Critical Thinking and Transformative Learning

Guest Editors: Donna Kienzler & Frances M. Smith

Vol. 14, No. 2

ISSN: 1546-2676


The Use of the Critical Thinking Process by Family and Consumer Sciences Students


Exploring the State of Poverty: A Classroom Experience


Promoting Critical Thinking Skills and Transformative Learning Opportunities for Future Hospitality Managers


Transformative Learning: We Teach Who We Are

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Kappa Omicron Nu FORUM

Vol. 14, No. 2.

Editor: Dorothy I. Mitstifer.

Official publication of Kappa Omicron Nu National Honor Society. Member, Association of College Honor Societies. Copyright © 2004.

Kappa Omicron Nu FORUM is a refereed, semi-annual publication serving the profession of family and consumer sciences. The opinions expressed by the authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of the society. Further information: Kappa Omicron Nu, PO Box 798, Okemos, MI 48805-0798. Telephone: (727) 940-2658 ext. 2003

Interested in submitting an article to KON FORUM? Papers are now being accepted for review. For more information, see our Call for Papers & Guidelines for Authors.



Kappa Omicron Nu



As humanity’s ability to inflict damage on people and the earth keeps growing, it becomes more important than ever that our students learn to think critically and envision ways to improve their communities and societies. Modern communication brings world-wide events to our attention as they happen, but also bombards us with 10-second sound bites that tell only part of the truth. The pressures of everyday life allow less and less time for thoughtful reflection and meaningful dialogue. Students, as future world citizens, need to learn to make reasoned judgments in light of the facts available. Clayton (2003)[1] quoting Minnich, offers these descriptions: “[critical thinking] is exploratory, suggestive, it does not prove anything, or finally arrive anywhere. [Critical thinkers] are open-minded, reflective, challenging—more likely to question than to assert, inclined to listen to many sides, capable of making distinctions that hold differences in play rather than dividing in order to exclude, and desirous of persuading others rather than reducing them to silence by refuting them.” They continue the search for information to improve themselves and their world.

Individuals need to be open to new ways of thinking, and to be open to transformative learning. It may mean seeing the world and their place in it differently. It may mean recognizing the larger social structures that oppress them and how they could overcome these barriers.

Three articles in this issue show students learning critical thinking in the classroom as major step towards transforming aspects of their lives. Kienzler and Smith focus on a family and consumer sciences classroom where students learn critical thinking as a way to transform their thinking about family social issues. Quotes from videotapes of students’ class dialogues and role-plays provide evidence of this class’s thinking process. Class dialogue and student journals show that to be effective critical thinkers, students must continue to practice being questioning and reflective as they learn from differing points of view.

Klemme and Rommel describe the use of Reform Organization of Welfare (ROWEL) to help students develop empathy for individuals living in poverty. Students in two summer school classes engaged in the experience with the help of 17 community residents representing community agencies. The three-hour experience had students assume the role of families in poverty as they make decisions about life issues such as food, housing, and medical care. Students’ attitudes changed in transportation, isolation, time, rules, self-esteem, jobs, and illegal activities of the poor. They learned the many ways society takes advantage of the poor.

Thin proposes an opportunity to promote transformative learning in a hospitality management class that uses case studies to promote problem-solving skills related to real-life hospitality scenarios. The new way of thinking would link profit objectives with the promotion of socially responsible and ethical practices in the hospitality business.

In the fourth article McGregor presents her personal story of the transformative process. She indicates that a transformed teacher/learner develops the capacity to be adaptive, more open to other points of view, and increasingly self-aware. She contends that if individuals acquire new habits of mind and differing points of view, their practice will transform itself because we teach who we are.

Not only must graduates of higher education have critical thinking skills, but they need to practice these through their commitment to continued life-long learning. Critical thinking and transformative learning combine cognitive knowledge with affective feelings and emotions. The world could be a better place if its citizens questioned more, cared for each other more, and lived more in tune with their immediate and world-wide surroundings.

[1]  Clayton, M. (2003, Oct. 14). Rethinking thinking.  Christian Science Monitor, 95(223), 18-23.  Accessed at, on 1/21/04.


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