Date of Award

5-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Educational Psychology and Research

Major Professor

John M. Peters

Committee Members

Ralph G. Brockett, Clara Lee Brown, Mary F. Ziegler

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to understand the experience of students in a graduate course on the topic of Reflective Practice (RP). A phenomenological method was utilized to frame interviews with eight students discussing challenges to their beliefs and assumptions that arose during the course.

Based on a thematic analysis of the interview data, three major figural themes and one ground theme emerged. The three figural themes indicated that participants experienced changes in their beliefs and assumptions about student-to-student and student-to-teacher relationships and about similarities and differences among their own and others’ belief systems, in addition to their own comfort with a highly interactive teaching and learning environment. For example, participants’ initial beliefs about differences in student and teacher expertise, related authority, and early discomfort with the RP process gave way to beliefs about multiple expertise, equality, and increased comfort with dialoguing about personal and controversial topics. The ground theme indicated that time was a key factor in participants’ experiences: that is, changes in their beliefs and assumptions occurred over time and appeared to extend past the end of the course although no attempt was made to investigate long-term outcomes of participants’ experiences.

The findings suggest a need for further research on the sustainability of changes in beliefs and assumptions beyond the course experience, the possibility of replicating the results in other areas of study and in courses with more diverse demographics, and inquiry into how students’ beliefs and assumptions change during shorter intervals of the teaching and learning process. In the area of practice, the findings suggest that instructors interested in gearing their pedagogy to student subject matter needs might also consider inquiring into the students’ initial beliefs and assumptions about teaching and learning, as well as how their own assumptions and beliefs frame their interactions with students.

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