Degree Name

Doctor of Education


School of Education


The purpose of this research was to investigate the potential of learning to be a transformative experience. The aim of the study was to develop a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of adult learners. This was considered through an exploration of the learning experiences of a small group of students in transition from the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector to higher education in New South Wales, Australia. The study focused on seven students from four different Technical and Further Education (TAFE) colleges who enrolled in various undergraduate degrees at one regional university in NSW. The study was framed by an examination of the degree to which students’ perspectives, identities and aspirations were transformed as a result of their engagement in further and higher education. A qualitative approach was taken, with narrative interviewing deemed most appropriate to the development of understandings of transitions and transformations. The conceptual underpinning of the research was influenced by Transformational Learning Theory (Mezirow, 1990), in which learning is viewed as a potential portal for transformation of the habits of mind and the meaning perspectives that adult learners hold. It is Mezirow’s (1990) contention that, ultimately, change in these domains opens the door to potential transformation to ways of perceiving the self and one’s place in the world. It is clear from the outcomes of this research that learning, as defined within the parameters of this study, has the potential to transform individual perspectives, identity and aspirations. It is also apparent that the transition experience is potentially one which holds many challenges, as well as rewards, for adult learners. The ability of learners to address the challenges in order to reap the rewards may hold a significant place in their learning outcomes. This study paves the way for further inquiry in the field of transition and transformation, particularly for research which seeks to foreground the voices of adult learners as they are engaged in the transition process.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.