Embracing Complexity: A Reflective investigation of Cultural Transformation Through Experiential Learning

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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reflective practice
experiential learning
Adult and Continuing Education and Teaching
Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education
Teacher Education and Professional Development
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Yarden, Joshua

Educational settings are microcosms of the communities and the societies in which they exist, where educators play a role in preparing young people for activity in the public sphere. Educational settings are not removed from the arenas of power relationships. Social reproduction theorists have demonstrated how unchallenged preconceived notions are inadvertently reinforced and reproduced in schools, which in some cases reinforce stratification and the dominance of the powerful interests prevalent in the surrounding society. This action-oriented conceptual study is an examination of the dynamic complexity of cultural transmission and transformation. It is an investigation of the assumption that human agency can influence the direction of the inevitable process of change. The three parts reflect the three components of a complex theory of experiential learning and cultural transformation. They are: (A) an explanation of the operating mechanism of cultural transmission and social reproduction; (B) speculation regarding a deeper understanding of the cultural context of transformation, including the possible effects of a targeted intervention; and (C) an operational framework for an action project. Participation in the transmission process with a heightened awareness of its intricacies and a purposeful commitment to a conception of a desired outcome can enhance the ability of an individual or an educational framework to promote change. This study brings together elements of theoretical inquiry, cultural context and practical application in an experiential learning community. A theory of cultural transformation and an approach to reflective practice are discussed. A review of a five-year project I designed and facilitated in collaboration with educators who participated in an in-service professional development program illustrates the applicability and the efficacy of the approach.

Charles Dwyer
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