Bildung As A Theory of Learning

In higher education the concept of Bildung is introduced. Bildung (self-cultivation and self-realization) as a reflective tool and as a point of orientation and regulation.
In order to clarify the conception of Bildung theories of transformative learning may be helpful in explaining some of the core features.

transformative learning

Transformative learning can be seen as the process of effecting change in a frame of reference. Of critical importance in this definition is the term frame of reference which is stated to be the structures of assumptions through which we understand our experiences to selectively shape cognitive, conative, and emotional processes.
A frame of reference is a relatively stable construct. Modern theories of Bildung claims that there are many big transformations in the society (digitalisation, globalism) which require a transformation of the frame of reference.
Bildung may thus be understood as a way of reconsidering learning practices in a way which is appropriate to the challenges of modern education.


web 2.0

Recent theoretical approaches claim that Bildung is more closely linked to social media and innovative ICT than ever before. In recent attempts to describe Bildung in changed realities such as virtual worlds or digital spaces, the influence of innovative ICT has gained significant influence. Of central importance are the extended possibilities for articulation in new social media spaces. Expressing one’s opinion in a blog or posting a statement in a discussion forum reflects individual Bildung. Moreover, Bildung exceeds the dominant perspective of the individual to embrace the social realm. In this way, Bildung enables participation in public affairs and eventually leads to participatory culture, which is assumed to emerge from the so-called Web 2.0 era.
Bildung is exposed to new opportunities but also to new challenges.


Bildung can be described as a complex process of interaction between the individual and the world based on an understanding of the importance of openness. Openness is important as an unrestricted access to the world, if you want Bildung to take place. This takes a form where the student is confronted with a diverse array of challenging experiences which then can be transformed into an integrated self.
The student can never gather himself enough in the whole human race. The more diversity he transforms into the whole, the richer, and the more powerful and successful he will be. The impact of the multifaceted relations provides him the diversity. The more he opens up (toward the world), the more new sides (and multiple abilities) he can possess, and the more active his inner activities can be so as to develop individually and to combine all together to a whole (Humboldt, 2002).
Since the focus is on the potential for human development, it has functioned as something of a blank canvas for a range of thinkers interested in education. This is common in a humanistic approach.



The beliefs and values associated with Bildung – including autonomy, critical reflection, inclusivity, and the rejection of commercial imperatives – are suitable for providing a theoretical framework for higher education. The commercialization of higher education threatens to conflate education and learning, and learning experiences are often treated as isolated consumer choices. We need a framework like Bildung to analyse changes in education, helping us make decisions about the kind of educational culture to which we aspire. Overall, Bildung is more reflexive, more critical, and more open than didactic models of education or traditional theories of learning. There are good reasons to think that it can provide the open education movement with an improved philosophical and pedagogical foundation.

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