The Critique of Mezirow's Ideas

In critical pedagogy, students are taught to overcome any challenging negative customs and believe. During the learning process, there are struggles to assimilate new concepts into the already known customs and beliefs. Mezirow (1990, p. 1) highlighted that learning is when people try to make meaning. When one is in the process of learning, it means that there are new things that one encounter and which tend to be different from what they already know or perceive. Therefore, this calls for the student to try to make meaning from such things. This is what learning is all about. However, Lin and Kubota (2009, p. 199) noted that there are several factors that have to be present in order for one to be able to make a meaning. The students are supposed to be open to ideas and understand that even when the ideas seem to be unique and strange, they are part of learning. In this regard, it is apparent that both simple and hard tasks requiring interpretation in the process of trying to make meaning amounts to learning.

The view of Mezirow (1990, p. 2) that meaning perspectives are acquired during childhood and that the horizons of people’s expectations are determined by physchocultural assumptions can be argued to be a critical observation in the learning process. The kind of interaction children have plays a critical role in determining the kind of meaning perspectives they draw in their learning process. For instance, if the children are accustomed to always obey what they are told without questioning even when they see things they are told to do are wrong, it is highly likely that the children will have a difficult time trying to solve some things on their own when they grow up (Irby, 2012, p. 133). Conversely, if the students are accustomed to explorative activities in most of the things they do including during their routine chores and during play, it is highly likely that the children stand a great chance of drawing meaning perspectives when they grow up and more so during their learning perspective.

However, regardless of the situation in which the students are faced with, Mezirow (1990, p. 12) argued that critical reflection is indispensable. A special class of assumptions in the name of presuppositions is dealt with using critical reflection. Every challenging problem requires justification of the premises involved by a way of critically analyzing them. However, according to Lin and Kubota (2009, p. 199), this process involves defining the problem and then tries to make meaning through assessing the cause of the problem and possible ways of addressing it. Prior knowledge of the problem is first sought in order to find out if the strategies used could be applied to the current situation in case the strategies were successful. There is a problem with this kind of strategy especially when people are overwhelmed with their presuppositions which require them to challenge the already established habitual patterns of expectations. Therefore, it is critical to evaluate the values one holds when making meaning. Mezirow (1990) gave an example of a meaning of a “good” woman which tends to change according to the time the definition is being sought. He says “An example is the time-honored definition of what it means to be a “good” woman, which was questioned through the consciousness-raising of women’s movement” (12).

With the new challenges and problems requiring the learner to employ strategies for solving them, the issue of problem-solving skills comes in. some of the learning activities have different solutions which can be applied to solve them. However, in order for the students to be successful, there is a need to have problem-solving skills. One of the critical steps is to identify the problem and understand its nature. If there is a past experience to a similar problem, the student has a choice to use the previous strategies of solving the problem or devise new ways of dealing with the problem (Irby, 2012, p. 134). If one strategy fails to work, the learner is exposed to other options that might be new and strange to them. Mezirow (1990, p. 7) argued that focusing on the premise of the problem is an important aspect of problem-solving skills. In fact, he further argues that reflecting on the content of the problem helps the learner to understand themselves more, thus they understand their learning better. When learners understand themselves, they are able to determine their strengths and weaknesses then they can start working on them to improve their learning.

The point of view that experiences of interacting with the environment act as a learning tool has many facets that this observation can be explained. Fear and Miller (2006, p. 223) noted that the environment that people interact with denotes the kind of a person one becomes. For instance, students who learn in the old learning environment without the use of computers and other technology-based platforms have the knowledge limited only to the environment they are in. the use of the computer would encourage them to conduct additional research that enables them to use computer programs as they explore new applications. Therefore, it is apparent that the two kinds of students will have different viewpoints and understanding of things they learn about. When the students in the computer learning environment are taught about means of communication, they are able to understand the use of emails, video conferencing, and other online communication platforms that the other children might not understand. When the students learning in the old ways are introduced to the technological learning environment, they would require applying problem-solving skills for them to learn the new communication means.


Mezirow’s theory is indispensable in regards to orienting how students interpret their sense of experiences and making meaning out of them for effective learning. While the theory has instrumental and communicative learning structures, the two structures of learning complement one another for effective learning. Instrumental learning entails application of problem-solving and determining causes and effects associations. Conversely, communicative learning entails ways learners communicate their feelings, desires as well as needs. These factors have to be aligned with the learning process that requires them to overcome some of the feelings that might hinder them from learning and acquiring new knowledge. Although the theory involves the two kinds of learning, other scholars have supported the theory by incorporating other specific items that support each of the learning. Communicative learning has been argued to involve cultural factors that either foster or hinder learning. Ways of overcoming such issues entail the instrumental learning that requires the learners to have problem-solving skills.   


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