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Knowing and transforming: guiding adolescent learners toward epistemological transformation in their learning

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posted on 2023-01-18, 15:35 authored by Brendan Schmidt
Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the School of Education, Faculty of Education, La Trobe University, Bundoora.

This thesis explores the possibility of epistemological transformation for young adolescent learners in their first year of high school (Year 7). Through an exploration of the young learner and the role of conscious understanding of their attitudes to learning, this thesis develops processes and structures that may enable transformation. The theoretical underpinning of the thesis examines the neurological, social, physical and psychological changes of adolescence. Constructivist developmental theories are examined to explore the relationship between different stages of human development. Conscious awareness and reflection are seen as hallmarks of the changes humans make (Kegan 1982, 1994; Gebser 1985). However the question remains: who is raising the conscious awareness for learners concerning their learning? Memory, stored meanings and internal working schemas and human consciousness are explored in Knox’s (2003) model of attachment theory and the role of reflective function. The theory of reflective function is used to build a model which can be used to aid dialogue between a guide and the learner. An exploration of Carl Rogers' person-centred learning and the nature of relationship and dialogue provide a further background to the theoretical model. A questionnaire was developed using personal construct psychology processes, and influenced strongly by Knox’s model of reflective function and to facilitate dialogue between teacher and student around the young person’s learning. The collected data provided the basis for dialogue at the individual and school level and developed the quantitative section of the thesis. The questionnaire was undertaken by Year 7 students from three different schools. Analysis of this data indicated that aspects vital to success in the schooling of young people needed to be addressed and provided a rich vein of data for dialogue to promote conscious self-understanding and the possibility of epistemological transformation.


Center or Department

Faculty of Education. School of Education.

Thesis type

  • Ph. D.

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


Rights Statement

The thesis author retains all proprietary rights (such as copyright and patent rights) over the content of this thesis, and has granted La Trobe University permission to reproduce and communicate this version of the thesis. The author has declared that any third party copyright material contained within the thesis made available here is reproduced and communicated with permission. If you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact us with the details.

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