Exploring the Habitus: A Phenomenological Study of Transformative Learning Processes Open Access
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This qualitative study investigated how a holistic approach to learning may support transformation. By examining how an environment incorporating elements of mind-body-emotion-spirit impacted members of a holistic health center, the study elicited a description of how such an approach is experienced in support of transformative learning. The focus of the study was transformation of the habitus (Bourdieu, 1990), an embodied system of dispositions that is visible in a pattern of behaviors. The problem context for this research was the type of transformation that results in a new perspective with a concurrent change in behavior, and the deep level of learning that makes ongoing adaptive change possible. Such a long-lasting modification of perspective may result in changes in lifestyle and behavior that can be recognized as part of a transformative learning process (Mezirow, 2000).Ten individuals met the membership and demographic criteria of the study and were accepted as participants. The interpretivist research design used phenomenological methodology due to its emphasis on understanding the lived experience of the participant. In-depth interviews (Seidman, 2006) elicited this perspective by exploring the ways in which individuals interpreted and derived meaning from their experiences. The interview transcripts and participant journals were crafted into Participant Profiles as well as analyzed with descriptive line coding to obtain both individual-level and overarching themes. Three overarching themes emerged in response to the research questions exploring the relationship of a holistic approach to learning in transforming the habitus. In the first theme, participants discussed the interwoven interplay of the mind, body, emotion, and spirit, describing the importance of physical practices in facilitating change. The second theme emphasized how individuals transformed through shifting from an external to an internal focus. The third overarching theme depicted how individuals transformed themselves in and through relationships. In synthesizing the theoretical approaches of transformative learning (Mezirow, 2000) and strong structuration (Stones, 2005), the study demonstrates a way to further theorize, research, and implement practices to facilitate a transformative learning experience in the context of the interdependent relationship of the individual and the collective.