Publication details [#11038]

VanderWeil, Elisebeth. 2007. Accepting a ring of fire: Stories of engagement with fear in transformational adult learning. Spokane, Wash.. 262 pp.
Publication type
Ph.D dissertation
Publication language


I have positioned "fear" as a trickster in the field of education in this study of the experience of five leading educators who have engaged with fear in transformational adult learning. Tricksters and fear appear in many guises to those who would learn from them and the metaphor of the "fire" emerged in this study as a way to understand Trickster Fear paradoxically dangerous and beneficial. The purpose of this study was to heuristically explore experiences of fear connected with understanding in spaces where adults learn with leading adult educators--how it is recognized, valued, and supported toward transformational education in individuals, groups, and communities. The leadership of these educators in recognizing, encouraging, and opening space for the potential benefits of Trickster Fear was another perspective incorporated into this story. I chose a heuristic methodology for this study to honor participants as co-creators of the study, to enter into deep conversations with them, and to position my subjective, honest presence as a "sixth participant." The personal experiences which led me to engage with the topic melded well with the methodology's call for a stance of wonder and challenge. This study discovered a close attention to the "space" in which learning takes place and that spirituality was foundational for these educators in their valuation and support of both transformation and fear in that process. The need and desire for a name for the aspect of fear that is needed for transformational learning became more and more urgent as the study progressed, resulting in "apprehension" being invoked by participants as wonderfully encompassing the aspect of what I came to term "Trickster Fear" with which this study sought to engage. This study concludes with my own reflections and thoughts around what has been a transformational learning experience infused with Trickster Fear energy for me; not only do I now operate in the world differently than when I started, I am in the world differently. (Dissertation Abstracts)