Autodidaxy in children : understanding interest, the informal curriculum and engagement with rationalized systems of knowledge
This dissertation is a qualitative case study within an interpretive epistemology that explores the construction and engagement of the informal curriculum and the subsequent interaction with rationalized systems of knowledge by four young autodidactics between the ages of 9 and 15. The analyses of these constructions, engagement and interactions coalesced into three themes. Theme one establishes autonomy as the penultimate emic feature of autodidaxy through its relations with commitment to endeavors, connections along the experiential continuum, and perceived confidence in abilities to learn and to organize the social environment for further learning. Theme two entails the inherent connection participants conceive between interests and progressive, challenging goals. Theme three focuses on how interests are initiated through the exploratory stance of the participants as they purposefully seek out experiential problems from their environment, as well as the control of habitual patterns of pursuit and moments of interest assessment. These themes in relation to the research focus on the informal curriculum and interactions with rationalized systems of knowledge result in three findings. First, rigor is found to operate at multiple levels within autodidactic endeavors; secondly, relevance functions as initial questions arising out of productive boredom tether knowledge to experience and results in persistence and versatility of interest; and finally, the finding of autonomy operates as a process of choice which frames interests with future orientations that afford challenging experiences resulting in joy and the progression of knowledge and skills associated with the interest. Data analysis throughout the themes and findings discussed above culminate in three implications. First, while not engaging all of the disciplines traditionally associated with formal schooling, the informal curriculum does afford opportunities for the rigorous interaction with rationalized systems of knowledge. Second, the informal curriculum also allows for distinct processes by which connections are made along the experiential continuum resulting in relevance. Finally, in order to facilitate the use of the informal curriculum in formal educational institutions, research is needed in which the informal curriculum is operative to varying degrees in contexts with differential affordances of autonomy, most critically with learners form a variety of lived experiences.