Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Carol E. Kasworm

Committee Members

John Peters, Lawrence Coleman, Howard Pollio


The purpose of this study was to explore the underlying dynamics of a reflective practice class taught as a graduate level course at a large southeastern state university. Specifically this research explored: (i) how participants in the class made meaning of their experiences; and (ii) what were the underlying processes of the class. The data collection methods employed in this study included a biographical interview with each participant in order to get a sense for what they brought to the class, a phenomenological interview with each participant on his or her experience in the class, participant observation in class meetings, and collection of participants' writing assignments.

Analysis of the data suggested that participants' everyday way of making meaning represented a subconscious, interpretive, projective, uncritical and non self-aware way of making meaning which was biographically and culturally informed. The data further suggested that the philosophical assumptions and underlying processes of the class fostered a transformation of meaning making on the part of participants to a new and arguably more authentic way of making meaning. This new way of making meaning was described as a conscious, receptive and critically self-aware way of making meaning.

Based on an analysis of participants' experiences of the class, the underlying processes of the class were grouped under two main headings: interpersonal relationship processes - which described the evolution of positive interpersonal relationships within the class and the development of the class as a group; and learning processes - which included a foundational process of learning from lived experience and four different dialogical learning processes (effective communication, self-reflection, reflection on a phenomenon, and problem solving), each based on its own distinct purpose and each following its own distinct pattern of interaction. The data also suggested that a symbiotic relationship existed between the interpersonal relationship processes and the learning processes. The dialogical learning processes fostered positive interpersonal relationships (trust, respect and a sense of community) within the group, and the positive interpersonal relationships within the group in turn facilitated the group's successful engagement in the dialogical learning processes. Overall, the interpersonal relationship processes and the learning processes within the class are presented as parallel interaction spirals - a 'spiral' of interpersonal relationships tending towards a sense of cohesion and community among participants; and a 'spiral' of learning tending towards increased awareness and understanding for participants of self, others, the world around them and the problem situation that they found themselves in.

The findings of this research are discussed in terms of ongoing discourses in the literature. The conclusions of this research with regard to meaning making and the underlying processes of the class are discussed within the broader frameworks of human consciousness and pedagogy, respectively. Implications of this research for adult education practice, for future research and for the evolution of human consciousness are also discussed.

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