Transformative Learning as the Basis for Teaching Healing

Main Article Content

John H. Kearsley


The author describes the nature of transformative education, and highlights the potential importance of its implementation in creating physician-healers and propagating whole person care. The author proposes that teaching courses in healing are integral to the professional identity formation of “doctors as healers”.


The teaching of Healing in workshop format for medical students is used as a template to suggest innovative teaching models (after Mezirow, Boyd and Myers, Daloz and Dirkx) which may be used to  engender  personal transformation in doctors and medical students, many of whom are trained as applied scientists in health.

Article Details

How to Cite
Kearsley, J. H. (2015). Transformative Learning as the Basis for Teaching Healing. The International Journal of Whole Person Care, 2(1).
Theoretical Papers
Author Biography

John H. Kearsley, University of New South Wales, Sydney St. George Hospital, Kogarah

Prof. Medicine, School of Medicine, UNSW

Director of Radiation Oncology, St. George Hospital, Kogarah



Saunders J. The Practice of Clinical Medicine as an Art and as a Science. Med Humanities 2000;26:18-22.

Mount B and Kearney M. Healing and Palliative Care: charting our way forward. Pall Med 2003;17:657-658.

Egnew TR. Suffering, Meaning, and Healing: Challenges of Contemporary Medicine. Ann Fam Med 2009;7:170-175.

Rabow MW, Remen RN and Parmelee DX. Professional Formation: Extending Medicine’s Lineage of Service Into the Next Century. Acad Med 2010;85:310-317.

Lown B. The Lost Art of Healing. Practicing Compassion in Medicine. New York: Random House, 1996.

Herman J. Medicine: the science and the art. J Med Ethics: Medical Humanities 2001; 27: 42-46.

Ofri D. The practice of medicine: neither science nor art. Lancet 2006;367:807-808.

Novack D, Epstein R and Paulsen RH. Towards Creating Physician-Healers. Fostering Medical Students’ Self-Awareness, Personal Growth and Well-Being. Acad Med 1999;74: 516-520.

Chou C, Kellom K and Shea JA: Attitudes and Habits of Highly Humanistic Physicians. Acad Med 2014; 89:1-7.

Puchalski CM . Reconnecting the Science and Art of Medicine. Acad Med 2001 76(12): 1224-1225.

Cassell EJ. The Nature of Healing. Oxford Uni Press, 2013.

Coulehan J & Williams PC: Vanquishing Virtue: The Impact of Medical Education. Acad Med 2001;76 (6): 598-605.

Bellini LM & Shea JA: Mood Change and Empathy Decline Persist During 3 Years of Internal Medicine Training. Acad Med 2005; 80:164-167.

Hojat M, Vergare M, Maxwell K et al: The Devil is in the Third Year: A Longitudinal Study of Erosion of Empathy in Medical School. Acad Med 2009; 84(9):1182-1191.

Shapiro J. The Inner World of Medical Students. Listening to their voices in poetry. Oxford: Radcliffe Publishing, 2009.

Coulehan J. Today’s professionalism: engaging the mind but not the heart. Acad Med 2005; 80(10):892-898.

Cole TR & Carlin N: The Suffering of Physicians. Lancet 2009; 374: 1414-1415.

Kearsley JH. Whole Person Care: Where Clinical Excellence and Patient Care Meet. Int J WPC 2014: 1(2):61-74.

Cohn F. Existential Medicine: Martin Buber and Physician-Patient Relationships. J Contin Edu Health Professions 2001;21(3):170-181

Scott JG, Scott RG, Miller WL, Strange KC and Crabtree BF. Healing Relationships and the existential philosophy of Martin Buber. Philosophy, Ethics and Humanities in Medicine 2009;4:11.

Gordon J. Medical Humanities: to cure sometimes, to relieve often, to comfort always. Med J Aust 2005;182:5-8.

Christenson G. Why We Need the Arts in Medicine. Minn Med 2011; 94:49-51.

Whitcomb ME. Medical Professionalism: Can It Be Taught? Acad Med 2005;80(10):883-884.

Birden HH and Usherwood. “They liked it if you said you cried”: how medical students perceive the teaching of professionalism. Med J Aus 2013; 199:406-409.

Cruess RL, Cruess SR, Boudreau JD et al. Reframing Medical Education to Support Professional Identity Formation. Acad Med 2014 (in press).

Doukas DJ, McCullough LB, Wear S et al. The Challenge of Promoting Professionalism Through Medical Ethics and Humanities Education. Acad Med 2013; 88(11):1-6.

Kligler B, Maizes V, Schachter S et al. Core Competencies in Integrative Medicine for Medical School Curricula: A Proposal. Acad Med 2004;79:521-530.

Hutchinson TA (ed). Whole Person Care. A New Paradigm for the 21st Century. New York: Springer 2011.

Kearsley John Henry and Lobb Elizabeth. “Workshops in Healing” for senior medical students: a 5-year experience. (Abstract). Int J WPC 2014;1(1).

Kearsley JH, Lobb EA. ‘Workshops in healing’ for senior medical students: a 5-year overview and appraisal. Med Humanities 2014: 0: 1-7. doi: 10.1136/medhum 2013-010438.

Merriam SB, Caffarella RS & Baumgartner LM. Learning in Adulthood. 3rd Edn. A Comprehensive Guide. Jossey Bass. John Wiley & Sons Inc 2007.

Dirkx JM. Transformative Learning Theory in the Practice of Adult Education: An Overview. PAACE Journal of Lifelong Learning 1998; 7:1-14.

Mezirow J. A critical theory of adult learning and education. Adult Education 1981; 32(1): 3-24.

Boyd RD and Myers JG. Transformative Education. Int J Lifelong Edu 1988; 7(4):261-284.

Boyd R. Personal transformation in small groups: a Jungian perspective. London: Routledge, 1991.

Daloz L. Effective teaching and mentoring: Realizing the transformational power of adult learning experiences. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass 1986.

Dirkx J. Images, transformative learning and the work of the soul. Adult Learning 2001; 12(3): 15-16.

Brookfield S. Developing Critical Thinkers. Open Uni Press, Milton Keynes 1987.

Andre J. Learning to see : Moral Growth During Medical Training. J Med Ethics 1992; 18: 148-152.

McDonald MG. The Nature of Epiphanic Experience. J Human Psychol 2008; 48(1): 89-115.

Kanter SL. The Importance of Teaching and Learning Moments. Acad Med 2012; 87: 1149.

Kearsley JH and Lobb EA. “ It Is Not a Disease We Treat, But a Person “: Medical Students’ Reflections on Their First Rotations to an Oncology and Palliative Care Unit. J Pall Care 2013;29(3):231-235.

Taylor EW. Analyzing research on transformative learning theory. In J Mezirow & Associates (eds), Learning as transformation: critical perspectives on a theory in progress San Francisco: Jossey-Bass 2000: 285-328.

McConnell MM and Eva KW. The Role of Emotion in the Learning and Transfer of Clinical Skills and Knowledge. Acad Med 2012; 87(10): 1316-1322.

Chochinov HM. Dignity in Care: Time to Take Action. J Pain Sympt Manag 2013; 46(5): 756-759.

Kovan JT and Dirkx JM. “Being Called Awake”: The role of transformative learning in the lives of environmental activists. Adult Educ Quarterly 2003; 53(2): 99-118.