Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Adult & Higher Education, Adult Education

Date of Defense

12-17-2009

Graduate Advisor

E. Paulette Isaac-Savage, EdD

Committee

Wolfgang Althof, Ph.D.

John Henschke, Ed.D.

William Siler, Ph.D.

Abstract

The purpose of this research study was to determine if transformational learning is an outcome of the experiences of training for and completing a marathon. Transformational learning has gained visibility and greater acceptance in the learning community in recent years due in large part to the efforts of Jack Mezirow and associates. This visibility and acceptance has catalyzed research studies to better understand the theory and its application, but none have linked the use of endurance racing to transformational learning. The design of this study was a phenomenological case study. The research included four participants who had previously completed marathons, who belonged to the same running group and were running the 2009 Sunburst Marathon in South Bend, Indiana. The intent of the study was to utilize the researcher’s general grasp of the phenomenon as an eight-time marathon finisher to investigate the experiences of the participants and provide interpretation of the components and their essence. Data was collected through pre and post-race interviews, observation and participant journaling. The experiences captured throughout the process were analyzed and four distinct categories emerged: social, emotional, physical and environmental. The learning associated with these categories was compared to the elements of the theory of transformational learning and the results demonstrated the presence of transformational learning as a result the experience. The participants’ learning included more than accomplishing their pre-determined goals. The participants challenged at least one of their existing paradigms that included how they viewed themselves as runners, spouses, friends, and parents. This challenge was triggered with a disorienting event and subsequent self-reflection and conscious choice to accept the learning. The findings of this research establish potential significance to the fields of adult education, physical therapy and management. Adult educators, whether in academic, business, therapeutic or informal settings, can replicate the triggers identified in this study attempting to disorient the learner and prompt critical reflection. Potential opportunities for transformational learning include the time and space that follows the completion of an assessment or practicum.

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