was interested in exploring how in adulthood we are able to critically recog-
nize, reassess, and modify the structures of our assumptions, and create
new frames of reference and points of view, so as thereby to influence our
deeply-held beliefs, attitudes, and actions
Mezirow focused on explaining how our expectations, framed within cul-
tural assumptions and presuppositions, directly influence the meaning we
derive from our experiences. As adults, our frames of reference include
both “meaning perspectives” and “meaning schemes.” A “meaning per-
spective” is our general frame of reference, or world view that includes a
collection of meaning schemes. Meaning perspectives provide us with gen-
eral criteria for judging right and wrong, true and false, beautiful and ugly,
and appropriate and inappropriate. “Meaning schemes,” on the other hand,
comprise our specific knowledge, beliefs, value judgments, and feelings.
For instance, our meaning perspective may be that all flowers are pretty,
and then our meaning scheme is that gardenias are pretty.
As children, our learning is constrained to absorbing these frames of ref-
erence from those around us, such as our teachers, pastors, parents, and
playmates. Over time, as these ideas and definitions are repeated through
our socialization, they become deeply held as truths and beliefs. They pro-
vide rationalization for an often irrational world, and we become dependent
on them. We begin to trust these frames of reference, and evaluate all new
information as fitting within or outside of such frames. Information that fits
within a frame will be trusted and feel comfortable. Information that is out-
side of the frame will feel uncomfortable and will require either the changing
of the frame of reference or the discarding of the information as untrue or
5 J
: I
, W
18–19 (Jack Mezirow & Edward W.
Taylor eds., 2009).
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