Transformative Learning & Youth
Mary Sweatman’s current research projects revolve around understanding transformative learning experiences and community engagement. Transformative learning experiences are deep experiences that profoundly shift one’s perspectives and behaviours in the world. One current research project is with Acadia University’s S.M.I.L.E (Sensory Motor Instructional Leadership Experience) program, which involves partnering university student volunteers with children from the community with varying ability levels. Throughout the academic year, this program is offered to approximately 280 participants who are given one-on-one physical activity instruction by one of nearly 400 Acadia University student volunteers. A pilot study was recently presented at the Canadian Congress on Leisure Research in Halifax (2014), which suggested that the S.M.I.L.E program is transformative for many of the volunteers, who shared stories of how the experience changed their lives.
An upcoming project related to transformative learning will be working with students who are organizing a student wellness and leadership conference. The student-led two-day conference will focus on peer leadership for change through storytelling, and transforming local culture to increase mental health and wellness on campus. The conference will be organized by students and will feature a performance by an award-winning drama group of persons with chronic and persistent mental illness (the Park Bench Players) who are taking leadership in community mental health education and telling their own stories. There are lots of ways that students are a part of these projects— through the Community Development program’s student society (ACDC), through the SMILE program as a volunteer, and as research assistants. Please contact Mary if you are interested in getting involved.