Achieving Consciousness and Transformation in the Classroom: Race, Gender, Sexual Orientations and Social Justice


This paper examines the way in which the selected use of transformative pedagogy can affect student consciousness about race, gender, and sexual orientation. Students in an upper division honors class at a large research university were required to post six comments per week to an online class portal, related to readings, class discussions, videos, and presentations, for a class on the public education pedagogies. Our research examines these web posts where students are encourages and free to express their feelings and ideas. At the end of the semester, students were asked to utilize these posts in order to identify evidence of personal transformation. Both the original posts and students final papers were then coded using the typologies proposed by Bion in his work with psychoanalytic groups which classified statements by their “work-oriented” content or their fight/flight content (Bion, 1961). We found that students’ final papers contained a larger percentage of work-oriented statements than their web-posts. This increase in self-examination and confrontation can be attributed to the transformation of identities. We argue that the work of Mezirow (1994) and Bion (1961) present useful ways of understanding transformation. We also suggest two major limitations of Mezirow’s work are his neglect of multiple identities each of which can be involved in transformation and his failure to state explicitly that transformation, more often than not, involves action related to social justice.

Share and Cite:

Dhillon, M. , Rabow, J. , Han, V. , Maltz, S. and Moore, J. (2015) Achieving Consciousness and Transformation in the Classroom: Race, Gender, Sexual Orientations and Social Justice. Sociology Mind, 5, 74-83. doi: 10.4236/sm.2015.52008.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Bion, W. R. (1961). Experiences in Groups. London: Tavistock Publications.
[2] Cranton, P. (1994). Understanding and Promoting Transformative Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
[3] Cranton, P. (2002). Teaching for Transformation. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 2002, 63-72.
[4] Dewey, J. (1986). Experience and Education. The Educational Forum, 50, 241-252.
[5] Empey, L T., & Rabow, J. (1961). The Provo Experiment in Delinquency Rehabilitation. American Sociological Review, 26, 679-695.
[6] Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Seabury Press.
[7] Helms, J. E. (1992). A Race Is a Nice Thing to Have: A Guide to Being a White Person or Understanding the White Persons in Your Life. Arlington, VA: Content Communications.
[8] Hill, W. F. (1966). The Hill Interaction Matrix. Los Angeles: University of Southern California.
[9] hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress. New York, NY: Routledge.
[10] Howard, G. (2006). We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know. New York: Teacher’s College Press.
[11] Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
[12] Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning to Think Like an Adult: Core Concepts of Transformational Theory. In J. Mezirow & Associates (Eds.), Learning as Transformation: Critical Perspectives on a Theory in Progress (pp. 3-33). San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass Inc.
[13] Rabow, J., & Yeghnazar, P. (2009). Transformative Teaching in the University: Uncovering and Confronting Racism, Sexism and Homophobia. Teaching Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education: Perspectives from North America. Birmingham: Center for the Study of Sociology, Anthropology, and Politics.
[14] Taylor, E. W. (1997). Building upon the Theoretical Debate: A Critical Review of the Empirical Studies of Mezirow’s Transformative Learning Theory. Adult Education Quarterly, 48, 34-59.
[15] Taylor, E. W. (2007). An Update of Transformative Learning Theory: A Critical Review of the Empirical Research (1999-2005). International Journal of Lifelong Education, 26, 173-191.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.