In pursuit of transformation: perceptions of writing and learning in an experiential learning classroom
MetadataShow full item record
Using as a basis what Dewey (1938) called "wholehearted" learning, or the undeniable link between the intellect and the feelings that surround a learning experience, I explored college students’ potential for “change” in their knowledge, emotions, motivation, attitude, and perceptions. So much of what is known about learning indicates that how one learns can tremendously influence what one learns in terms of the knowledge and understanding that develops—a fact that implicates the importance of situated learning and a need to explore the “individual in context” (Pintrich, 2000, p. 223). Set within an experiential learning environment, one in which students learn in a context that mirrors what they will encounter in the "real world," I used grounded theory methodology to develop a paradigm of change in students over time. As a participant observer in a magazine writing course for the duration of the semester, I investigated what it meant to the students to be transformed through a classroom experience and how change was made possible within a composition course. Through analysis of interviews, journal entries, and questionnaires from 25 students, the study revealed the importance of reflection as a means for and a method of detecting change. Together with observation and these methods of reflection, a holistic text analysis on the students’ essays, or “articles,” implicated several course-based and individually-based conditions that support change, the nature of change students endure during a semester, including transformation or “learning that lasts” (Mentowski & associates, 2000), and the effects of the ensuing change both within students and within their texts. The results emphasize beneficial contributions to writing instruction, to models of learning, and the practice of service-learning and experiential learning as a possible context for change.