Steps along the journey: Documenting undergraduate White women's transformative processes in a diversity course

Fabienne Doucet, Nyasha Grayman-Simpson, Samantha Shapses Wertheim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article documents the transformation of cognitive and relational dispositions within a group of 14 White female undergraduate students ranging in age from 18 to 21 years and enrolled in a semester-long diversity course. Using Mezirow's transformative learning theory as an interpretive frame to guide our phenomenological analysis of written assignments, data revealed that students experienced multiple cognitive and relational transformative processes. Findings suggest that transformative learning theory's (Kitchenham, 2008; Mezirow & Associates, 2000) framework around processes of transformation is a useful analytical framework for capturing students' unique transformative learning processes or journeys. Findings further suggest that, students' relationships with members of cultural communities previously unfamiliar to them were an important part of students' transformative journeys. These relationships provided students with tangible experiences that assisted them in shifting their worldviews and arriving at greater understanding of how inequality, oppression, and prejudice impact the daily lives of others. Finally, the findings indicate that instructors' perspectives on what accounts for a transformative process is often not aligned with students' opinions of their own growth and development. The study concludes that transformation is a process, and that all steps are a necessary part of a transformative experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)276-291
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Diversity in Higher Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • college students
  • critical learning
  • diversity education
  • innovative pedagogy
  • transformative learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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