Catherine Anderson



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Transformative learning has played a pivotal role in adult education since Jack Mezirow analyzed perspective transformation over 30 years ago. However, despite numerous empirical studies addressing theoretical and practical dimensions, little data exists regarding the individual experience of perspective transformation and its contextual influences. Using an autoethnographic methodology that is as contemplative as the subject matter itself, this unique qualitative study examines transformative learning and select conceptual underpinnings--including critical reflection, spirituality, authenticity, and self-transformation--as they relate to adult learning both in and outside of the classroom. Data collection techniques include: a study of artifacts; self- and participant interviews incorporating the Action-Reason-Thematic Technique (or ARTT); personal narrative comprising journal writing, critical incidents, and metaphor analysis; as well as conceptual mapping. Through careful self-examination and systematic reflection, the researcher explores abstract ways of "coming to know," considering intrapersonal, interpersonal, and cognitive dimensions. Due to its sensitive, intertwined, and evolving nature, such epistemic practice may prove difficult to investigate otherwise, using alternate, large-scale means. The study offers a conduit between what is personal and what is cultural, providing an intimate, experiential account of meaning making, while relating it to context. As the nature of modern life becomes increasingly pluralistic, interdependent, and complex--forcing individuals to grapple with notions of "self," "universe," and "other"--the implications for self-discovery and society are immense. The researcher addresses possibilities for personal and social change, as well as multiculturalism, highlighting an intricate process of challenging individual and cultural assumptions as she navigates uncertainty. Presentation material includes select concept maps, as well as creative work and personal photography.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Graduate Research

Primary Advisor

Molly A. Schaller

Primary Advisor's Department

Counselor Education and Human Services


Stander Symposium project, student affairs, School of Education and Health Sciences

Illuminating Transformative Learning, Context, and Meaning Making in Adults: A Student Perspective