Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Sharon Herbers


Daniel Dominguez


Jessica Kimmel


Mary Ruth Moore


This phenomenological study explored the experience of eight adults as they perceived, recognized, and transitioned (from valued work) to their career callings. The central phenomenon of this research, callings, is defined as “inner directives towards meaningful life pursuits” (Wall, 2010, p. 7). The response to a calling was explored using William Bridge’s model for moving through life transitions. The research participants were teachers in midlife who had taught in grades K-12 for a minimum of five years after participating in an alternative teacher certification program. Semi-structured interviews included the use of expressive arts providing rich descriptions of the lived experiences of participants. The use of a visual representation facilitated the communication process by providing increased fluency and clarity of the interview responses. Themes from the study included three characteristics of teachers having responded to a calling: (a) integrity or wholeness in the role, (b) innate ability for the work, and (c) a focus on others. Furthermore, six of the eight research participants identified God as the source of their calling. Evidence also illustrated that participants were willing to pay the price of reduced salary, increased responsibilities, or less prestige in transitioning to the career they perceived as their calling. Six of eight of the participants’ childhood experiences were influential in the eventual recognition and transition to their calling with four individuals’ experiences involving childhood difficulties in school. Weaving emerging patterns from interviews and arts-based research within a frame of the contextual constructs of transitions and midlife, provided a unique perspective into the complexity of adult development for these eight research participants. Although no expectation of generalizability exists for the results of qualitative research, as leaders and learners, we all have the opportunity to examine patterns and reflect on applicability in our work environments. It is the hope that individual insight into the prospect of discovering alignment and meaning in career choice will positively impact satisfaction levels and effectiveness for participants in alternative certification programs and other adult education transitional programs.