Organization, Information and Learning Sciences ETDs

Publication Date



Using holistic grounded theory with participant selection through a self-designed survey, a preliminary theory and model of metamorphic learning for 16 adults who reported sudden, life-altering events emerged. Supporting the humanistic theoretical interpretations were the conceptual frameworks of transformative learning, Maslows hierarchy of needs, and positive psychology. An emic and in vivo definition led the findings about this complex, multi-faceted, and on-going learning event that profoundly impacted self-identity, direction, and quality of life. The event was a catalyst for a constructive learning, redefinition, and change process. Participants chose to confront and accept their changed reality first through critical reflection, after which positive attitudes started occurring and, second, individuated through self-examination. The majority reported a negative event but considered the learning outcomes to be positive. Impacts included a more present-focused orientation, healing, self-wisdom, changed priorities, and actualizing new roles, including mentoring and teaching others. 'Moving forward' was a guiding metaphor of strength through a process characterized by four types of learning: (1) epiphanic learning; (2) self-directed, discovery learning, also called social deconstructive unlearning and reconstruction; (3) metamorphic learning; and (4) continuous learning. The sudden realization shortly after the event may be a key impetus for what the majority expressed as a holistic growth or regeneration process, versus resilience. Because the clinical psychology concept of posttraumatic growth does not encompass a positive sudden, life-altering event, this researcher suggests a new construct of 'post-event redefinition. Implications include vicarious learning through storytelling.

Degree Name

Organizational Learning and Instructional Technology

Level of Degree


Department Name

Organization, Information & Learning Sciences

First Advisor

Boverie, Patricia

First Committee Member (Chair)

Gunawardena, Charlotte

Second Committee Member

Allison-Napolitano, Elle

Third Committee Member

Hood, Jacqueline

Fourth Committee Member

Smith, Bruce




transformative adult learning, positive psychology, positive growth, wellbeing, life-altering event, grounded theory

Document Type