Toward understanding perceived growth in practical wisdom: a retrospective examination of Class Afloat program alumni, 1985-2012
Marshall, Aaron Richard
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This research examines the perceptions of program alumni from Class Afloat – a particular tall ship sailing study school – with a view for perceived personal and social development during the experience and since, through an Aristotelian virtue lens. Set at the disciplinary intersection of Aristotelian virtue theory and experiential education, self-reporting through survey and interview are analyzed to understand how program alumni perceive the experience as catalyzing or accelerating personal growth (including self-determination, responsibility, attentional flexibility, discipline, courage, moderate self-awareness, perspective, and realistic optimism) and social growth (including friendship, care for the other, empathy, humility, and loyalty) in a deeper attempt to assess perceived growth in practical wisdom, or phronesis, the practice of which mediates over and is constituted by these personal and social virtues. Program alumni are drawn from a large chronological range of cohorts (1985-2012) to best appreciate Aristotle’s notion that a flourishing life (one with developed and active practical wisdom) must be measured across a full life. In the end, the data suggests participation was significant in paradigmatic ways, leading to personal and social growth which extends far beyond the experience itself, impacting participant value commitments, personal identity, and ability to make practical wise decisions.