Theological reflection at work: A phenomenological study of learning processes

Suzanne J Gallagher, Florida International University


Using the learning descriptions of graduates of a graduate ministry program, the mechanisms of interactions between the knowledge facets in learning processes were explored and described. The intent of the study was to explore how explicit, implicit, and emancipatory knowledge facets interacted in the learning processes at or about work. The study provided empirical research on Yang's (2003) holistic learning theory. ^ A phenomenological research design was used to explore the essence of knowledge facet interactions. I achieved epoche through the disclosure of assumptions and a written self-experience to bracket biases. A criterion based, stratified sampling strategy was used to identify participants. The sample was stratified by graduation date. The sample consisted of 11 participants and was composed primarily of married (n = 9), white, non-Hispanic (n = 10), females (n = 9), who were Roman Catholic (n = 9). Professionally, the majority of the group were teachers or professors (n = 5). ^ A semi-structured interview guide with scheduled and unscheduled probes was used. Each approximately 1-hour long interview was digitally recorded and transcribed. The transcripts were coded using a priori codes from holistic learning theory and one emergent code. The coded data were analyzed by identifying patterns, similarities, and differences under each code and then between codes. Steps to increase the trustworthiness of the study included member checks, coding checks, and thick descriptions of the data. ^ Five themes were discovered including (a) the difficulty in describing interactions between knowledge facets; (b) actual mechanisms of interactions between knowledge facets; (c) knowledge facets initiating learning and dominating learning processes; (d) the dangers of one-dimensional learning or using only one knowledge facet to learn; and (e) the role of community in learning. The interpretation confirmed, extended, and challenged holistic learning theory. Mechanisms of interaction included knowledge facets expressing, informing, changing, and guiding one another. Implications included the need for a more complex model of learning and the value of seeing spirituality in the learning process. The study raised questions for future research including exploring learning processes with people from non-Christian faith traditions or other academic disciplines and the role of spiritual identity in learning. ^

Subject Area

Theology|Education, Adult and Continuing

Recommended Citation

Gallagher, Suzanne J, "Theological reflection at work: A phenomenological study of learning processes" (2006). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3217568.