Embodied Transformation: Tapping into the Nature of Emergent Learning
Doctor of Philosophy
SubjectTeaching in higher education
Pre-service teacher education
Ecological literacy and consciousness
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation describes a basic qualitative inquiry research study, regarding participant experiences of an emergent approach to teaching in higher education. Patterns in transformative meaning-making were a particular focus. Complexity theory was an orienting theory for the study, and was included in a theoretical framework which organized observation, interviewing, and the analysis of data. Participants were twenty-two (22) pre-service teacher education students, specializing in ecological literacy and consciousness. There were fifteen (15) female, and seven (7) male participants, with an age range of 22-33. Research methods included informal and semi-structured interview notes, field notes, and artifacts collected and analyzed to identify themes and patterns. The course being studied utilized an emergent design approach, in which participants played roles in “macro-models”, which are analogous representations of ecological phenomena. Participants also engaged in a variety of other activities, and reflected on experiences. Macro-models encouraged intensive interaction between participants and were conducted in natural surroundings. A new term, “embodied transformation”, emerged from the analysis of data to describe the dynamic learning process that participants experienced. A model was developed to visually represent embodied transformation, including growth in conceptual understanding, which occurred through linear and non-linear processes of disequilibrium, dispersal of old understandings, and coalescence of new and more adaptive understandings of key concepts. Conceptual understanding was not solely intellectual, but rather was rooted in the physiological, emotional, and psychological aspects of participant experiences. These dimensions caused changes in the intent and behaviour of participants as their understanding became personally meaningful and connected to the larger ecosystem. This process was recursive in that understandings, including discovering connections between concepts, were re-visited on multiple occasions, becoming more complex and transferrable to novel situations as the course progressed. Embodied transformation is discussed as a natural learning process, evoked by the emergent design approach. The doctoral research project itself is discussed as a complex phenomenon, in which conceptual understanding of complexity grew through an unforeseen, recursive, embodied, and emergent process.