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Witches ways of knowing: integrative learning in joining a marginalized group

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Although the literature on adult learning is extensive, most of the content is based on research with adults who enrolled in mainstream groups and organizations. Why adults would engage in learning to become a member of a marginalized group and the learning process they undergo to achieve that goal is a question that has been largely ignored in previous research. The authors of this study wanted to know how the decision to join a stigmatized, less visible and less accessible group would be different from or similar to the motivation for participation in mainstream groups. Further, they were interested to determine the nature of the learning process and how it extends what they already knew about the learning process. Wicca was chosen as the context for the study because Wiccans are not easily accessible and provide instances of harassment from employers, friends and family, both indications of a marginalized group. Data were gathered by personal interviews and analysed by the constant comparison method. Adults who embark on the learning experience to become a Wiccan are motivated by an intense internal curiosity that may begin in childhood, that is prompted by recognizing they are different from other people and/or that they cannot find satisfactory answers to questions about the meaning of life. The deeply internal motivation is enduring for years, even decades for some. The components of the learning process include the initial motivation, an exploratory period of self-directed study and a focused component where learners participate in formal classes, experiential learning activities, reflection and mentoring. The complementary nature of these three components reflects an integrated learning process.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of Georgia, USA 2: Buffalo State College, USA

Publication date: 2003-03-01

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