughts, emotions, behaviours & intuitions

Indicators of competence:

  • Is able to balance self-confidence and self-questioning of what will serve learning, breakthroughs and insight in any given moment
  • Is able to plan and enact a shift from the more immediate/direct role of facilitator of learning (e.g. sharing knowledge, skills, experience) to often more distant support or mentoring of an ongoing self-directed learning journey
TL2: Being adaptable in the role as trainer or catalyst

Indicators of competence:

  • Is 'methodologically versatile' i.e. has the inner freedom to select, adapt and apply teaching methods that are responsive and appropriate to what’s arising or to the context (rather than operating from habit or on ‘autopilot’)
TL3: Developing clarity in your purpose, values, vision, motivation & commitment to enabling learning in others

Indicators of competence:

  • Is able to clarify, engage and nourish their purpose and motivations as a trainer or catalyst including the personal and group objectives, visions and values that the role is seeking to fulfill and embody
  • Is able to identify, pursue and balance both their own inner transformative goals and outer transformative goals and motivations, and is able to support this in others

Interpersonal (relating) competencies

INTERPERSONAL (RELATING) COMPETENCIES comprise the generalized ability of individual trainers and training teams to express ideas and interpret, respond to messages, and relate to individuals and groups as a whole. For transformative learning competence, this includes:
TL4: Creating a group container and supportive learning environment

Indicators of competence:

  • Approaches learners with positive regard and empathy
  • Holds the varying emotions of the group that arise as a result of breaking down unconscious, challenging narratives, dealing with systemic power dynamics that show up in the space or supporting enthusiasm for learning and action opportunities
TL5: Sensing and responding to group dynamics in service of learning

Indicators of competence:

  • Is able to gauge when and how to effectively stretch into / within participants’ individual or collective ‘learning zone’ (the space in which transformative change can be seeded) to their growing edge where transformation becomes rooted
  • Recognises a diversity of characteristics and qualities in individuals and groups, and mixes activities, combinations of people, group sizes to usefully and creatively vary the nature and outcomes of group dynamics in response to individual and collective needs
  • Encourages the learners to acknowledge and value the potentials of the different worldviews of the learning community and lets them map how to transform friction into synergy and creativity
  • Is able to work with liberating processes, structures and rhythms in groups, and to help break through limiting processes, structures and rhythms
TL6: Creating safe spaces that can work effectively with discomfort

Indicators of competence:

  • Is able to assess levels of psychological safety of activities and create safe-enough learning space whilst acknowledging the distinction between safety and comfort
  • Creates a culture of checking in, to challenge the denial of our emotional, embodied states, and allows people to be acknowledged as whole people
  • Is able to develop appropriate systems for addressing feedback, complaints and safeguarding for the well-being of learners throughout the whole learning experience

Cognitive (knowing) competencies

COGNITIVE (KNOWING) COMPETENCIES consists of what  individual trainers and training teams need to know and understand to enable, generate and support transformative learning - this includes: Current & Target Level of Competence
TL7: Having a deep understanding of transformative learning theory and practice

Indicators of competence:

  • Has the theoretical knowledge that serves as a foundation for transformative learning, including (but not limited to) theories of how people learn, theories of “transformation” and development e.g. Mezirow, Kegan, Beck Spiral Dynamics integral / Graves Development theory etc
  • Has knowledge that incorporates an array of tools and methods that cater for taught, self-directed and self-generated learning, such as classroom design, tools for sense-making, coaching approaches, and so on - reference: The Transformative Edge
  • Understands how historical. social and cultural systems and structures around power, discrimination and bias can block transformative experiences, and that usually they will be present in learning spaces and may be reproduced unless attention and care is given to raise awareness of and dismantle these dynamics
TL8: Knowing how to select and using tools and methodologies that support transformative learning

Indicators of competence:

  • Has knowledge and experience of the tools and methodologies that are likely to enable or support transformative outcomes for learners, including their particular relevance for a range of specific situations, opportunities or challenges
  • Has knowledge and experience of the suitability of any such tools and methodologies according to the varying levels of experience or openness to transformative processes that learners may have
  • Has knowledge and experience of tools and methods for reflection and checking progress towards transformative goals, including positive action responses if progress is not on track or goals have not been achieved, or to adjust the direction or goals to achieve different outcomes where appropriate.

Action (doing) competencies

ACTION (DOING) COMPETENCIES comprise the ability of individual trainers and training teams to apply and develop skills, identify and implement appropriate actions, individually and collectively. In terms of transformative learning (TL) competence, this includes: Current & Target Level of Competence
TL9: Being able to design, host or support a range of  non-linear, non-traditional learning journeys & experiences

Indicators of competence:

  • Is able to design and use learning experiences, processes and tools to construct TL programmes and journeys, for both individuals and groups, that draw on personal experience of participating in TL programmes
  • Is able to select a range of activities (e.g. playful; challenging; physical; reflective) for individuals and groups, and for a variety of learning environments (e.g. indoors & outdoors) that can significantly enhance or support transformative outcomes
  • Is able to cater for the range of diversity present in TL groups in terms of motivations, backgrounds and culture, locations, contexts and so forth; use language, case studies and reference material that encompasses and embraces this diversity, in order to create an inclusive space for all
  • Values and builds in feedback loops for learning and knows how to develop feedback systems within an online learning environment
  • Is able to integrate, refine or innovate valuable transformative learning methods and tools
  • Is able to hold the tensions and uncertainties that emerge along the learning journey i.e. is able to not automatically “fix the problem”
  • Is able to navigate with stability, awareness and responsiveness through complex dynamic environments
  • Is able to help learners become critically aware of their own hopes, fears and expectations; and to help craft their new insights into visions and pathways to desired futures. Sub-competencies are
    • a. Futures/foresight skills - has the ability to elicit and critically assess tacit assumptions about the future (hopes, fears, expectations); to access any relevant research/ factual material against which to evaluate those assumptions; and to elicit deeply-held values on which to build a vision of desired futures.
    • b. Charting the territory - has the ability to support students to create successively more detailed maps of the terrain: their desired futures, and the space between now and then; and to create stories about the journey (‚just enough‘).
    • c. Setting out on the journey - can craft invitations to students to experiment, individually and collectively, and to set their own priorities and boundaries.
  • Is able to initiate, facilitate and ‘manage’ in flexible and responsive ways transformative learning experiences, programmes  and journeys, for both individuals and groups
TL10: Anchoring learning in experience and practice

Indicators of competence:

  • Creates mechanisms to trial/pilot/test learning in both the short term and longer term, and adapts/adjusts accordingly in order to anchor knowledge in real-life experience and in practice in life
  • Is able to design different experiential settings, formats, structures and processes to best support the embodiment of skills/attitudes in the long-term, with an emphasis on project based learning, individual support i.e. coaching; group support i.e. supervision, peer groups in self-organization, involvement in a Community of Practice
TL11: Building support infrastructure that caters for the needs and potential of trainers and catalyst themselves

Indicators of competence:

  • Cultivate a network of complementary practitioners who can support the transfer of learning with each other e.g. actively engages in a Community of Practice - see BLAST CoP Guide
  • Is able to engage, share and learn in mutually beneficial ways with training / catalyst peers e.g. within Communities of Practice for transformative learning, such as integral trainers or permaculture educators
  • Is able to assess and select evaluation tools that are suitable for creating feedback loops for the educators themselves who are operating in transformative learning environments e.g. 3D Evaluation Methodology and Tool

Sources of knowledge and capacity building for transformative competencies

Example sources of knowledge, practices, tools and training centres which can support the development of these competencies:

  • Hosting Transformation website and A Transformative Edge book (available PDF download)
  • Transnational Community of Practice on Blended Transformative Learning for Regenerative Futures
  • Joanna Macy - The Work that Reconnects
  • Secular or Buddhist forms of mindfulness and compassion practices
  • Presencing - Theory U
  • Process Work