Year of Publication


Date of Thesis


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Communications (School)


This study examines powerful learning experiences - those that stand out in memory because of their high quality, their impact on one's thoughts and actions over time, and their transfer to a wide range of contexts and circumstances. A series of investigations has found that powerful learning experiences remain unique to individuals despite the coherence of the learning situation and the individuals involved; the present investigation tests these findings in a new and even more coherent setting. This study was conducted through in-depth interviews of teenaged violinists at a summer music camp to provide a more cohesive group than those in the previous series, and to find out if non-adults have an ability to report and offer insights about their own powerful learning experiences. Contributing factors were examined from the vantage point of the teens as well as teachers and an observer. This was to see if the teens recognized factors that made their powerful learning experiences more likely, to ask if the teachers could see a powerful learning experience in a student, and if so, to see if the contributing factors reported by the teachers were consistent with those reported by the students. In addition, the research questions went a step further to ask about possible interactions of these factors, even as complex adaptive systems. Study results give additional support for the conclusion that powerful learning experiences show a pattern of uniqueness. The results also show that non-adults can reflect and think deeply about powerful learning experiences. The teens were insightful in their descriptions about the factors they felt contributed to their experience. There were mixed reports about the ability to observe a powerful learning experience in another person. When the teachers and observer felt they did observe powerful learning experiences, they reported factors that were quite similar to the teens, but it became evident that there is a need to look at the design of the learning experience holistically, as well as to examine the parts or factors. The developing concept of Design Thinking was found to be an important theoretical lens through which to look at the complexity of a powerful learning experience, whereas reports of factors and possible interaction of factors were difficult to quantify through the interview process. The two concepts of attunement and liminal thinking---constructs that describe the intangible nature of these interactions-offer a helpful view. Implications for educators and learners are considered, based on these findings.

Included in

Communication Commons



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