Transformational learning and restorative justice creates impact at RU

Caption: The Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation puts an emphasis on the importance of transformational learning and restorative justice in the classroom.

The Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation puts an emphasis on the importance of transformational learning and restorative justice in the classroom. 

By Rachel Popa

The Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation earlier this year commissioned a study to learn more about the benefit and impact of restorative justice and transformational learning.

“The growth of transformational learning at the university has been a grassroots effort,” said Heather Dalmage, Director of the Mansfield Institute.

Roosevelt began offering classes centered around transformational learning in 2008 under the guidance of Dr. Pamela Robert, who serves as the Associate Professor of Sociology at Roosevelt University.

Currently, Roosevelt University offers 41 courses that are primarily categorized as being transformational learning classes, including “Youth Violence Intervention and Theory,” a psychology class, and “Child Family and Community” which is an education class. What sets transformational learning apart from more traditional forms of learning is the focus on students serving their communities in ways that are relevant to the course material, as was noted by the Mansfield Institute’s report.   

Students in transformational learning classes also focus on completing projects that benefit underprivileged people by making a significant and positive impact in their lives. The Mansfield Institute’s study cites that integrating transformational learning into the curriculum at Roosevelt helps to increase students’ awareness of injustice in modern society, as well as to “develop a sense of agency” among students. The study also found that implementing transformational learning in the classroom increased students’ personal growth, participation in the community, and academic performance.

“Transformational learning pedagogies increase students’ engagement with course material and students’ sense of social responsibility,” Dalmage said.

In a response to the survey conducted by the institute, a fifth of Roosevelt students said that because they took a class that was centered around transformational learning, they planned to be a paid employee working toward a social cause. Additionally, one in five of the students that participated in the study said that they planned to continue volunteering and doing work with community organizations.

In addition to putting a focus on transformational learning in the classroom, the Mansfield Institute plans to further increase restorative justice programs throughout the Roosevelt community and beyond.

“We’ve been working in the area of restorative justice for some years now,” said Nancy Michaels, Assistant Director of the Mansfield Institute. “It came out of our research on the prison pipeline as it is an alternative to the punitive systems in our schools and criminal justice systems.”

In accordance to Roosevelt’s mission of social justice, the Mansfield Institute plans to further educate people about the benefits of restorative justice.

“We’re looking at really bringing restorative justice to the forefront at Roosevelt University by creating a space where people can come to learn about restorative justice and cutting edge research,” Dalmage said.

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