Calling: A Phenomenological Study

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Title: Calling: A Phenomenological Study
Author: Collins, Joseph
Advisors: Dr. John Pettitt, Committee Chair
Dr. Barbara Sparks, Committee Member
Dr. Conrad Glass, Committee Member
Dr. Peter Hessling, Committee Member
Abstract: The research describes the phenomenon of calling from the perspectives of lay adult Sunday School teachers. Using a phenomenological approach involving in-depth interviews, the study focuses on the experiences of ten teachers from Southern Baptist churches in western North Carolina. Collectively, these participants have approximately 202 years of teaching experience in adult Sunday School. They range in age from thirty-seven to eighty-three and include five men and five women. Nine are Caucasian; one is Afro-American. Ontologically, the conceptual framework of this study is interpretivistic. Epistemologically, it assumes that the knower and the known are essential elements that collide and create the phenomenon under investigation. The object of research is the perception of the participants concerning calling. It is not the purpose of the research to define or prove the existence of calling, but to describe admittedly subjective perspectives of it. These collective descriptions serve to construct a social meaning of the phenomenon. Using phenomenological methodology, the study recognizes six horizons, or essences, of the phenomenon of calling. Three are related to the participants' perceptions of an entity working outside themselves who communicates with them. These are labeled 'direct communication,' 'communication via others,' and 'divinely orchestrated circumstances.' The other three are related to self-awareness and include 'burden over needs of others,' 'gifts/talents,' and 'personal needs, interests, and desires.' The study raises more questions than it answers about calling, and all recommendations are aimed at further research. In the area of motivational theory, it points out a blurring of the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Further investigation of this blurring is recommended in order to understand religious motivation. The study also provides a basis for further research and development of recruiting models and instruments for use in adult Christian education. Because the study focuses on a very narrow population, transferability of the proposed description of calling is impossible without further studies with other religious and non-religious groups. Such studies are also needed to investigate the effect of organization and practice on a group's perception of calling.
Date: 2004-05-19
Degree: EdD
Discipline: Adult and Community College Education

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