This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Examination of factors that promote transformative learning experiences of college-level adult learners of foreign languages




Schwartz, Tomoko

Type of Degree



Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


The purpose of this study was to examine factors that promote transformative learning experiences of college-level adult learners of foreign languages. This study was conducted to analyze how college-level adult learners of foreign languages experience transformative learning through educational and non-educational experiences. Mezirow’s transformative learning theory (Mezirow, 1991a, 1994, 1995, 2000, 2003) provided the theoretical framework for this study. A mixed-methods research design was used to address the research questions. The students who were enrolled in one of the foreign language courses at a four-year southeastern public university during the Spring 2013 semester were asked to participate in this study. An online version of the modified Learning Activities Survey (LAS) (N=59) together with follow-up interviews (N=7) were used in this study. Analysis of online survey data was administered mainly with the Pearson chi-square tests while the interview data were analyzed with a phenomenological approach. Overall, 84.7% of participants did not have transformative learning experiences while 15.3% of the participants had transformative learning experiences. As implied by the results of the statistical analysis of online survey, the participants who had the combination of an alphabetic language (English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Latin, Greek, or Korean (Hangul) as first language and an ideographic language (Chinese or Japanese) as target language were more likely to experience non-educational perspective transformation. Although the participants who had mentoring during enrollment reported experiencing non-educational-related perspective transformation, the participants who had self-reflection during enrollment reported experiencing educational-related perspective transformation. In the interviews, categories such as intrinsic motivation (genuine interests/passion), cultural exposure (active/authentic cultural participation, cultural comparison, travel experiences, movies, contact with native speakers), and personal connection with the target culture (make friends with native speakers, integrated identity) were emerged as factors that promoted a perspective transformation. This study demonstrated that (1a) cultural exposure and (1b) personal connection with the target culture promote (2) cultural comparison between self and others and (3) self-reflection/premise reflection, which eventually lead to a (4) perspective transformation.