Theses Doctoral

Bearing Witness to the Personal Core of Teaching

Sullivan, Rebecca Leigh

Through a dynamic interplay of philosophical analysis and fine-tuned fieldwork, this dissertation seeks to bear witness to the presence and power of the personal core of teaching, a dimension of education that, I argue, is of utmost importance, but which remains largely undervalued by educational policymakers and underexamined by educational research.

I first carry out a careful phenomenological analysis of teaching that illuminates the existence of teaching’s personal core, as well as its defining characteristics. Then, following the research orientation David Hansen (2021) names bearing witness, I render narratives drawn from 1,150 hours spent observing three different kinds of teachers: a high school history teacher, a collegiate cross country and track and field coach, and master chefs who work with adolescent apprentices.

My philosophical analysis reveals that these three diverse modes of teaching share a common personal core and manifests the pedagogical import of this dimension of teaching for fostering students’ self-actualization. I conclude by drawing out implications of my study for teacher education and practice, and by offering recommendations for how teacher educators, administrators, and teachers can better recognize and respond to the reality of teaching’s personal core.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Philosophy and Education
Thesis Advisors
Hansen, David
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 10, 2023