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Telling about subjective experience: autobiographical writing in the logbooks narrative
di Alessandra Romano   

Qualsiasi forma di scrittura risulta sempre soggetta all’impatto delle nostre storie di vita. Ogni parola che scriviamo rappresenta un incontro, se non uno scontro, tra le molteplici esperienze passate e le richieste dei nuovi contesti.

Potremmo, pertanto, dire che ogni forma di narrazione è sempre una narrazione autobiografica. La scrittura autobiografica non è mai una attività neutrale in cui acquisiamo soltanto delle competenze, ma implica ogni fibra del nostro multisfaccettato essere. L’articolo qui proposto intende descrivere la tecnica narrativa autobiografica del diario di bordo, utilizzabile in contesti di apprendimento formale e informale con soggetti di diverse fasce di età. Il diario di bordo è esso stesso una modalità di apprendimento in cui gli studenti, e più in generale gli individui, rapportano un’esperienza vissuta ai loro sentimenti e alle loro riflessioni. I diari di bordo, in quanto resoconti scritti in prima persona, combinano uno stile autobiografico con la soggettiva indagine dei sentimenti e dei processi di costruzione di senso. Nella seconda parte dell’articolo si presenterà, in proposito, la prima parte di una ricerca che ha previsto l’adozione dei diari di bordo da parte dei partecipanti, al fine di comprendere come fosse stato costruito sapere sull’esperienza e nell’esperienza e se ci fosse stato un apprendimento trasformativo (Mezirow, 2000) grazie all’esperienza. Sono stati condotti quattro laboratori di Teatro dell’Oppresso (Boal, 2005; Romano, 2014) all’interno dell’Università degli studi di Napoli “Federico II”, adottando le tecniche descritte da Boal (2005), sviluppate negli anni sessanta in Brasile e diffuse in tutto il mondo. Ai partecipanti veniva chiesto di redigere il proprio diario di bordo, in cui descrivere la percezione soggettiva dell’esperienza, focalizzandosi su quello che era accaduto e sulle risonanze individuali e gruppali. Inserendo anche alcuni estratti dei diari di bordo dei partecipanti, ci si propone di mostrare l’utilità e la rigorosità dei diari di bordo come strumenti narrativi per esplorare la trasformazione potenziale ed eventuale nel campo dell’educazione degli adulti.

 

All human writing is influenced by our life histories. Each word we write represents an encounter, possibly a struggle, between our multiple past experience and the demands of a new context. Autobiographical writing is never some neutral activity which we just learn like a physical skill, but it implicates every fibre of the writer’s multifaceted being. This article would like to describe the autobiographical technique of the journal, the logbook, as a way of learning wherein students, more generally people, relate an experience lived to their thoughts and feeling. The logbooks, as narrative self-reports, combine an autobiographical style with a subjective investigation of feelings and a theoretical understanding. We would like to explain the first part of a research where the logbooks, as autobiographical narratives, have been adopted and adapted in the research investigation, in order to understand how was produced knowledge and transformation of meaning perspectives thanks to the experience carried out. Within the framework of the Theatre of the Oppressed (Boal, 2005; Romano, 2014), that is a theatrical technique developed in the 60s by Augusto Boal, quickly spread throughout the world, as one of the most effective weapons for social participation, were conducted at University of Naples four workshops with the methodologies of the Theatre of the Oppressed, with graduate and undergraduate students. The data were gathered through the adoption of qualitative tools. The research methodology, in fact, involves the collection of logbooks, narrative self-reports, in which the participants in the workshops of Theatre of the Oppressed describe their subjective perception of the experience, focusing on what happened and what were the individual and group resonances. Embedding some excerpts from participants’ logbooks, we would like to show the usefulness and the trustworthiness of the logbooks as narrative autobiographical tools for exploring potential and eventual transformation in the field of adult education.

 

1. Introduction

 

The ‘autobiographical self’ focuses on connecting identity with writers’ sense of their roots, of where they are coming from, and the knowledge that the identity they bring with them to writing is, in itself socially constructed and constantly changing as a consequence of their developing life history.

Change of meaning horizons offers new ways of seeing the same worlds. This is the meaning of research in the field of adult education. The transformative learning theory (Mezirow, 1991) asserts that the way we see the world is the result of perceptions of our experiences. According to Mezirow (1991), we develop habitual expectations based on past experiences. We expect things to be as they were before, or we used to uncritically assimilate prospects of our social, community and culture. These perspectives are distortions, stereotypes and prejudices. They guide our decisions and our actions until we come across a situation that is not consistent with our expectations. At that point, we can reject the perspectives discrepant or enter into a process that could lead to a transformation. The lenses through which we know and we mean reality are epistemological, psychological and sociolinguistic perspectives. It creates a transformative learning when people have a reshaping, a change in the meaning perspective with which we relate to life, to experience, to ourselves and to the world, and this change leads to new ways of thinking and above all new ways of acting. How cam as researcher we address the issue of human mind transformations? This article would like to describe the autobiographical technique of the journal, the logbook, as a way of learning wherein students, more generally people, relate an experience lived to their thoughts and feeling. The logbooks, as narrative self-reports, combine an autobiographical style with a subjective investigation of feelings and a theoretical understanding. Life history writing is an advantageous methodological and pedagogical tool in examining the lived experiences of learners and teachers around the world. By engaging in life history writing and having students see writing as a method of enquiry and not a final product, focused writing projects can guide students to find out about themselves. Autobiographical writing is a way of “knowing” – a method of discovery and analysis, which as method does not take writing for granted, but offers multiple ways to learn to do it, and to nurture the writer. Writers thus come to understand their discoursal selves, thereby developing the authority to identify themselves as the author of their texts, and so the main characters of their life.

 

2. The logbooks and autobiographical narratives

 

The logbook is a narrative tool with descriptive purposes, which aims to explore the individual experience writing about such a phenomenon, event. The logbook can be considered a topical autobiography or a punctual event autobiography. The logbook allows one to focus on some dimensions and think about, during and after the experience that is taking place, to foster greater retention of learning and memories. The logbook structure can be very simple and can be completed at the end of a meeting, an encounter, in order to list the most important, the most interesting, amusing, and those that were ineffective, boring things done, what has been observed. The logbook is a reflective writing that aims to improve people’s professional and academic practice through reflection on experience, in order to make it knowable (explanatory function), in order to share it (communicative function), in order to make it the object of reflection (inferential function) and in order to manifest and control feelings and emotions (containment and emotion processing function) (Sposetti, 2011, p. 264). The privileged interlocutor of the logbook is one’s self, one’s inner world, his conscience, even though there is always a dimension of externality internalized in the form of inner dialogue with a possible audience.  The logbooks can be adopted within several formal and informal learning contexts, and with people of different age, from youthness to adult people, until the old age.

The logbook becomes reflective writing, through which free the Self by the anxiety of truth and authenticity, and realize the practical hermeneutics, through which to build and test new knowledge of the experience. It is a document that the subject fills methodically describing activities, impressions, discoveries, observations, and feelings. Compared to the educational biography, the logbook is a kind of “reflective withdrawal” (Montalbetti, 2005, p. 81). The logbooks are much more than research material, they become a symbol of a thoughtful work, a questioning inside conditions that proves “the existential characteristic to recognize the being, not to reduce this tension and question to a mere transit in view of the predetermined landing and then the answer” (D’Ambrosio, 2011, p. 66). As evidenced by Bruner (1988) “the language is the most powerful tool with which to organize the experience and with whom, indeed, construct reality” (p. 11).

The logbooks are a phenomenological writing, where the phenomenological reflecting viewpoint means “take a look at the place where you are while you think, and this includes to escape being unthinkingly encapsulated inside of advance thought worlds. The phenomenological tradition has, in fact, the merit of having questioned the tendency to stay inside anticipated worlds, i.e. inside already given reality that prevents access to an original experience” (D’Ambrosio, 2011, pp. 66- 67). The use of writing about oneself in the education “opens [...] to the heuristic-hermeneutic perspective that is discovery of the complex existential problems, and presents a view of the multiplicity of ongoing actions; is, ultimately, sense-making because it is, from time to time, to renew memory whose coherence is metabletic and non-reproductive” (Schettini, 2007, p. 97).

Mezirow (2001) says that emancipatory education helps learners to move from simple awareness of what they are experiencing to the awareness of the conditions of that experience (how they perceive, think, judge, feel, act: a reflection on the process), and to awareness of the reasons they feel what they feel and act according to this way of feeling (Mezirow, 2001, p. 192). The metacognitive shift from experiencing something, reflecting on it and reflecting on the way and the reasons why people adopt those perspectives can be ensured by the function of the writing the journals.

 

3. The case study: Transformative Potential of the Theatre of the Oppressed

 

We would like to explain the first part of a research where the logbooks, as autobiographical narratives, have been adopted and adapted in the research investigation, in order to understand how was produced knowledge and transformation of meaning perspectives thanks to the experience carried out.

Within the framework of the Theatre of the Oppressed (Boal, 2005), that is a theatrical technique developed in the 60s by Augusto Boal, quickly spread throughout the world, as one of the most effective weapons for social participation, were conducted at University of Naples four workshops with the methodologies of the Theatre of the Oppressed, with graduate and undergraduate students. The goal of the theater of the Oppressed is to humanize humanity, because every man is a theater, because each of us is and must be an actor of his own life, able to speak his world, in dialogue with others. This method uses the theater as a tool for knowledge and as a language, as a tool for awareness and transformation of the inner, relational and social reality. The theater makes active the audience and serves to groups of spect-actors (Boal, 2005; 2011) to explore, to stage, to analyze and to transform reality that they themselves live. Its aims are to help people discover their theatrics, seen as an instrument to know reality, and to make the viewers protagonists of the stage, so that they could be in life. It is based on the assumption that the body thinks, in other words on a global and unitary conception of man seen as a mutual interaction of body, mind, emotions. The methods of the Theatre of the Oppressed provide analysis tools, liberation and awareness through a dialogic relationship, which deconstructs the aspects of violence. The influence on the Theatre of the Oppressed of Freire’s thought inherits an educational approach not indoctrinating, but rather Socratic and maieutic: without giving answers, the questions are asked and creates contexts useful for finding collective solutions. The construction of the script, the evidence and the scenic representation are useful for the analysis and the transformation of oppressive situations, discomfort, conflict in daily life. Icebreaker exercises and techniques aim to dissolve the ‘mechanization’ (Boal, 2005) of our body/mind/emotion, crystallized in the so-called ‘social mask’. While touching personal and emotional aspects, and despite having in common with psychodrama Morenian, the Theatre of the Oppressed does not arise as a therapy, but as an instrument of collective liberation that rests on people self-awareness (Striano, Strollo & Romano, 2014).

The purpose of the research TOTP: Transformative Potential of the Theater of the Oppressed is to discern whether the experiences of Theatre of the Oppressed (Boal, 2005; 2011) carried out within formal academic contexts promote transformative learning according to Mezirow’s theory (Mezirow,1991; 2001). The research hypothesis of the project TOTP: Transformative Potential of the Theater of the Oppressed is that the experiences of the workshops with students of the Bachelor’s Degree in Psychological Sciences, students of the Master’s Degree in Clinical and Community Psychology, the teachers being enabled with PAS courses during the academic year 2013/2014 promote transformative learning in the participants. Building on the purpose of this study, the researcher’s goal was to go in depth into the experiences of the 332 participants to the research. The findings resulted from the deep phenomenological analysis of personal participants’ journals. The research questions are the following:

 

  1. does the experience of the Theater of the Oppressed promote transformative learning?
  2. If yes, what happens?
  3. If yes, how does the process go?
  4. If yes, what kind of elements, factors, perspectives, attitudes, beliefs, change?
  5. If not, why?

 

The research TPTO: Transformative Potential of the Theater of the Oppressed is characterized as an empirical research with emancipatory aims: the educational workshop are intended as learning experience, starting from a reflection on constructed meanings and forms of inequality participants had in their lives, and can promote understanding and self-knowledge and his life. In this sense, the research design is an ongoing process of construction of self-identity, is restless itinerary, dramatic, dialectic, recreational and never predictable for all participants in the research.

The data were gathered through the adoption of qualitative tools. The research methodology, in fact, involves the collection of logbooks, narrative self-reports, in which the participants in the workshops of Theatre of the Oppressed describe their subjective perception of the experience, describing what happened and what were the individual and group resonances. The question of the self-report is free, participants are asked to tell their viewpoint on the experience, precisely in order to encourage the emergence of personal experiences. The logbooks are sent via e-mail to an account managed by the researcher. When handling a large amount of data, if expressed in a narrative form, the researcher may use different tools, but it is always important “to know what you are looking for, to have an analytical strategy above, to return them to the original problem” (Yin, 2009, p. 110).

The participants are divided into three groups:

 

  1. 145 students of the course in Pedagogy of Learning Processes of the Bachelor’s Degree in Psychological Sciences of the Department of Humanities;
  2. 87 students of the course in Social Pedagogy of the Master’s Degree in Clinical and Community Psychology of the Department of Humanities;
  3. 100 teachers being enabled with the Certified Special Course (PAS Course, in Italian).

 

The research sample is, therefore, very numerous. The sampling was rational, operating the decision to involve all the participants in the research laboratories of Theatre of the Oppressed that lend their consent. For the purposes of research, in fact, it appeared to be of scientific interest involving participants who have really experienced the techniques and the methodologies of the Theatre of the Oppressed, in order to understand in depth the experiences and their subjective perception. The sampling was an intentional rational sampling (Creswell, 2003; 2007). The theoretical/purposeful sampling attempts to select research participants according to the criteria adopted by research purposes: in our case, to belong to three distinct natural groups facilitated the data collection process according to the intentional stratified sampling, having three groups of subjects who fit the search criteria to have had an experience of Theatre of the Oppressed, and which belong to three different levels of education. The stratified purposive sampling is a theoretical non-probabilistic sampling, whose aim is not to select random units from a population, to create a probability sample suitable to put generalizations and statistical inferences.

Phenomenological analysis was conducted of all journals preparing a panel of three independent judges, who analyzed the categories emerging, and first worked separately and then comparing their work. The analysis identified the core categories, the categories most important, measured the frequency and occurrences for each category. I used the software NVivo, which allows coding in vivo for the text, the collection of the first codes in knots and the conjunction of conceptual issues in analytical categories. I have carried out the analysis also at the individual level for each participant, in order to investigate for each subject the presence of the four criteria for transformative learning.

The analysis of participants’ logbooks does not go into the direction of the search for results to validate the research hypothesis, but tell a research which claims “the originality of being dropped, and referred to a specific context-community” (D’Ambrosio, 2011, p. 67), which made the entire journey of the workshop on the Theatre of the Oppressed a resounding reality within more complex structures of sensitivity and pedagogical knowledge. The descriptions of the experience of the students and teachers, though considered only traces, require a hard work of meaning reconstruction to be able to know and recognize its value, with all the risks that this entails. “The human experience is always fundamentally ambiguous: the construction of meaning can indeed succeed or fail; get on the road to search for meaning is risky. But the alternative, in the name of security, the certainty of the results, is the renunciation of such research, and then the renunciation to more properly human dimension” (Lichtner, 1999, p. 39).

Credibility ensures that the researcher represents participants’ perceptions accurately. I outlined my assumptions and biases and limitations of the research openly in the first chapter of this study. As a consequence, biases were brought to the surface, creating heightened self-awareness, and then serving as an ongoing reminder to keep assumptions in check while also using them constructively as part of the analysis and synthesis of findings. Above all, I considered myself to be an instrument to the analysis and interpretation of the data. Dependability required the researcher to provide a detailed overview of the processes and procedures used for data collection and interpretation. The main limitation stems from the overall design of the study. In order to provide a foundational level of trust, and to empirically respond to the research questions, I guaranteed that the data were exclusively safeguarded with me, for this particular research purpose only. Data were at times only shared with the direct research team, as communicated in writing in the consent form. Therefore, subjectivity was a consistent limitation throughout the study; it was addressed, but also leveraged as part of the research design. I believe that my track record in facilitation and studying in the field of adult learning make me likely to be highly self-reflective and capable of leveraging my experiences to analyze the data.

Another potential limitation was the study’s sample size. I had many participants to the workshops of the Theater of the Oppressed who agreed to be part of the research, and who sent me their journals. The big size of the sample caused troubles in managing a big amount of data collected: the clarification of the research design was useful to handle the large amount of qualitative data.

 

4. The phenomenological analysis of the journals

 

This paragraph describes the categories emerging for the 332 journals divided according to participants’ degrees (Master’s Degree, Bachelor’s Degree, Teachers). I adopted the phenomenological analysis as methodology of analysis of the narrative logbooks.

The Phenomenological analysis is a method of data analysis of textual narratives that has the aim to understand the subjective experience related to a given event or phenomenon. The Phenomenological analysis is preferred analysis tool when dealing with issues and perceptions highly subjective and sensitive to the social context, objects or phenomena studied relatively new and unexplored, processes related to the self, identity and perception of an individual experience, mostly complex, and innovative character of the case. The theoretical phenomenological approach is interested in subjective experience as lived by participants: for this reason, understanding of the research question is done through the formulation of meaningful categories and stories that give meaning to reality as co-constructed and shared. There is no gold standard or an objective truth to be proven, but rather it is searched for the meaning and significance built by participants in the study. The research process is recursive, inductive, or bottom-up, where we explore the meanings that people build, individual and self-reflective. The researcher reflected on his/her role in the research process, in a movement of double reflexivity: researcher and participants reflect on their lived experience, the processes through which meaning is given to the personal and social world, on subjective perspectives and individual viewpoints that are valued, on the role of socio-cultural and contextual interpretation of meanings, cognitions, emotions and actions. It consists of specific procedures, such as immersion of the researcher in his/her own data to content analysis, noting similarities, differences, contradictions, echo, and emphasis in the words of those involved. The themes and categories emerging from each report shall be annotated in the margins and, encoded in vivo, in the words of the participants, before proceeding to higher levels of abstraction.

The first stage of the series of recursive steps is repeated and in depth reading of each transcript, to become familiar with the narratives, the stories and the meanings embedded in the self-report, identify and record all dense elements, to assign a code in vivo, a label for each textual unit considered conceptually meaningful. The second stage proceeds on broader levels of abstraction, identifying recurring patterns of textual units, and organizing them into themes and categories. The themes and categories are selected on the basis of their frequencies in the whole textual corpus, but also for their relevance, and allow you to highlight similarities and differences among participants. They organize the labels and all the categories in thematic categories, to associate quotes extracted from the text, and synthetic labels. Finally, identify the relationships between identified categories, connecting issues and uniting groups, and recognizing the core categories that can be considered higher-level categories (Smith, 2004).

The validity criteria require a cross validation, with the triangulation of judges, forming a panel of three or five independent coders, who follow the encoding process, the organization, integration and interpretation conducted. At this criterion of validity, it should be added a criterion of consensual coding, with the comparison and sharing of the results. And it is also crucial to grasp the plurality of cognitive, behavioral, contextual, physical, emotional dimensions of the experience, and approach to the analysis with the attitude of suspension, epoché (Strollo, 2008), of the theoretical and conceptual background of the researcher, his/her prejudices, his/her interests, or risk structured analysis before he/she does it and improperly use of the data to confirm his/her research hypotheses. The phenomenological analysis is therefore systematically and thoroughly, reducing the complexity of the data, moving from the descriptive dimension to the interpretation, abandoning the pretense of having the only possible interpretation, plausible and transparent, leaning on text extracts of the reports and presenting close interaction between the panel of researchers and narratives analyzed (Smith, 2004).

The phenomenological analysis is an endless process where the basilar starting point is the exploitation of the research inquire: the interest is aimed at the focus on participants’ experience throughout identified categories, without the obligation to find what the researcher wants to find. The phenomenological analysis is applied in order to explore the experiences from participants’ viewpoint. In the phenomenological qualitative research, the inquiry comes from the lived experience, from the phenomenon itself: the conceptual framework and the literature review emerge from nature of the experience itself as intepretated from the data analysis. Generally, the conceptual framework does not preexist the data collection, in totally connection between theory-practice-theory. From a phenomenological viewpoint, “to do research is always to question the way we experience the world, to want to know the world in which we live as human beings” (Van Manen, 1990, p. 5). This phenomenological study focuses on the original phenomenon of the experiences lived by participants of the Theatre of the Oppressed Laboratories. One of the more difficult aspects of the phenomenological analysis, that represents the origin of a very frequent bias, is that the pre-comprehension of the phenomenon studied could orient and present a pre-structured shape of the phenomenon surfacing, influencing its emergence. For this reason, it is crucial for the researcher to be fully aware of own prospective, of the view that he/she brings, in order to be fully opened to the phenomenological epoché. The phenomenology, born as philosophical prospective before that as a research method, is aimed at the study of the real nature of knowledge: a phenomenological approach has the aim to build, more than to give a proof of something or to give a detailed description of an experience.

A phenomenological approach is embodied and expressed in a particular perspective and attitude, through the recognition within the lifeworld, and the knowledge and understanding that can be properly seized by consciousness (Merleau-Ponty, 2005). The conscience is never aware of the objective world, as it is necessary relationship to it, it is the absolute being in the world (Levinas, 1998, p. 16). The reality of an object becomes knowable only through the perception of the experience of those who are in connection with that object. The intent is awareness of self-consciousness, and acts towards an intentional object or phenomenon. The intention allows an object or a phenomenon to give itself to consciousness, to become evident, to enter into existence. The intentionality is the nexus where being and knowing come together. The phenomenological perspective protects the vision of subjective experience as a necessary part of any full understanding of the nature of knowledge. In phenomenology, intuition does not need to be proven, because it is inherent intentionality (Levinas, 1998), in the noetic-noemic structure of consciousness, and must lead to the pure expression, it must be described in terms of the essential concepts and formulas essences, known in insights and connections that have their roots purely in such essences. The essence of intuition is the essential moment of knowledge. The phenomenological approach offers a methodology of qualitative research that can be applied to a myriad of experiences: on a longer time frame, phenomenology offers the researcher the ability to examine the different perspectives of the participants, in this case the participants in the workshops of the Theatre of the Oppressed. The phenomenological survey also offers the researcher the ability to look at the experience of the participants on a single moment, as in all the experience in all its complexity.

The Phenomenological analysis is a method of analysis of textual and narrative data that proposes the aim to understand the subjective experience relative to a given event or phenomenon. The Phenomenological analysis turns out to be the instrument of election analysis when there are treating themes and highly subjective perceptions, sensitive to the social context, objects or phenomena studied relatively new and unexplored, processes related to the self, identity and individual perception of an experience, for the more complex, and innovative character of the case. The theoretical approach is concerned phenomenological subjective experience as lived by the participants: understanding the research question comes through the formulation of meaningful stories and categories that give meaning to reality as co-constructed and shared.

The research process is recursive, inductive, i.e. bottom-up, where the researcher explores the meanings that people give, ideographic and self-reflective. The researcher reflects on his/her role in the research process, in a double movement of reflexivity: researcher and participants reflect on the lived experience, on the processes through which it is given meaning to personal and social world, on the subjective perspective and on the role of socio-cultural aspects and contextual interpretation of meanings, cognitions, emotions and actions taken. It takes the form of specific procedures, such as immersion of the researcher in his/her own data for analysis of the contents, noting similarities, differences, contradictions, echoes, and emphasis in the words of those involved. The themes and emerging categories of each report shall be annotated in the margins, and encoded in-vivo, in the words of the participants, before proceeding to higher levels of categorization.

The first phase of the recursive step series is the repeated and deep reading of each transcript, to become familiar with the narrative, the stories and the meanings embedded in the self-report, identify and write down all the dense elements, assign an in-vivo label, a label for each conceptually meaningful textual units. The second stage proceeds on broader levels of abstraction, identifying recurring patterns of textual units, and organizing them into themes and categories. The themes and categories are selected on the basis of their frequencies in the entire textual corpus, but also for their relevance, and allow the researcher to highlight similarities and differences among participants. The labels and the set of categories are organized into thematic categories, quotes extracted from the text and synthetic labels are associated. Finally, are identified relationships between identified thematic categories, connecting and uniting categories, and recognizing the core categories that can be considered at a superior level of abstraction (Smith, 2004). The validity criteria for the phenomenological analysis requires a cross-validation, with the judges triangulation, forming a panel of three or five independent judges, who follow the encoding process, organization, integration and interpretation conducted. To this criterion of validity is added a criterion of consensus coding, with the comparison and sharing of the results. And it is also crucial to grasp the plurality of cognitive, behavioral, contextual, physical, emotional dimensions of the experience, to approach to the analysis with the suspension attitude, epoché (Strollo, 2008), of the theoretical and conceptual background of the researcher, his prejudices, interests: this suspension is to prevent the risk to structure the analysis before doing it, and to use the data improperly to confirm the research hypotheses. The phenomenological analysis is so systematic and rigorous, allowing to reduce the complexity of the data, moving from the descriptive dimension to that interpretative, abandoning the pretense of having the only possible interpretation, plausible and transparent, leaning on text extracts of the reports and presenting close interaction between panel of researchers and analyzed narratives (Smith, 2004).

The questions that guided the analysis phenomenological approach are: There has been a transformation? If so, what has changed (process-content-perspectives of meaning)? If no, why? Was the experience of the Theatre of the Oppressed a disorienting dilemma?

The group of students of Pedagogy of learning processes during 2013/2014 of the Bachelor Degree in Psychological Science and Techniques are students in their final year of their program. They are the largest group in the research. Their average age is around 22 years, with the exception of 5 participants of the whole group (3 %) whose age is above 30 years.

For each group of participants, I indicated the category emerged, the descriptors of the category, the indicators thanks to which I could say that the textual units belonged to that category, the frequencies and the occurrencies. Here I present just some excerpts of the phenomenological analysis of the logbooks of the Bachelor’s Degree Students (N=145), in order to show how the process of analysis goes. Among the main categories emerged from participants’ logbooks, there were the description of the Process of Conscientization activated by the Theater of the Oppressed. The Process of Conscientization is one of the most numerous category (Number of the journals = 56), and refers to a process of raising consciousness by the experience in all its complexity. The change and transformation processes are promoted primarily by the opportunity to explore alternative ways of acting. It is through reflection and criticism that it is possible, therefore, to become aware of the specific assumptions on which a distorted or incomplete perspective of meaning is based, transforming it through a reorganization of the meaning. The process of clarification/revision of the modes of action begins with a pattern of doubtful or problematic meaning, with a disorienting dilemma and proceeds through exploration, analysis, memory, intuition, imagination, to the construction of a new interpretation. The Theater of the Oppressed seems to be the disorienting situation which throws the participants off balance from their usual perspectives: it is a disequilibrium moment from whom adult learners become ready for change, urgent, essential change to help them get a grip on their lives. The Experiential Learning of participants’ is a significant learning from the experience in the experience, considering their prior understanding as lacking. 113 T: Thank to the Theatre of the Oppressed the people could be able to find the strength to take position against […], identifying themselves with the actors, substituting for them, reflection on the situation in action, comparing it to own, they could understand that often the oppression is hiding under behaviors and words that in our vision are normal.

“The most powerful learning – the learning that most of us really want to see learners achieve as a result of their experience with classes or curricula – involves significant qualitative changes in the learner themselves” (Moore, 1994, p. 60). As an “A-ah” moment, the Theater of the Oppressed Pushes people to become conscious of the situation of oppression, and starting from the crisis, used the group discussion to create new knowledge […] it wants to generate change, wants to rouse the population and to do this, it uses the social actions. […] The Theater of the Oppressed helps me to mature this awareness and to acquire meta-reflective skills, through the shift from the intersubjective to the intrasubjective (83T).

It started to mature inside me a different perspective. […] I could define it as something similar to an experience that go through yourself and upset your belief, because it brings you to reflect on the dynamics that are assumed as certain in the common life, that you feel as confident and that are close to be considered as absolute truth […] this practice encourages an alienation mechanism from yourself, in order to assume a prospective of another that could be also very different from yours. […] The key word is to call into a question yourself, your ideas, your interpretation and beliefs (102T).

That generates a reflexive change in the original schemes of meaning, enriching, transforming and integrating them. When the new interpretation effectively brings an entire perspective of meaning into question, it might lead to a perspective transformation. This process gives origin to emancipatory learning that consists in freedom from instinctual, linguistic, epistemological, institutional and environmental forces, which limit our options and control over our lives. We reach this emancipation by critically examining our assumptions. If new information readily fit into people’s existing belief and value structures, they continue with an understanding of the information, but without much further disruption in their opinions. If the information do not readily fit, they may begin to question their values, to determine why the representation, or the topic of the oppression, or the plot writing is uncommon and a perturbing input. The process of balancing the truth of the conflicting perspective against people’s currently held assumptions, leads to the winning of the new perspective, that is fast put in action as new role.

As easy to see, participants are seeking new perspectives and possibilities: through the Theater of the Oppressed, they believe in the possibility of a dialectical pendulum. A means of seeing and approaching their world which will swing back toward the practice of justice, a less competitive and more cooperative citizenship. They trust a public space which values consciousness and compassion, and fights indifference and bigotry. Consumerism, Corporate Capitalism, Celebretism, Selfishness seem to be completely overcome thanks to the power of the emancipatory learning, of the Process of Conscientization, for other values like Community, Cooperation, Collaboration, Creation, Collectivism, Communication, Constructivism.

114 T: the solution of the oppression is a path that should start both from an increasing of one’s awareness of own oppressive behaviors, both from a reciprocal feeling and respect.

They discover the calling for a social responsibility about changing the world in which they live. They start to believe there are societies in the world making more conscious, compassionate, logical, and meaningful choices than they did before in their reality.

Forum Theater is a sea that embraces rivers which flow into it, and for which it is so big and so deep. These rivers are the philosophy by Marx, the pedagogy by Freire, the dramatic art by Brecht, Stanislavski, the poetic, political and literal reflections by Boal, that flow all into the aesthetic of the Theater of the Oppressed […] What was acted by my colleagues, brought to me a cause for reflection on how these dynamics are pervasive in the modern society, and are veiled and fluctuating. […] On the stage you can put yourself into play, between the virtual and the real. You could test some valid alternative to a daily live that too often bring you as a loser and unable to put into practice what you consider right. (125 T).

Participants assume the risk of choosing freely, interacting with the community, pursuing full disclosure, ethics, responsibility.

The process of change is fostered by the intervention of spect-actors, which leads to new contributions, distancing from the original representation. Very strongly connected to this category is the category of the Power of the Representation (N=58 journals): participants underline the cathartic influence of the representation, that as aesthetic art, is able to favor the expressions of the internalized conflicts through movements, and voices, and actions. The instrument of the staging and of subsequent collective discussion also highlights the awareness of the emotions that are acted out in social relations, both in educational formal contexts, and in daily informal contexts. The theatre of the oppressed allow to share your thoughts and what is your internal language (the thinking) becomes external language (the word) and becomes as a speech. […] At this point (the point of the representation), there’s a new scenario, because the spect-actor is challenged to use words, but also to unveil his own thought on the staging through sounds, images, body, movements (99T).

The process of the Theatre of the Oppressed involves also memories, autobiographical elements, both during the phase of the plot writing and during the staging. Autobiographical aspects are accentuated by sharing them within the group, by the participation and the sense of belonging to the group.

Remember the experience with all the consequences that it brings. I am asking who, almost once in own life, was not in that situation. I was in that state for many times […] I felt anxiety when I saw, during the scene, a situation that incarnated some that I lived in the past. (102 T). The next moment of the play was very strong under an emotional profile, because it reminds me bad experiences that I lived (10 T). I live a similar situation more than one time in the past and to see it in play, turned the time back, the main character acted similar to my experience (124 T).

Identifying myself with the play, surrounded by my colleagues that lived the same experience, gave me a feeling of freedom. I felt less the lonely about my oppression situation that I lived in the past (131 T). It was very common for me to revoke some of mine past experiences, some memories, that were similar to the scenes that were played. […] This relation between memories and scenes allowed me to identify myself in each oppressed character  (19 T). In the Theatre of the Oppressed I re-lived my personal experience […] the solutions that I proposal in the debate are all coming from my personal experiences (28 T). Personally I lived a similar situation […] This play promoted the emerging of memories and, at the same time, the suffering felt in that moments (70 T).

The category of Participation (N=24) is based on identification processes and on the freedom to take the scene in a safe and non-judgmental environment. Each participant has the opportunity to take the scene and to be the main character of the representation to change the flow of the events. 18T: all the spect-actors have the freedom to speak and to explain their viewpoints upon what represented and upon told by the other colleagues. Each of us got a more differentiating and completed perspective, which includes potential viewpoints on the story. Each of us is confronted with each effort of resolution, with whom he sometimes doesn’t agree, offering a new alternative solution.

The difficulty and the risk in that scene specification has been to touch the common place, because none of those present went to the scene and, therefore, it had never been really in a situation like that (123 T).

The category of Change and Transformation (N = 43). This is the category in 33% of logbooks of the Bachelor’s degree students: the Theatre of the Oppressed is then described as a learning tool for promoting transformative learning (Mezirow, 1991). The changes and transformations are achieved for the acquisition of capacity for self-criticism, awareness and reflection. The Theater of the Oppressed is fundamental for learning principles of ethical behavior, for developing reflective processes on the dynamics of oppression lived by participants, and for recognizing multiple forms of oppression that act at all levels of the ecological metaphor (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). 53 T: valid in pursuing the aim of achieving a learning and, more generally, to act as "input unsettling", able to set in motion a process of individual and social transformation. 51 T: Some observations made during the debate concerning the scenes represented provoked in me the need to reflect critically on the subject itself and what it closely touched me. The Theatre of the Oppressed is a critical pedagogy of the device, which is dialectical, analyzes the mistreatment, the injustice and the ontological and human historical oppression (Federighi, 1997, p. 39): “the ecological model, being relational, intercontextual and intersystemic does not trust a single data, but discusses the views and extracts the truth not as a linear discourse, based on the principle of cause-effect, but as a result of mutual influence and complex of opposites” (Federighi, 1997, p. 39).

30 T: everyone can pour out their own personal experiences and review their conflicts, past and present, and through discussion to arrive at a real change not only in their way of analyzing the conflicts and situations of oppression, but also in its own way to deal with them and change the things […].

In concrete terms, this means a new and different approach in situations where I seem to sense that something is wrong and it is not fair, whether it's a real fight or even of a debate.

23 T: It activates a circular exchange process in which their beliefs are put in crisis and evaluated. And the "crisis" is the beginning of change.

 

5. Conclusions

 

Among the factors that impact on the transformation of the epistemological perspectives, there are the expansion of awareness and affectivity, that contribute to the meaning of the pattern definition, i.e. the set of knowledge, beliefs, evaluative judgments and feelings that guide our actions. These require a continuous critical examination a result of which it is possible to operate a change in perspectives that generates new modes of action. The scenic fiction of the dramatic mode forms a bridge between the critical consciousness of the participants and their position within the real world. If it is not always a 'general rehearsal for the' revolution, the Theatre of the Oppressed is a preparation for the implementation of cultural changes to address injustice, inequality, and oppression. People learn new troubleshooting techniques and unexplored approaches to social problems, and begin to communicate with each other in a collaborative way to achieve the goal of building a better world. The Theatre of the Oppressed overcomes the problems and limitations of the individual change perspectives, through an experience that is centered on the learner, focusing on teamwork, on investment in learning centered on the problem, and providing the basis for change collective. Those who participate can capture the vision and the dream of human transformation, based on the ability and the desire that people change, taking borne by their future for themselves.

The narrative in the journals revealed to the researcher as to the reader what is behind and over every piece of information: each molecule tells a happy story with an emotional tone, which reconnects the temporary fabric of the past and the future. The purpose of this section is to still return once again the word to the participants, to allow students and teachers to signify deeply their reflections and their learning, making decisions about their future goals as citizens and professionals.

The possibilities, which an authentic educational practice is developed, considered here as the cultivation the free breathing of the soul, played all in this act auroral, which consists in knowing how to accept others, make way for own being as a condition for the germination of the relationship. The experience lived by the participants is based on an aesthetic act, art, poetry, body, images and metaphors of stage fiction that challenge, however, perceptions of themselves and the world of students, taking them to an awareness of how their schemes of meaning formed, and form their actions, and take a depth and thickness to their self-knowledge.

101 T: this experience has definitely taught me to change my point of view in the discussions and to seek a solution.

11T: were particularly stimulating attention, reflection, good involvement of the audience that has contributed not only in raising a debate relating to the staging of the episodes but also an exchange of opinions, such an opening than the conceptions and the prospects of the other, and even to the transformation of a mere spectator in a 'spect-actor'. […] At a time when we are witnessing something that we recognize, this represents, for me, a very important first step to comprehension and reflection. […] This activity has also been a way to be in contact with the other, more that sometimes is very different from us, to reflect during the course of the action and to act in response to a reflection rather immediate, to get in the game by addressing the their limits and the fear of other people's prejudices.

49 T: Listening to the thoughts of other people over to mine, helped me to build my path of awareness. In fact, awareness is the instrument and the starting point.

47 T: The Theatre of the Oppressed is, thus, used for educational purposes: teaching to be objective and to keep in mind a perspective that should never be too limited.

The impact, therefore, in terms of knowledge of the TPTO research: Transformative Potential of the Theatre of the Oppressed are to arrive at theoretical explication through an empirical procedure as adults learn by and in the  experience, develop a workshop teaching model that helps teachers and educators in understanding how to promote transformative learning and use methods of Theatre of the oppressed with different participants and different social and cultural environments as transformative learning device (Mezirow, 2000).

Writing the logbooks is a tool that allows, in a different time from that required immediate action, to build the impression of the moment. In this sense, the writing allows on one hand to grasp, through narration, continuity, intentionality, and the significance of the individual workshop sessions, on the other to promote, with the narration of participants’ experience, continuous development opportunities and growth. In fact, in narrate the person discovers or rediscovers essential parts of herself, generating forms of self-recognition and self-learning, as recognizes the importance of all the dynamics that take place in the group.

The act of writing forces to put in order many different moments, structuring, precisely, a spiral pattern, not necessarily chronological, which needs to transpose the word acted and embodied representation in signs and symbols for sharing sense. In this way, the writing works an instrument of making object of reflection intimate and tacit personal content, facilitating the clarification and the exposition of what lived. This moment calls for the construction of a complex network of knowledge and theories on thinking, learning and knowing, by assuming an “important role of guidance for the interpretation of new experiences and knowledge, and the activation of self-regulation, control and content monitoring” (Aiello, 2009, p. 60). In addition, “if the metacognitive competence is critical awareness of people’s knowledge (know-that) and its procedures (know-how)” (Mortari, 2002, p. 158), the best way to understand it is to make direct and systematic experience, thinking one’s thinking and reconstructing the story, recent and past, of his/her learning. In this sense, the logbook is the space in which to field the metacognitive thinking.

 

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