Date of Award

8-2004

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education

Major

Educational Psychology

Major Professor

John M. Peters

Committee Members

Wayne K. Clatterbuck, J. Mark Fly, David M. Ostermeier, Howard R. Pollio

Abstract

This study describes an action research inquiry into my practice as a collaborative learning community group facilitator. The Deer Lodge Community Group of private landowners, natural resource professionals and community stakeholders, met monthly to address natural resource and community issues of concern. I facilitated these meetings through the frame of collaborative learning with attention to its elements of dialogue, co-construction, multiple ways of knowing, cycles of action and reflection, place, and fellowship. My intentions were to foster group interactions that acknowledge the significance of lived experience, orient interactions and information transfers towards democratic and participatory exchanges, and create a network of resources for learning and evaluating options for land management.

In order to inquire into the experience of the Deer Lodge Community Group, I collected qualitative data in the form of interviews, field notes, and reflective journaling. Experiential themes for community members and stakeholders reflected positive outcomes in terms of relationship building. Community members experienced the group as allowing disparate groups to come together to learn, interact, and see their community in a new way, while lacking structure and direction. Community stakeholders, who saw their own roles as that of outside resources, perceived the group as lacking a unifying focus. Field notes, reflective journals, and semi-structured interviews supported these themes.

My study indicates that I was successful in achieving my goal of enabling group members to engage with each other in new and productive ways, to learn about each other and their community, and to develop new visions for the community and the larger region. Some group members, however, held additional goals of achieving specific actions which were not met. This inquiry points to changes in my practice of a natural resources collaborative learning community group facilitator.

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