This study comprises of a series of autoethnographic vignettes stemming from Karen’s life experiences that provide a snapshot of her quest for equality and fairness in her personal life, as well as her professional life as a primary school and special education educator. Karen later became a teacher of teachers, keen to share what she had learned with her peers. It was when she began educating other teachers that she became even more self-reflective with the most poignant question being, what causes one to change their beliefs, attitude, or way of thinking? The included vignettes encapsulate significant stories, starting from early childhood, to the motivation behind Karen’s teaching career and then the students that she met who shaped her adoption of the belief of equality and fairness for all. The vignettes provide the foundation for a qualitative study where one teacher’s journey of transformative and epiphanous change are analysed using autoethnography, reflexivity and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). The study examines the value of tacit knowledge, and then segues to explore resonance with Dewey’s constructivism, Kolb’s experiential theory, Mezirow’s transformational education theory and Tang’s Synergic Inquiry. While these theories provide a foundation for how learning and personal transformation may occur and attempts to answer the aforementioned question; not one theory captured what Karen was seeking; which is: How does epiphanous, mind blowing, life affirming change occur? The author contends that to shift one's value’s paradigm, one needs to incorporate the essence of all of the above theories to create a new integrated model.


Autoethnography, Autism Spectrum, Dewey, Kolb, Mezirow, Tang, Transformational Learning, Experiential Learning, Synergic Inquiry

Author Bio(s)

Karen Barley is a doctoral candidate within the Education Faculty and a Sessional Teacher in Inclusive Education at Monash University. She spent almost 20 years as a Primary Teacher and then another 6 years in special education settings. Ms. Barley began writing Professional Development (PD) about her experiences in classroom with students who have Autism and has since provided PD Face to Face (F2F) and online in Australia and the USA. She is dedicated to inclusive practices in education and in the community. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: karen.barley@monash.edu.

Dr Jane Southcott is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education, Monash University. Her research foci are twofold. She explores community music, culture, ageing and engagement in the arts employing both a qualitative, phenomenological approach and quantitative strategies. Her other research field is historical, particularly concerning the development of the music curriculum in Australia, America and Europe. She is a narrative historian and much of her research is biographical. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: jane.southcott@monash.edu.


Experience is a profound teacher and cosseted within those experiences have been many individuals who have shaped me personally and professionally. Some have been positive, some not so much; yet they have all played a crucial part in my life. I am thankful to each and everyone one. Thank you to my supervisor, Dr Jane Southcott for her guidance and encouragement. Finally, I owe great thanks to my children and grandchildren, who have been my greatest teachers. I love and appreciate you all dearly.

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