Growing into the size of your feet: a narrative inquiry into the role early educational experiences play throughout life


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A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION.
American education is situated in the space between politics and policies on one hand and scholarly voices on the other. The latter think about the curriculum and the purpose of school in terms of what human beings are capable of; the former set up curricular praxis to meet behavioral objectives in a one-size-fits-all approach. This negates the notion that education is the journey of the self (Huebner, 1993/1999). As such, the true measure of the curriculum lies in how people live their lives after graduation (MacIntyre, 2002). Thus, this study explored how people interpret their early educational experiences and the role these played throughout their lives. This is a qualitative study employing narrative inquiry. Narrative inquiry is based on the idea that people make meaning of their lives by thinking of experiences in form of stories. These are synthesized with focus on the meanings assigned to experiences and reflect how a person understands him/herself. Purposeful sampling was employed to choose three participants in their 70s who perceived of themselves as having lived personally and professionally successful lives. Data was analyzed through diverse coding cycles and represented in a combination of analytical narratives and arts-based pieces. Trustworthiness was established through member checks, peer reviews and continuous reflections on the researcher's subjective interpretations of the data. Four overarching concepts emerged from the participants' narratives: self-awareness arises in the space between one's social existence and one's aloneness, tension is a necessary means for becoming, agency is a prerequisite for intentionality, and learning is a process of self-awakening. These findings contribute answers to questions about the purpose of school and what it means to be an educated person. The findings show that an educated person is one who understands him/herself as a creator of the world. Thus, curriculum theory and praxis must enable those engaged in curriculum to critique existing conditions and to imagine possibilities for the local and global communities they are part of. Then learning becomes the process of awakening, and education bears the possibility of a social existence characterized by freedom, which is a fundamental aspect of the purpose of school.
Educational Leadership, Curriculum & Instruction
College of Education and Human Development