The Nature of Self-Directed Learning and Transformational Learning in Self-Managing Bipolar Disorder to Stay Well




Francik, Wendy

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The purpose of the research was to explore the self-directed learning and transformational learning experiences among persons with bipolar disorder. A review of previous research pointed out how personal experiences with self-directed learning and transformational learning facilitated individuals’ learning to manage HIV, Methicillan-resitant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), prostate cancer, and breast cancer to maintain their health. In addition, participants in a study examining self-management of bipolar disorder identified educating one’s self as important for staying well. However, unexplored in the previous research was how self-directed learning and transformational learning experiences transpired among persons who were self-managing bipolar disorder. The three research questions focused on experiences prompting learning, personal experiences with learning self-management, and personal experiences contributing to strategies or staying well. Of the 12 individuals initially inquiring about participating in the research, 8 individuals voluntarily participated. These male and female participants’ ages ranged from 25 to 67. The audio taped interviews ranged from 90 minutes to over two hours in length. Two participants provided feedback about the interview questions, which were refined to address their comments. The research method was heuristic inquiry and consisted of six phases: (a) initial engagement, (b) immersion, (c) incubation, (d) illumination, (e) explication, and (f) culmination. The heuristic process permitted my being embedded in the conversations about learning how to self-manage bipolar disorder to stay well as both researcher and research participant. The culmination of analysis resulted in 14 emergent themes describing: (a) the role of meaning making and acceptance as prompts to learning, (b) how barriers were negotiated and resources engaged to facilitate learning to self-manage to stay well, and (c) the importance of acquiring strategies for staying well. Emerging from these 14 themes were key experiential events among participants learning to self-manage bipolar disorder to stay well. Participants had to make meaning of bipolar disorder in order to accept the diagnosis and begin to engage in learning, which transpired through self-directed learning and transformational learning experiences. Taking ownership of learning to self-manage to stay well was an expression of personal autonomy and self-determination. Personal motivation and personal experiences were valuable resources supporting and enabling learning to stay well. Proactive behavior facilitated taking action on one’s behalf to stay well. The benefit of an autodidactic approach to learning to self-manage bipolar was participants’ sharing their knowledge about managing bipolar disorder and their compassion for others with bipolar disorder. Findings from the current research point out how individuals with bipolar disorder can learn to self-manage to stay well. Personal commitment to learning was essential for staying well. Commitment emerged from making meaning of the diagnosis, accepting of the diagnosis, and taking ownership of learning how to stay well. Transformational learning and self-directed learning transpired from participants’ personal experiences in learning how to self-manage bipolar disorder. Through autonomous learning experiences, they gained confidence in self-management and they became proactive about taking actions best serving their well being. A proactive approach empowered actions and led to autonomous decisions for staying well. Through self-directed learning, participants identified best practices for caring for self and informing treatment decisions. Reframing of personal experiences facilitated gaining new perspectives. Reflections on past experiences enabled participants to inform their future actions and decisions for self-managing bipolar disorder. Engaging others in conversations made personal narratives about living with and self-management of bipolar disorder available as learning resources and personal stories to embrace. Stories of self or stories about others transpired as teaching moments through transformational learning and self-directed learning. By engaging others in the narratives of self, participants witnessed new views and dimensions of learning how self-manage their bipolar disorder to stay well.



Self-directed learning, Transformational learning, Bipolar disorder, Self-managing to stay well


Francik, W. (2012). <i>The nature of self-directed learning and transformational learning in self-managing bipolar disorder to stay well</i> (Unpublished dissertation). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


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