An ethnographic case study of transformative learning in leadership development



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This qualitative study investigated how transformative learning and membership in a community of practice influenced leadership development. It sought a phenomenological understanding of how participants made meaning of their experiences in a collegiate leadership development organization. Data were collected utilizing in-depth interviews and field observations during a prolonged period of engagement in the setting. An inductive approach was taken in data analysis using a constant comparative method in development of coding categories of recurring concepts and identification of themes. A creative synthesis of the findings is told through a richly descriptive metaphoric narrative tale of novice freshmen following a transformative spiral path to become master senior-class leaders and is graphically displayed in a leadership development model. A crystallization concept of triangulating the data and the creative analytic practice criteria of substantive contribution, aesthetic merit, reflexivity, impact, and expression of a reality framed the validity and authenticity of the study. Findings and conclusions from this ethnographic case study included the value of a holistic approach to transformative learning and leadership development; relationships founded in an ethic of caring are instrumental in fostering transformative learning and leadership development; individual meaning of leadership is constructed through participation in relational and cultural contexts; cultural values shape leadership developmental objectives and outcomes; and location ?on the edge? is a very powerful teaching place and learning site for leadership development.