GREENBERG et al. (2016): Presentation – Patterns in Transformative Pedagogy

Patterns in Transformative Pedagogy: Ethological Perspective[i]

7th Annual Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy.

February 4-6, 2015

Skelton Conference Center Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia

(some images could not be reproduced here)


Neil Greenberg, Deepa Deshpande, Kathy Greenberg, Karen Franklin, Brenda Murphy, Kristina Plaas, Howard Pollio, Brian Sohn, & Sandra Thomas.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Transformative learning, in which students experience a paradigm shift from merely knowing course content to realizing its relevance in their personal and professional lives, is the recent focus of The University of Tennessee’s Phenomenology in Education Research Team (PERT). A tenet of the phenomenological approach is that course content is most easily mastered when allied with a student’s personal views, thus harnessing their intrinsic motivational and affective qualities. To more deeply explore this pedagogical approach, we identified a specific course as exemplary in evoking transformative learning by means of post-class written reflections, individual audiotaped interviews, and focus groups conducted at end of the semester.

ETHOLOGY identifies and describes the many specific “units of behavior” that can be configured and manifest in countless patterns of behavior seen in closely observed research participants. These units, rendered as objectively as possible to avoid misleading assumptions about their function, provide a reliable basis for our exploration of the causes and consequences of Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy 68 specific patterns that are associated with outcomes of interest.

A graduate course was identified, and class sessions of two sections were recorded. Units of behavior were extracted from the transcripts, enabling us to determine their frequency, circumstances of expression, and patterns. Patterns were then analyzed to determine specific actions and transactions that might reasonably be considered components of the student experience. For example, preliminary analysis reveals that a specific pattern of real world student experiences elicited by the instructor and questions asked of students is reliably associated with spontaneous recognition of the application of course content to their personal and professional lives.

This study will provide clues about how phenomenologically-informed pedagogy works to enhance student experience. After comparable analysis of other classes necessary and sufficient elements and patterns revealed will indicate which patterns might be intentionally facilitated to evoke an enduring student experience.

Greenberg, N., Deepa Deshpande, Kathy Greenberg, Karen Franklin, Brenda Murphy, Kristina Plaas, Howard Pollio, Brian Sohn, & Sandra Thomas. (2015)  Patterns in Transformative Pedagogy: Ethological Perspective.  Proceedings of the 7th Annual Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy.  February 4-6, 2015.  Skelton Conference Center, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia. Pp 67-68.

Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy

Virginia Tech, Blacksburg VA

February 4, 2015




This preliminary study supported the feasibility of our coding system to reveal important information about classroom interaction.  Our data comes from a two semester case study of a graduate seminar on the psychology of phenomenology.  Classroom interactions were recorded during each class session and transcripts were made of selected episodes during these sessions.  For this study, we selected a transcript of one episode lasting 6 minutes 45 seconds.  We delineated 160 utterance fragments and then categorized them according to

  1. SPEAKER (instructor or student participant)
  2. FOCUS (objective course content, past/present/potential personal experiences that illustrated or applied course content, or the process of engaging in the class discussion or other activity)
  3. TYPE (questions (9 types) and assertions (11 types), including whether the utterance elaborated on a specific idea by providing additional descriptive qualifiers or explanations)
  4. ROLE (whether the speaker took the position of more knowledgeable other—filtering the content for others and/or providing expert information and feedback, and of less knowledgeable other—sharing or seeking information based upon a request from others, or of equal participant—sharing a personal experience that illustrates or applies content, challenging the instructor’s or author’s opinion, or seeking information as another learner)

Identifying the utterances of the selected episode using these categories and subcategories allowed us to compare the proportion of utterance focus, type and role for instructor and students combined and separately.  These descriptive statistics will be complemented by future statistical analyses that will help us determine patterns of interaction that occurred in a seminar guided by a phenomenologically informed approach to teaching and learning. 

For example, in this episode, the instructor asked the students to share what stood out to them from an assigned reading on qualitative research methodology.  One student focused the class members’ attention on a short passage about the meaning of interpretation in qualitative vs. quantitative research. 

Although this was a new construct for many students and one not specifically focused on phenomenological methodology, the instructor used this piece of more general information to focus attention specifically on phenomenological methodology.  Prior to providing factual information, he asked students to describe what they would do if using a phenomenological approach in psychotherapy as well as what they would do differently if using a psychoanalytical approach.  Three students participated in the dialogue as they were guided to explore specific actions they might take as a therapist using one of the two approaches.  Rich descriptions evolved from the focus on personal experience.  While the instructor contributed three times as many utterances as students, he elaborated and led students to elaborate by describing details related to application and very limited explanations of the two approaches. Further, the instructor asked almost no questions requiring a one-right-answer and only once told a student his response was incorrect.  This analysis confirmed student reflections about the transformative learning they felt as participants.  As one student stated,

I really love the style of this class and feel very much that I and we, as students contributed to the knowledge gained. The content was driven by students and I feel this enhanced and respected engagement and interest. I didn’t understand the impact of democratic education until now really. I gained much from this class especially when encouraged to comfortably go deeper into topics. (Participant 15)

As our analyses of other episodes continues, we will be able to see whether this pattern is consistent or varies according to the focus of different class sessions and/or participants from one semester to the other. 

In the future, we will collect transcripts of classroom interaction in other courses with other instructors at varying level of study and subject matter.  We hope to explore various issues in higher education pedagogy including whether instructors identity and subject matter determines interaction patterns, whether a focus on a more social constructivist approach like phenomenological pedagogy results in similar patterns, and most important, whether this kind of information is helpful to those who wish to expand their approaches to higher education pedagogy. 



Focus (F)

Type (T)

Role (RL)

Additional Codes (AC)

Course Content (CC)


  1. Questions/assertions pertaining directly to ideas expressed in assigned readings or instructor lecture; may include facts about an experience
  2. Questions/assertions providing alternative ideas to those expressed in assigned readings or instructor lecture


(QS) = question sustains interaction, 

            next or near utterance continues focus 

(QT) = terminates interaction, next or near utterance continues focus


  1.  Rhetorical—seeks no response
  2. Choice—seeks specification from given alternatives
  3. Recall—seeks expression of specific facts, 1-R-A
  4. Self-reference—seeks expression of personal experience, preference, feelings
  5. Elaboration/Description—seeks more information that shares details of what
  6. Elaboration/Explanation—seeks more information that shares details of why
  7. Challenge—seeks an alternative view
  8. Back Channel—provides brief interjection that expresses listener response to prior speaker; ( Yes? And so?)
  9. Repeats own question or question/assertion of prior speaker; may include one qualifier
  10. Repeats own question or question/assertion of prior speaker and includes two or more qualifiers










(AS) = sustains interaction when next utterance continues the focus

(AT) = terminates interaction


  1. Declarative knowledge—facts, beliefs, or assumptions (It is like this… I believe….)
  1. Procedural knowledge—how to learn or do something
  2. Self-disclosure—personal feelings or values (e.g.: I like…, I react negatively)
  3. Elaboration/Description—the what; detail(s)/e.g.(s) of previously expressed idea or experience and/or repeat of earlier idea (no added details)
  4. Elaboration/Explanation—the why; reasons related to previously expressed idea/experience;

and /or repeat of earlier explanation

  1. Approval—feelings expressing a degree of worth for prior speaker(s) idea(s) without explanation (e.g.:   I really like that.)
  2. Endorsement—support for prior speaker(s) idea accompanied by an explanation; may or may not include the speaker’s feelings of approval (e.g.: I really like that because it helps us understand.)
  3. Challenge—shares an alternative view or indicates prior speaker is incorrect
  4. Back Channel—brief interjection that expresses listener response to continue or  assess speaker’s utterance; reflects I hear you. ( Oh, my gosh! OK., Uh huh)
  5. Repeats assertion of self or other, may include one qualifier
  6. Repeats assertion of self or other with two or more qualifiers

More Knowledgeable Participant (M)

One or more:

  • Acts as a filter or lens of content and/or related ideas;
  • Provides expert information (or quotes an expert) and/or procedures;
  • Guides others to participate, such as especially by encouraging elaboration (asks question, states “say more…);
  • Challenges other(s) idea(s) (without accepting or implying that the other(s) may (also) be correct)


Less Knowledgeable Participant (L)

Provides factual or procedural information based on prior speaker’s request, seeks factual information regarding topic and/or confirmation of his/her ideas


Equal Participant (E)

Shares one or more:

  • Ideas;
  • Personal Experience(s) of oneself (actual in past or present)
  • Self–disclosure
  • Idea challenging other(s) including    instructor and/or author(s)  of    course readings—while stating or    implying the other(s) may also be    correct
  • seeks info from other(s)

Code as many as apply


Humor (H)

  1. Verbal expression of self-reference
  2. Verbal expression of other-reference



Figurative Speech (FS)

  1. Metaphor
  2. Simile
  3. Analogy


Interrupts (I)

Stops the flow of the other’s utterance


Nonverbal (NV)

Laughter, snicker, gasp, etc.


Personal Experience (PE)

(Shares aspect of a story focused on a particular event: prior, present, or potential, situated experience, may include application of content-related ideas)

  1. Self only
  2. Class members including self
  3. Class member(s), not self Non-class member(s); unspecified or generic other (a teacher…)



(Shares instructions or draws attention to how to learn, do, understand or know something in past, present, or future)

Open (O)

Questions/assertions unrelated to course content &/or back-channel



Table. Ethological Behavior Codes of Classroom Interaction   9/12/2019 2:41 PM

For every utterance enter the code abbreviations that apply in the appropriate column.  See table below for abbreviations and numbers to using in coding.










[i] Greenberg, Neil, Deepa Deshpande, Kathy Greenberg, Karen Franklin, Brenda Murphy, Kristina Plaas, Howard Pollio, Brian Sohn, & Sandra Thomas. (2015) Patterns in Transformative Pedagogy: Ethological Perspective. 7th Annual Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy.  February 4-6, 2015 Skelton Conference Center Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia.   pp67-68

[ii] Greenberg, K., Deepa Deshpande, Karen Franklin, Neil Greenberg, Brenda Murphy, Kristina Plaas, Howard Pollio, Brian Sohn, and Sandra Thomas.  (2015) Teaching Conservatives, Liberals, AND Libertarians: A Conversation About Opening Learners to More Pluralistic Views of Academic Content.   Pp. 98-99.