FOSTERING TRANSFORMATIVE LEARNING FOR GRADE 3 STUDENTS PREPARING FOR EQAO EXAMINATIONS
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All Grade 3 students in Ontario are required to write standardized examinations in June that test their abilities in both language and mathematics. Test results from the 2011- 2012 academic year of testing by the Educational Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) of Ontario indicated that my students were weakest at explaining their thinking when solving word problems in mathematics. I made it a personal teaching goal to model to students how to be more reflective about their learning in hopes that it would increase their ability to state their chosen strategies and become more thorough when providing their solutions. Transformative learning involves experiencing a deep, structural shift in the basic premises of thought, feelings, and actions (Maxwell, 2002, p. 18). Mezirow (1997, p. 7) describes transformative learning in these terms: We transform our frames of reference through critical reflection on the assumptions upon which our interpretations, beliefs, and habits of mind or points of view are based. We can become critically reflective of the assumptions we or others make when we learn to solve problems instrumentally or when we are involved in communicative learning. Following Mezirow’s definition that transformative learning is “a process by which previously uncritically assimilated assumptions, beliefs, values, and perspectives are questioned and thereby become more open, permeable, and better validated” (Cranton, 2006, p. 2), I argue that transformative learning can be achieved in some meaningful way for any type of learner at any age. Some suggest that transformative learning, which involves reflective practice and critical thinking, can only be achieved by adult learners. I believe that efforts to foster transformative learning for young learners are possible and should be developed in language that children can understand easily. In order to foster transformative learning for my students, I designed five phases to collect data to monitor student progress throughout the Grade 3 math curriculum. Each phase focused on specific strategies where I attempted to ignite my students’ critical thinking abilities. In search of evidence that transformative learning was taking place, I was guided by Mezirow’s 10 phases placed alongside my students’ mathematics responses and my qualitative notes on student dialogue.