Negotiating disorienting dilemmas and the transformative learning process in a complex society

by Dodson, Constance Tarver, Ph.D., THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI, 2009, 121 pages; 3396153


Devastations, transitions, crises, and challenges can trigger what are sometimes referred to, particularly in the field of adult education, as disorienting dilemmas. Jack Mezirow, an adult educator and social activist, maintained that a disorienting dilemma occurs when an individual encounters a life challenge that cannot be resolved by his or her previous frame of reference. Today, people are facing increasing numbers of personal, societal, and global challenges. Therefore, it is extremely important that resolutions to countless life challenges are researched and viable resolutions are found.

This basic interpretive and descriptive qualitative study examined participants' approaches to resolving crucial life events which are considered disorienting dilemmas. Additionally, this study determined if the 10 phases of Mezirow's transformative learning theory were utilized in negotiating the dilemmas. Data were collected through face-to-face interviews with 14 participants. Purposeful sampling was employed in order to obtain cases that could give most insight into the approaches that were utilized in the resolution of the disorienting dilemmas Semi-structured questions were employed.

Findings from the study revealed that factors such as (a) the acceptance of the dilemma, (b) the nature of the dilemma, and (c) an array of emotions, played important roles in changing or not changing perspectives and negotiating disorienting dilemmas. Findings also revealed that no transformations were sudden or immediate. Participants took from a month to six years to begin the process of resolving their dilemmas. Of importance is that most transformations were "modified" transformation and not total transformation as the participants continued to maintain many of their preconceived notions. It was also found that all participants utilized some of the 10 phases of Mezirow's transformative learning theory in negotiating the dilemmas, but all did not transform.

AdviserJohn Rachal
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsBehavioral sciences; Social psychology; Adult education
Publication Number3396153

About ProQuest Dissertations & Theses
With nearly 4 million records, the ProQuest Dissertations & Theses (PQDT) Global database is the most comprehensive collection of dissertations and theses in the world. It is the database of record for graduate research.

PQDT Global combines content from a range of the world's premier universities - from the Ivy League to the Russell Group. Of the nearly 4 million graduate works included in the database, ProQuest offers more than 2.5 million in full text formats. Of those, over 1.7 million are available in PDF format. More than 90,000 dissertations and theses are added to the database each year.

If you have questions, please feel free to visit the ProQuest Web site - - or call ProQuest Hotline Customer Support at 1-800-521-3042.