A multiple case study of professional development and perspective change within the Cooperative Extensive Service
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This multi-case study explored individual and organizational perspective change by analyzing two long-term, management-supported professional development courses within the Cooperative Extension Service (CES). Data sources consisted of a survey of course participants, and interviews of selected participants and course designers. More than one half of the participants in both courses self-reported a perspective change, although only 5 of the 16 participant interviews revealed premise reflection--a necessary condition in this study for a perspective change. Seven learning themes were identified, five of which were similar to the transformational learning phases identified by Mezirow (1991). The two themes not similar to Mezirow's findings were affirmation and common language/shared meaning. These themes have implications for making perspective changes within organizations.
Learning supports most frequently identified by participants were self-motivation, peer support, and instructor support. Learning was found to be insufficiently supported before and after the PD experience. A finding that emerged from cross-analysis was a process called liminality--a period of ambiguity where learners are caught between rejecting the introduced learning concepts and transforming their perspective. Recommendations based on the findings provide may guidance to future CES professional development managers and practitioners on how to affectively design professional development for perspective change in future courses.