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Transformative Learning in an Online Doctoral Programme: Autoethnography as a Pedagogical Method

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary

Publication date9/10/2019
Host publicationLearning, Design, and Technology
EditorsM. Spector, B. Lockee, M. Childress
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages21
ISBN (electronic)9783319177274
<mark>Original language</mark>English


For many adults, doing a doctoral study at a distance can be a very challenging process. In that process, many adult students face a series of disorienting dilemmas. Those moments may trigger critical reflection and rational dialogue, which in turn may lead to planning different actions and developing new perspectives: effectively, transformative learning. However, given that transformative learning processes are often accompanied by negative emotional experiences, which can result in failures and dropouts, it is very important to provide online doctoral students with appropriate pedagogical support. This chapter introduces “autoethnography” as a pedagogical method, illustrating how it can be used to facilitate and support transformative learning experiences of online doctoral students (as well as the ones of online tutors). The chapter is built upon the author’s multi-year design-and-teaching experiences on one UK-based online doctoral programme in the field of educational research. In this focused case, 24 adult students in a single cohort are all working professionals in different educational contexts, pursuing their doctoral study as part-time distance students. Many of them have experienced disorienting dilemmas while participating in the very first module of their online doctoral programme. To support online doctoral students’ transformative learning, the author has used and taught a qualitative methodology of “autoethnography,” which allows researchers to articulate their personal experiences and emotions and use them to explore and interpret aspects of their own cultural practice and social relationships. The chapter also describes how using autoethnography as a pedagogical method has guided the author’s course (re-)design and teaching practices, which further enable the author to effectively transform her pedagogical perspectives.