Exploring the events that engage graduate students in transformative learning /
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This research explored the events that engaged graduate students in transformative learning within a graduate program in education. This context was chosen because one objective of a graduate program is to facilitate critical thinking and transformative learning. The question ofhow adult learners perceive and experience learning steered the direction ofthis study. However, the purpose ofthis research was to study critical incidents that led to profound cognitive and affective changes as perceived by the graduate students. Specifically, the questions to be answered were what critical incidents happened to graduate students while in the Master ofEducation program, how were the incidents experienced, and what transformation resulted? The research design evolved over the course of a year and was highly influenced by previous empirical studies and criticisms oftransformative learning theory. The overall design was qualitative and phenomenological. A critical and interpretive approach was made to empirical data collected through a critical incident questionnaire and in-depth interviews. Inductive analysis allowed theory to be built from the data by making comparisons. New questions emerged and attention was given to social context, the passage oftime, and sequence ofevents in order to give meaning and translation ofthe participants' experiences and to build the interpretive narratives. Deductive analysis was also used on the data and a blending ofthe two forms of analysis; this resulted in the development ofa foundational model for transformative learning to be built.The data revealed critical incidents outside ofthe graduate school program that occurred in childhood or adult life prior to graduate school. Since context of individuals' lives had been an important critique of past transformative learning models and studies, this research expanded the original boundaries of this study beyond graduate school to incorporate incidents that occurred outside of graduate school. Critical incidents were categorized into time-related, people-related, and circumstancerelated themes. It was clear that participants were influenced and molded by the stage oftheir life, personal experiences, familial and cultural conditioning, and even historic events. The model developed in this document fiom an overview ofthe fmdings identifies a four-stage process of life difficulty, disintegration, reintegration, and completion that all participants' followed. The blended analysis was revealed from the description ofhow the incidents were experienced by the participants. The final categories were what were the feelings, what was happening, and what was the enviromnent? The resulting transformation was initially only going to consider cognitive and affective changes, however, it was apparent that contextual changes also occurred for all participants, so this category was also included. The model was described with the construction metaphor of a building "foimdation" to illustrate the variety of conditions that are necessary for transformative learning to occur. Since this was an exploratory study, no prior models or processes were used in data analysis, however, it appeared that the model developed from this study incorporated existing models and provided a more encompassing life picture oftransformative learning.