Phenomenological Study of Transformative Learning in Conversion to the Catholic Faith
Bloemeke, Stephen Vincent
This research explored the phenomenon of learning transformation as it arises in the context of conversion to Catholicism. The theory of transformative learning describes a process of learning and reflection, in which an individual's frame of reference or way of making meaning changes to become more justified in interpreting their life experiences. This research used a phenomenological design to study the essential experience of the transformative learning process in thirteen adults who entered the Roman Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), the process implemented in Catholic parishes around the globe to guide prospective converts. The participants shared their conversion experiences through a series of one-on-one interviews, which were then coded and analyzed for shared themes and understanding of the learning processes they experienced. The testimonies of these converts all described a transformative learning experience deeply embedded in their conversion process, showing that the theory is well-suited to describe the general movements of the participants' learning process. The participants' stories evidenced deep, broad, and enduring changes in the way they made meaning in their lives. Learning outcomes were identified across a range of domains including cognitive, experiential, spiritual, and social dimensions. Changes in self-knowing played a seminal role, serving as a cornerstone on which other outcomes were formed. Participants described deep, epistemic transformation in the ways they understood themselves, their place in the world, their moral responsibilities, and their spiritual needs. The analysis also explored the relationship between the learning transformation and engagement in the formal curriculum of their respective RCIA programs. While knowledge transfer played a role in all cases, its import was generally underemphasized by the testimonies of the participants. The programs were most influential when there was a clear impact on the perspective transformations of the converts. Sense of community, group discussion, opportunity for critical reflection, and the ability to connect the content to their new sense of self all play a fundamental role in deepening the transformative learning outcomes the of the converts, regardless of their current place in the process. These findings provide a justification for using transformative learning theory as a framework for understanding adult religious education. It also offers a foundation for measuring the efficacy and relationship between formal instruction and learning outcomes in the context of religious conversion.
Bloemeke, Stephen Vincent. (December 2017). Phenomenological Study of Transformative Learning in Conversion to the Catholic Faith (Master's Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/6483.)
Bloemeke, Stephen Vincent. Phenomenological Study of Transformative Learning in Conversion to the Catholic Faith. Master's Thesis. East Carolina University, December 2017. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/6483. April 24, 2019.
Bloemeke, Stephen Vincent, “Phenomenological Study of Transformative Learning in Conversion to the Catholic Faith” (Master's Thesis., East Carolina University, December 2017).
Bloemeke, Stephen Vincent. Phenomenological Study of Transformative Learning in Conversion to the Catholic Faith [Master's Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; December 2017.
East Carolina University