Intersections of Teachers' Life Stories: Awakening Spirit Towards Emancipatory Education

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Publication Date



The on-going process of writing autobiographies, as a major project in a 2-year interdisciplinary master's program in Curriculum and Instruction, has shed major insights for my ten female graduate students and me. My/our research interest stems from the serendipitous experience of finding spirit through this process. By learning about individual stories, we get a broader understanding of the social context and how our lives intersect with the experiences of others. The purpose of this research is exploring the impact the autobiographical project has on this cohort. How does critically examining the transcendent individual experience of re-discovering, re-defining and sharing our life stories impact our collective spiritual experience? How does this experience project itself into transformative, emancipatory educational action? Is it possible to conceptualize spirituality within a larger social analysis? Spirit, as a sense of wholeness, healing and interconnectedness, is a creative energy that transcends our sensory perception and uplifts our humanity to a deeper level of self-awareness, interconnectedness and awareness of our social context. Tisdell (2006) highlights the importance of critically examining one's spiritual experience as a vehicle to analyze the larger culture, a fundamental component of emancipatory education. The critical dialogue emerging from our life stories takes us into an ethereal ‘space’ that becomes the setting through which spirit unfolds, intersects, connects, awakens in the flow of collective consciousness toward emancipatory educational action. Given my current work with these ten women educators, my interest in critical feminist pedagogy (Weiler, 1988) and feminist textual analysis (Moi, 1985; Reinharz, 1992) will set the theoretical framework. Middleton's (1993) study of life histories and pedagogy, Bruner's work (1986) on the landscape of consciousness and Tisdell's on-going research on spirituality and culture in higher education (eg. 2000, 2006, 2008) provide the core theoretical ground for this project. The data include the students' autobiographies, our dialogue and the critical analysis evolving from these, using feminist methods such as participatory research and alternative strategies for social transformation (Gottfried, 1996) are key. There is scant research on spirituality in transformative adult education or, in particular, the impact of an autobiographical project on our collective experience of emancipatory education. This study will be our contribution to the body of research in the field. Results will ultimately take the form of a co-authored book. At AERA, I will present preliminary findings and invite provocative discussion to enrich our thinking.


Elementary and Literacy Education Department

This document is currently not available here.