Every Lesson a Transformative Experience?

When I read a journal article, I like to import the entire piece into a google document. I’ve learned there is usually a keyword in the title. I recently read Transformative Experience: An Integrative Construct in the Spirit of Deweyan Pragmatism by Kevin Pugh. The article has the word experience 290 times.

Maybe experience is an essential word for education.

Experience is defined as useful content with and observation of facts or events. Kevin’s article is about the transformative experience that teachers can observe in students. So, the question I ask myself is, do students see everyday life experiences in a new way after a lesson in my classroom? I believe I do, but just thinking that is not enough.

Can I point out circumstances that illustrate this?

My teaching philosophy of Vital, Active, Vibrant guides me. I can point out many exercises, projects, lessons that do have meaning, and authentic learning. However, it’s the easy ones that I can point to. What about the more abstract teaching? Maybe the lessons not having a concrete existence is what I should reflect on? In the Pugh article, he has a quote from John Dewey, 

“Does it end in conclusions which, when they are referred back to ordinary life-experiences and their predicaments, render them more significant, more luminous to us, and make our dealings with them more fruitful?”

Take a journey with me for a paragraph or two. Way back in 2012, I took a class called Effective Teaching, this class gave me clarity on goals and objectives I should prepare before a lesson. I enjoy the occasional acronym or two from time to time. I came up with P.O.P.E (purpose, objective, practice, evaluation). This POPE was from the fall of 2013 when I taught Photoshop at Front Range Community College.

Coincidentally, this very lesson is in my Digital Storytelling class at the University of Colorado. The primary teaching and outcomes have changed very little in 7 years. It’s an excellent lesson, and the project is fun and gives students a pleasant experience with layers, selection tools, masks, and creating a fun image of themselves.

But at the conclusion, can students associate an ordinary life-experience?

Is this lesson giving them something significant and/or illuminating something they can associate with real life? Did I pick a challenging experience? Let’s see.

Recent Fruit Face Project for my Digital Storytelling Course

After every lesson, students in my courses write a reflection document I call a WISE. I told you I like an acronym or two. WISE stands for Wisdom, Intention, Success, Evaluation.

In the success sections, I want them to tell me, “What is success going to look like for you applying what you’ve learned. Tell me a familiar or new situation using the knowledge.” What I’m trying to have students tell me is how is the information in the lesson going to stick in their long-term memory. Can they tie the experience of the teaching in my classroom to a concrete scenario? So, does my success item and transformative experience line up? Well, kinda. I got to admit I’m not always happy with the response I get from this item on my WISE. Maybe I need to transform it to see if students write something that’s more in line with a transformative experience that Pugh writes about in his article. Then, my WISE could help me understand if every lesson I teach does have some transformative experience for students. What I think is transformative is irrelevant; it’s what the student believes that’s important.

“In summary, an experience is fundamentally transformative in that it changes one’s relationship with the world,” Pugh writes in the article. So, what if I come at my fruit face lesson a bit differently? I’m talking about graphic design principles in this lesson. If I go back to creating POPEs for every lesson and think about how elements of a lesson can/should change student’s relationship with the world, I should redirect my efforts, so the lesson makes them look at graphic design in the world with a new eye.

How’s that for a lesson about a lesson and a transformative experience for the lesson creator? The word experience only appears 16 times in this blog entry. However, I do realize the importance of the word relating to education.

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