This qualitative study explored the moral aspects of learners’ “encounters with unfamiliarity” in their everyday experiences. The encounter with unfamiliarity, as a basic phenomenon within the conceptual framework of embodied familiarization, was investigated using a multiple case study approach (Stake, 2006). Findings from this study are presented first as brief case narratives and second as themes based on a cross-case analysis. Themes of the study point to the nature and significance of the encounter as a part of learning, often as an invitation with a kind of moral significance that called participants to learn, or not learn, in particular ways. Moreover, much of the learning described in participants’ accounts was itself a kind of moral action, enacted in response to the significance of the moral call to learn initiated by the encounter.


Learning, Encounters with Unfamiliarity, Moral Action, Hermeneutics, Agency

Author Bio(s)

Jonathan S. Spackman is Assistant to the Dean in the Division of Continuing Education at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. His doctorate is in instructional psychology and technology. His research focuses on adult and online education, instructional design, and human agency in learning. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: jss@byu.edu.

Stephen C. Yanchar is an associate professor in the Department of Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. His research interests include human agency in learning and education, instructional design practices, and qualitative inquiry.

Edwin E. Gantt is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. He received his doctorate in clinical psychology from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he studied existential, phenomenological, and hermeneutic approaches to psychological theory. Currently, his research focuses on issues in philosophy of social science, psychology of religion, and the implications of Levinasian phenomenology for psychological accounts of moral agency and altruism.

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