Becoming an explorer: How mature meaning systems facilitate the ability to change

Brown, Catherine (2004) Becoming an explorer: How mature meaning systems facilitate the ability to change. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of scanned version of the original print thesis, 2 volumes in 1 file.] PDF (scanned version of the original print thesis, 2 volumes in 1 file.)
Download (11MB)
Printed Thesis Information:


This thesis is based on a qualitative study, which investigated how the. participants' beliefs and feelings about self influenced their ability to learn and, implicitly, to change. The purpose of the study was to explore the consequences of employing different self-theories, to determine if there are optimal ways of construing self, which facilitate change and if these self-theories can be learned. This was separated into three questions and the first was to identify self-theories which seem to facilitate or hinder change. The existing literature on self-theories has identified many aspects of construing which influence how individuals respond to situations, which require them to learn or change in some way. Individuals' beliefs about their level of intelligence and their personal abilities have been shown to dramatically influence their abilities. However, little is known about the precise mechanisms through which self-theories are elaborated. This thesis set out to explore why some primary school teachers were responding to a professional development course in a defensive and aggressive manner. The findings Indicate, that beliefs and feelings are inherently linked together and form the basis of individual meaning systems. There is evidence that when these early self-theories are sufficiently developed through childhood into mature meaning systems, they facilitate learning and change. In contrast, when early meaning systems are less developed these immature meaning systems hinder the ability to change. The participants in this study were construing their beliefs and feelings about self along a dimension. At one extreme 'beliefs about self were construed 'as hypotheses to be tested,' and at the other end, 'as truths to be validated.' In representing the different beliefs about self as dimensions and not as categories the intention is to emphasise that individual construing can be elaborated. In order to describe the findings the participants were divided into three categories to allow their self-theories to be more easily compared and contrasted. The three categories of participants were called 'Explorers', 'Changers' and 'Maintainers'. My interrogation of the qualitative data identified different self-theories, which were confirmed by the participants' characterisation of self as growth or validation seeking and their descriptions of change as being positive or negative on their repertory grids. The combined data clearly differentiated three categories of participants and their specific self-theories, which either facilitated or hindered change. The second question was to investigate if and when self-theories have been elaborated and how this was accomplished. A unique feature of this study is the insight provided, via descriptions provided by many participants of how they elaborated their self-theories. Two sets of beliefs and responses were constructed from the data and were called, respectively, exploratory beliefs and responses and sustaining beliefs and responses. Participants who had elaborated their construing were consistently employing exploratory beliefs and responses. What is particularly interesting about the data is the number of participants who described elaborating their beliefs from 'truths' to hypotheses. This seemed to facilitate the development of mature meaning systems, which in turn increased their ability to change. The third and last question was to determine if these 'optimal' self-theories could be learned. The 'Explorers', and to varying extents the 'Changers', were increasingly employing the exploratory beliefs and responses and often referring to how they taught themselves to use these new strategies, which indicates a kind of self-learning process. The 'transformative cycle of reflection' encapsulates how some participants elaborated their beliefs and feelings into more mature meaning systems. It identifies the knowledge and understanding about self-theories, which is required to encourage elaboration of early meaning systems. From the participants' accounts of elaborating construing it was possible to develop a new theory-based approach to reflection. This enhances previous understanding about reflection by including a theoretical understanding of how self-theories influence our responses and this enables more informed reflection to be practised. This approach, if incorporated into practice, would offer the possibility of enhancing development of mature meaning systems, which facilitate learning and change.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Advisers: Dr. Fiona Henderson, Dr. Gordon Doughty. External supervisor: Professor Rose Barbour.
Keywords: Educational psychology.
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Supervisor, not known
Date of Award: 2004
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2004-71436
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 May 2019 10:49
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2021 15:19

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year