• Farrukh Nahid Akhtar Kingston University, Department of Social Work and Social Care, London, United Kingdom



Transformative Life Writing, Transformative Learning, Curriculum, Emotional Intelligence, Soft Skills


The objectives of this reflective paper are two-fold. Firstly it considers the increasing marketization of UK HE and the subsequent need to embed student soft skills explicitly within curricula. Secondly, it introduces Transformative Life WritingTM (TLW) (a framework of transformative learning) and considers its usefulness as a medium of developing student soft skills. The author uses an auto-ethnographic approach to reflect on her experiences, of delivering a transformative curriculum by using TLW – a system that can facilitate profound personal and professional development through specific life writing tools. The rewards and challenges of using this approach are discussed, including the educator’s use of self and other strategies to create a safe environment in which students maximise their engagement, own and explore their emotional intelligence.It is argued that Transformative Life Writing can be an effective tool in increasing student awareness of their soft skills, and in increasing their confidence and self-esteem. This is especially so for vulnerable students, or those who consider themselves as having difficulties in engaging inter-personally with others. However, the paper highlights the needs of HEI’s to appropriately support educators in its delivery, especially in relation to the emotional labour involved. 


Adamson, CW and Bailie, JW (2012) Education Versus Learning: Restorative Practices in Higher Education. Journal of transformative education. Vol: 10 No. 3, pages 139-156

Adams, T. E., Holman Jones, S., & Ellis, C. (2015). Autoethnography: Understanding Qualitative Research. New York: Oxford University Press, 1–203.

Akhtar, F (ed) (2012) Life Writing for Transformation Facilitators’ Manual. Published by Woodbrooke, Quaker Study Centre. Birmingham.

Akhtar, F. (2013) Mastering Social Work Values and Ethics. . London. Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Andrews, J and Higson, H (2008) Graduate Employability, ‘Soft Skills’ Versus ‘Hard’ Business Knowledge: A European Study. Higher Education in Europe, Vol. 33, No. 4, December 2008.

Baxter, A and Britton, C (2001) Risk, identity and change: becoming a mature student. International Studies in Sociology of Education 11(1): 87-101

Berry, K. and Cassidy, S (2013) Emotional Labour in University Lecturers: Considerations for Higher Education Institutions. Journal of Curriculum and Teaching. Vol2, No 2, Pages 22-36.

Brande, D (1934) Becoming a Writer. New York. Harcourt, Brace and Company.

Brookfield, S.D. (2000). "Transformative learning as ideology critique". In J. Mezirow & Associates (Eds.), Learning as transformation. Critical perspectives on a theory in progress (pp. 125–150). San Francisco, CA. Jossey-Bass.

Brown, P (2016) The invisible problem? Improving students’ mental health. HEPI Report 81. Oxford. Higher Education Policy Institute. Available at: Accessed on 12.5.18

Cameron, J (1992) The Artist’s Way: The Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. New York. Penguin Putnam.

Constanti, P. and Gibbs, P. (2004) Higher education teachers and emotional labour. International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 18 Issue: 4, pp.243-249,

Cotton, K. (2000) Developing Employability Skills, School Improvement Research Series Research You Can Use Close-Up Number 15. Available online at: Accessed on 15.5.18

Cranton, P (2002) ‘Teaching for transformation’ New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education. No 3, Spring 2002, P63 – 7.1

Cranton, P and Carusetta, E (2004) Developing Authenticity as a Transformative Process. Journal of Transformative Education Vol. 2 No. 4, October 2004 Pages 276-293

Department for Education (2017) Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework Specification. Crown Copyright. Available at: Accessed on 9.5.18

Dillon, J (2011) Black Minority Ethnic Students Navigating their Way from Access Courses to Social Work Programmes: Key Considerations for the Selection of Students. British Journal of Social Work, 2011, Vol. 41(8), pp.1477-1496

Edgington, U (2016) Performativity and the Power of Shame: Lesson Observations, Emotional Labour and Professional Habitus. Sociological Research Online, 2016, Vol.21 (1), pp.1-15

Eichsteller, G. and Holthoff, S. (2011) ‘Conceptual Foundations of Social Pedagogy: A Transnational Perspective from Germany’. In Cameron, C. and Moss, P. (eds) Social Pedagogy and Working with Children and Young People. London. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Elbow, P (1975) Writing Without Teachers. Oxford. Oxford University Press.

Epple, D.E. (2007) journal writing for Life development. Advances in social work. Volume 8 number 2 (Fall 2007) Pages 388-304

Fleming N.D., and Mills, C. (1992) ‘Not Another Inventory, Rather a Catalyst for Reflection’ To Improve the Academy, Vol.11, 1992., page 137

Foote, L.S. (2015) Re-storying life as a means of critical reflection: the power of narrative learning. Christian Higher Education. 14(3) Pages 116-126

Grant, L and Kinman, G (2013) The importance of emotional resilience for staff and students in the ‘helping’ professions: developing an emotional curriculum. December 2013. HEA.

Higher Education Academy (2006) Pedagogy for employability Learning and Employability Series 1. The Higher Education Academy, April 2006

Hudak, G.M.(2000) Envy and goodness in academia. Peace Review 12: 4 2000, pages 607-612

Kinman, G., Wray, S., and Strange, C. (2010) Emotional labour, burnout and job satisfaction in UK teachers: the role of workplace social support. Educational Psychology: An International Journal of Experimental Educational Psychology. Volume 31, 2011. Issue 7 Pages 843-856

Klassen, J. (2004) Tools for Transformation: write your way to new worlds of possibility in just five minutes. West Conshohocken, PA: Infinity Publishing.

Krumer-Nevo, M, and Didi, M (2012) Writing against othering. Qualitative inquiry. 28(4) 299-309

Lehman, L. (2013) Habitus Transformation and Hidden Injuries: Successful Working Class University Students. Sociology of Education. 87(1) 1-15

Leon, R-D. (2016) The Development of the Future European Knowledge Workers. An Academic Perspective. Management Dynamics in the Knowledge Economy; Bucharest Vol. 4, Issue. 3, (2016): 339-356.

Lysaker JT and Furuness S (2011) Space for Transformation: Relational, Dialogic Pedagogy. Journal of Transformative Education 9(3) 183-197

Macaskill, A (2013) The mental health of university students in the United Kingdom. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 2013 Vol. 41, No. 4, 426-441

Mezirow, J. (1991) Transformative dimensions of adult learning. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco. CA.

Mezirow, J. (1997). "Transformative Learning: Theory to Practice". New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 74, 5–12.

Molesworth, M., Scullion, R., Nixon, E (2010) The marketisation of higher education. London. Routledge.

Moran, H and Powell, J (2018) Running a tight ship: can universities plot a course through rough seas?. Shift Learning. London. Available online at Accessed on 16.4.18.

Neves, J (2016) Student Engagement and Skills Development: The UK Engagement Survey. York. Higher Education Academy.

Nirmala, K; Kumar, S A Senthil (2018) The Impact of Basic, Higher-Order Thinking and Affective Skills on Graduate Employability. IUP Journal of Soft Skills; Hyderabad Vol. 12, Issue 1. (Mar 2018): 7-28.

Noddings, N (2005) the challenge to care in schools: an alternative approach to education. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Office for National Statistics (2016) How has the student population changed? Accessed on line at: Accessed on 3.5.18

Prescott, L (2011) Life Writing and Life Learning: an Analysis of Creative Writing Students Work. Studies in Continuing Education. Volume 34 number 2 July 2012 pages 145- 157

Psychology: An International Journal of Experimental Educational Psychology. Volume 31, 2011 - Issue 7 Pages 843-856

Owenby, P (2002) OrganizationalLearning Communities and the dark side of the learning organization. Adult Learning Community. 95, pages 51-60.

Pennebaker, J.W. (1990) Opening up: The healing power of expressing emotions. New York. Guildford Press Quest Books.

Weiner W and Rosenwald, G (1993) A moments Monument: The psychology of keeping a diary. In Josselson, R and Lieblich, A (Eds) The narrative studies of lives. Vol 1, pp30-57. London. Sage Publications.

Yearwood, D., Cox, R and Cassidy, A (2016) Connection- Engagement-Empowerment: A Course Design Model. Transformative dialogues: teaching and learning journal. Volume 8 issue 3 January 2016 pages 1 to 16.




How to Cite