«Deborah Duveskog Faculty of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences Department of Urban and Rural Development Uppsala Doctoral Thesis Swedish ...»
A perspective transformation, a change in frame of reference, often occurs either through a series of cumulative transformed meaning schemes or as a result of an acute personal or social crisis (Mezirow 1997). Mezirow (1978) suggests that when an adult encounters a disorienting dilemma, i.e. a problem for where there are no immediate apparent solutions suggested by past experience and knowledge, reflection is triggered. With a disorienting dilemma as starting point (catalyst for change), he outlines ten phases of perspective transformation: 1) a disorienting dilemma occurs, that; 2) triggers selfexamination with feelings of fear, anger, guilt or shame, whereby; 3) a critical assessment of assumptions take place, following which; 4) the individual recognises that one’s discontent and the process of transformation is connected, and thereby; 5) explores options for new roles, relationships and actions, followed by; 6) planning of a course of action and; 7) acquiring knowledge and skills for implementing one’s plans, then; 8) provisionally trying of the new roles, and then; 9) builds competence and self-confidence in the new role and relationship. This is finally completed through 10) a reintegration into one’s live on the basis of conditions dictated by one’s new perspective.
TL according to Mezirow’s interpretation is a metacognitive process of evidential (instrumental) and dialogical (communicative) reasoning processes for advancing and assessing held beliefs. Instrumental learning relates to learning how to manipulate or control the environment or other people to enhance efficacy in improving performance, and is usually task oriented.
Communicative learning on the other hand is learning to understand the meaning of what is being communicated, thus based on reflection and involving at least two persons. This is generally furthered through conversations but it could also be though artwork, song or dance. In instrumental learning, the truth of an assertion may be established through empirical testing. However, communicative learning involves understanding purposes, values, beliefs, and feelings and is less amenable to empirical tests (Habermas 1981). For Habermas, discourse leading to a consensus can establish the validity of a belief. This means that conclusions are always tentative, since we may always encounter others with new evidence, arguments and perspectives. Thus diversity of experience and inclusion of other perspectives are essential to our understanding. This viewpoint brings a collective perspective to transformative learning and is therefore particularly important when dealing with group learning such as FFS.
Subsequent research in the field has created alternative conceptions of transformative learning to Mezirow’s dominant theory. Two broad groups of conceptions of how to frame TL feature: the psychological and the emancipatory view (Taylor 2008) inform this study. The focus of the psychological view is the individual and his or her learning experience in a more universal view of learning, the lifelong journey of the learner, developing a deeper self-knowledge, individualisation, and epistemological change and change in how we make meaning (as opposed to change only in behaviours of quantity of knowledge).
The emancipatory view of transformative learning is rooted in the work of Freire (1970, 1984) and is much more strongly imbedded into social, relational and political structures. He used the term ‘conscientization’ to describe the process by which one’s false consciousness becomes transcended through education. Freire’s (1973, 1984) thoughts on emancipation is of particular relevance when relating to resource poor communities, who lack voice and power to influence their own development agenda since a central concept in Freire’s work is a transformation aimed at liberation of the oppressed, and transformation of the world so that it can be a more equitable place for all to live. Thinking as an autonomous and responsible agent is seen as essential for full and active citizenship, thus a politicizing concept. He talks of praxis which he defines as “reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it” and at the core of praxis is the process of naming the world which is an action in the sense that naming something transforms it, and reflective in the sense that our choice of words gives meaning to the world around us. He also talks about education in terms of “the practice of freedom”, by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world. Traditional education teaches people, and in particular disadvantaged peoples, into a culture of silence while transformative learning is seen as a process of drawing people out of their unconscious pattern and coaxed out of their learned culture of silence (Fals Borda and Rahman 1991). Freire (1970) refers to education that is liberating rather than domesticating. Liberating education consists of acts of cognition, not transferral of information where people come to feel like masters of their own thinking. Epistemologically he distinguishes between this and the banking concept of education where, knowledge is considered a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing. This view is contradicted by a view of education and knowledge as a process of inquiry. The “reason d’etre” of libertarian education lies in its drive towards reconciliation. Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students. In the agricultural extension context transfer of technologies would be seen as domesticating education where farmers are pushed into preconceived behaviours and acts, as opposed to extension where the farmers and extension workers work together to find solutions to problems and to reflect on experiences, which could be seen as a form of liberation. Three teaching approaches central to fostering of emancipatory transformative learning (Freire and Macedo 1995) are encouraging critical reflection, promoting a liberating approach to teaching and engaging in a horizontal (student-centred) student-teacher relationships.
Since the early 1980s, the integrity of TL theory has been established by extensive research (Taylor 2007; Taylor and Cranton 2012). Only recently has research started to explore the application of this theory of transformation in non-western settings (Kollins and Hansman 2005; Merriam and Ntseane 2008;
Ntseane 2012). Studies such as Percy’s (2005) have noted this limitation in applying Mezirow’s conception of TL to the understanding of change in nonwestern settings, thus questioning the cultural sensitivity of the theory. Most African communities view human existence in relation to the existence of others with a worldview that emphasizes belongingness, connectedness, community participation and people centeredness (Ntseane 2012). This is in contradiction to the western setting that emphasise rationality, individual autonomy with a lack of appreciation on relational and collective ways of knowing. Applications of TL therefore need to appreciate the importance of understanding human existence in relation to others (Avoseh 2001; Ntseane 2005; Ntseane 2012). The group based and experiential learning mode of FFS thus fits well in with the traditional African value system that value life experience and wisdom over formal knowledge and communality over autonomous learning. An Afrocentric conception of TL (Asante, 1998;
Williams, 2003; Taylor, 2008) has recently emerged (Ntseane and Merriam 2008, Ntseane 2012) that directs attention to this context-dependent nature of significant personal change and the need for awareness of the African value system. This perspective deals with the question of African identity from the perspective of people who have been marginalized by colonialism and consequently party lost their cultural footing (Asante 1998) and the ultimate aim of Afrocentricity is here peoples liberation and generate knowledge that will free and empower people. TL here provides an unique opportunity for Africans to define themselves and their agenda according to the their realities while also taking into account the realities of others (Ntseane 2012), and thus also fit right into the development agenda of community empowerment and people centred development.
While applying TL as a theoretical perspective of this study, it is important to keep in mind shortcomings of the theory and explore ways that this study can contribute to advancing the theoretical field. Even though transformative learning offers a suitable frame for analysis of FFS participants individual learning experience it does not provide an equally suitable lens for understanding the collective nature of FFS groups, this study therefore hope to generate knowledge around the collectiveness of transformation (Taylor and Cranton 2012) and thus respond to the social-individual tension in the field.
Likewise the hope is to further the knowledge on cultural aspects of application of the theory in the African setting and in a poverty context, as well as explore how fostering practice of this concept play out in such a setting, areas that currently are considered as shortcoming of the theory.
6.2.3 Situated learning in a community of practice Many anthropologists analyse learning from a social praxis perspective, where learning is considered a social phenomenon interwoven in everyday life rather than an individual cognitive process related to particular learning situations (Lave and Wenger, 1991). This perspective provides an interesting and relevant alternative to the theoretical framework on adult learning presented above. In situated learning, learning is understood as essentially situated and learning about something is embedded in the social practices it takes place in.
Just as the theoretical framework developed above on adult learning, this implies a critique of classroom based learning that is separated from the world outside. Lave and Wenger (1991), explain that there is a big difference between learning and the intentional instructions of mainstream education that focus on transfer or transmission of messages. Situated learning thus emphasises the value of on-job training and apprenticeship. Moreover there is a critique on education that focuses on the individual rather than on the opportunities in the social context. When looking at learning in this manner it becomes evident why the transfer of technology model employed so widely historically in the field of agricultural education largely has failed to induce changes among rural farmers. FFS on the other hand with its focus on active participation in peer learning relationships and hand-on practical learning in an on-job manner emerge as an exemplification of situated learning. Especially in the still traditional cultures of Africa, where formal schooling is relatively new and the predominant way of learning has for centuries been through relational on-job societal coaching, FFS fits well in. While the literature on situated learning involving a deepening process of participation in a communities of practice, have dwelt very little with rural farmers as learners, this research highlights the potential for increased attention to the value of this concept in agricultural development and rural advisory services. This study, however, concerns an educational intervention into the taken for granted praxis of everyday farming. The theoretical framework has been developed in relation to the FFS methods and educational philosophy, which are closely related to the developments within experiential and transformative learning perspectives.
7 Study area
7.1 Empirical frame The empirical source for this research was a three-year IFAD funded project “Expansion of Farmer Field Schools Programme in Eastern and Southern Africa”, which started in September 2005 in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The project was implemented jointly between FAO and Government Ministries of Agriculture in the three countries. Key interventions included running of about 100 FFS in each country, development of self-financing mechanisms for FFS implementation, development of a broad-based market oriented learning curriculum, support to farmer organisations and networking and models for institutionalisation and up scaling. The project had a strong focus on exploring and testing ways of making farmer education more demand driven, cost effective and market oriented (Global IMP Facility 2003).
The project was a 2nd phase and a direct follow up to an earlier three year IFAD-financed programme between the years 1999 – 2002 for which the objective was to examine whether Farmer Field Schools could have an impact on rural poverty reduction in the specific conditions of East Africa. It was one of the first large scale FFS programmes in Africa.
A non-envisaged impact of this project was the establishment of local and district level “FFS networks” consisting of elected boards formed by FFS graduated groups and operated through a paying membership. These networks have been observed to increasingly starting to take on the role of assisting the groups to identify and access external service providers and skills. They have also proved to be effective units for input supplies, produce marketing and policy advocacy. They represent a significant development in terms of organisations owned and controlled by the poor. The motivations for selecting
the IFAD programme as the empirical frame for this research were:
Ø། This project was spearheading development of demand-driven services in the region and applied a range of innovative aspects such as broadened curriculum, demand-side financing, market orientation, participatory learning with evidence of collective action emerging etc.
Ø། The project had a history since 1999; therefore it was possible to evaluate effects and impact that take time to emerge.
Ø། The project implementation strategy and implementation modalities have been largely identical in the three countries, thereby making it possible to do a comparative analysis across the three countries.
Ø། The project had a strong commitment for learning, and allowed the necessary flexibility in implementation modalities in order to ensure that the programme could evolve according to the demands of participants.