Institute of Learning Styles Research

Dissertation Abstracts

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Abstract Title

Browning, D. (1999). Creative high school dropouts’ experiences of learning: A phenomenological study (Doctoral dissertation, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, 1999). Dissertation Abstracts International, 60(08A), 2795.


This study examined descriptions of learning experiences and the meaning that learning has for 11 creative high school dropouts who had just completed a one-on-one computer assisted multi-media learning experience. For these individuals learning is an active experience full of challenge and rich complexity which is grounded in resilient self reliance. Personal experience is regarded as the most desired and effective way of learning by these individuals.

The 11 creative high school dropouts were selected from a population of 120 high school dropouts who were enrolled in GED or similar classes at five research sites in 3 East Tennessee counties. For selection purposes assessments of creativity and perceptual modality learning style were administered to all 120 high school dropouts, and from these, 11 were chosen for participation in a computer assisted multi-media learning experience and indepth, phenomenological interviews based on three criteria. The three criteria were that the individual had (a) scored at the 84th National Percentile or above on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, Figural Form A., (b) exhibited strengths in perceptual modality learning styles not rewarded in traditional school settings, based on scores obtained from the Multi-Modal Paired Associates Learning Test (MMPALT II) and (c) volunteered to be interviewed.

The rich interview protocols were analyzed for meaning units and emergent themes by the researcher and a phenomenological research group. Themes are presented in three categories using the actual wording of the 11 co-participants. Categories are (a) How I Learn, (b) Why I Learn, and (c) What Learning is to Me.

The How I Learn category includes descriptions of conditions and processes present during optimal learning; desired personal, social, and environmental resources; and feelings during learning. The Why I Learn category describes the creative individual’s motivation for learning and includes learning in order to understand yourself and your place in the world; to do, make, or survive; and to care for, or understand, others. What Learning is to Me describes the meaning that learning has for these co-participants and was described succinctly by one co-participant, "Learning is making the best use of my instincts and experiences to understand myself and others, and to succeed in the world."


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