Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A Comparative Case Study of Transformative Learning Among Conscientious Objectors
by Condit, Michelle, Ph.D., Saybrook University, 2017, 114; 10289108
Abstract (Summary)

This study aimed to answer the following question: What is the transformative learning process, if any, undergone by soldiers who apply for status as a conscientious objector? Answers to this question were sought through a comparative case study that involved four soldiers who while serving in the military during the Iraq War applied for status as conscientious objectors. Semi-structured interviews, documents submitted by soldiers involved in the study while in the military, archival data, and autobiographical material, both written and documented through audio-visual media, were used as data sources to inform each of these cases.

The case study methodology was selected for its exploratory capacity, as it can provide rich insight into the attitudes, beliefs and worldviews of the study’s participants by triangulating multiple sources of data. The researcher used semi-structured interviews to elicit openness of response by the participants, allowing for a process of discovery. Data analysis involved extraction of themes and statements that represented each individual’s thought process and experiences that contributed to his decision to apply for status as a conscientious objector. The themes and statements elicited from the study’s subjects were then evaluated from a transformative learning theory framework as developed by Mezirow (1991) to identify the degree to which the individuals underwent a transformative learning process.

Findings of this study indicated themes extracted from narratives of the four participants that could be categorized within Mezirow’s 10 phases of the transformative learning process. A disorienting dilemma was present within all participants’ interviews and rational discourse was the theme least reflected within the narratives. Each of the participants engaged in reflective thinking in making his decision to apply for status as a conscientious objector and then took action in submitting his application. Of interest is that each entered a period of participation in activism, which over time subsided. However, despite departure from participation in activism a change in worldview related to conflict resolution remained. Participants’ enlistments stemmed from a combination of factors including lack of employment opportunities prior to joining, family tradition, desire for structure, the desire to help others, family dynamics and a sense of patriotic duty and security within communities.

This exploratory research provided a starting point for potential future research within peace studies. Follow up inquiry may include further qualitative research into the experiences of soldiers who join the anti-war movement after completion of their term of enlistment.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Laszlo, Kathia
Commitee: Federman, Joel, Pilisuk, Marc
School: Saybrook University
Department: Organizational Systems
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 79/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Peace Studies, Military studies
Keywords: Conscientious objectors, Mezirow, Jack, Peace studies, Soldiers, Transformative learning theory
Publication Number: 10289108
ISBN: 978-0-355-30835-8
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