Pragmatic family life education: moving beyond the expert-based, content-driven model of serving families

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Pragmatic family life education: moving beyond the expert-based, content-driven model of serving families

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The field of family life education (FLE) is shifting from an expert-based, content-driven model of education that is rooted in a positivistic epistemology of practice to a more collaborative, strength-based model that integrates scientific knowledge from family sciences with the values and experiences of families in communities. This study employs John Dewey's version of pragmatism as the guiding epistemology of practice for this emerging approach to FLE. A pragmatic approach to FLE is proposed through a summary and synthesis of concepts derived from a variety of perspectives, disciplines and fields that comprise the overall conceptual framework, which is comprised of two parts. The first is the philosophical framework, which draws from three principal perspectives: (a) family science, (b) critical science, and (c) human ecology. The second is the practical framework, which extends Bronfenbrenner's (2001/2009) bioecological model of human development to inform the development of interventions aimed as families; integrates concepts from disciplines and fields such as: the attunement perspective, helping relationships, home economics, and positive psychology in order to inform strategies and approaches for outreach and engagement; and finally reviews principles central to the philosophy of education.The study employs a convergent, multi-level intervention mixed methods design and is based on the evaluation of an existing demonstration project entitled Co-Parent Court. The existing Co-Parent Court evaluation design utilized a quasi-experimental, randomized control group with a pre, post and follow-up survey. Co-Parent Court is used as a critical case to explore and examine the pragmatic model of FLE articulated in this study. Findings indicate that intervention parents were more likely to be doing well on several substantively significant dimensions of family well-being than those in the control group. Lessons learned regarding what worked and what did not work in the particular case of the Co-Parent Court project are discussed in order to ground the findings in the immediate programmatic context. Additionally, eight promising principles of a pragmatic approach to FLE were developed based on a triangulation of practitioner wisdom (stakeholder interviews) and social science theory (conceptual framework) in order to contribute knowledge to the field of FLE generally.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2014. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Yvonne S. Gentzler, Ph.D. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 237 pages; appendices A-D.

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Hardman, Alisha Marie. (2014). Pragmatic family life education: moving beyond the expert-based, content-driven model of serving families. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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