Learning and Constructing Meaning: Adults Volunteering in the Boy Scouts

Open Access
Pearlman, David P
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 25, 2007
Committee Members:
  • Fred Michael Schied, Committee Chair
  • Gary Kuhne, Committee Member
  • Melody M Thompson, Committee Member
  • Robert Lewis, Committee Member
  • Learning
  • Volunteering
  • Boy Scouts
This phenomenological study examined and critically began to analyze the experience of six adults who volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America. The investigation was grounded by the notion that learning helped these adults define and construct meaning of their volunteer role. The study began by exploring the relationship between learning and volunteerism, including the relationship of adult education and volunteerism. The history, organizational structure, social and power issues past and present were explored. The analysis was framed around the organizational principle that the experience of the participants could be told through the metaphoric lens of a story. Using informal conversational taped interviews as the primary means of data collection, three main themes and ten subsuming themes emerged. The research found that learning, as informed by the field of adult education, was present across various levels of the experience of these volunteers. The role of learning was evident in the desire of the adults to ensure learning among the youth enrolled in the program, learning was identified in the outdoor aspects of the Scouting program, and learning was discussed by the participants regarding the social aspects as these adults served in their volunteer capacity. The study concluded through an analysis of the responses of the participants that these volunteers expressed the need to be proficient in their volunteer role. The Boy Scouts of America provides their volunteers the opportunity for learning through training, meetings, publications, and an on-line learning center. Suggestions for future research on the experience of Scouting volunteers in the field of adult education are given, including research on the how adult volunteers with a military background construct meaning of their Scouting experience, how adults describe evaluation of their volunteer role, the communication process among the adult volunteers, and the rewarding and recognition of adult volunteers involved in the Boy Scouts of America.