Passages and Pivot Points: Experience and Education as Rites of Passage

Nathan Hensley


This paper examines the intersection of a rite of passage and an educational experience. John Dewey’s theory of experiential learning is unpacked and compared to each element of the rite of passage: separation, transition, and incorporation. This paper utilizes a theoretical perspective as it compares and contrasts Dewey’s theories of experience with that of Arnold van Gennep’s rite of passage framework. Also, Dewey’s notion of the indeterminate situation is juxtaposed with the liminality component associated with the transition phase of a rite of passage. Finally, this paper offers a discussion of how the rite of passage framework connects to the broader field of Curriculum Studies.


Educational rites of passage; John Dewey; Theory of Inquiry; Experiential Education

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JCT: Journal of Curriculum Theorizing is an interdisciplinary journal of curriculum studies. It offers an academic forum for scholarly discussions of curriculum. Historically aligned with the "reconceptualist" movement in curriculum theorizing and oriented toward informing and affecting classroom practice, JCT presents compelling pieces within forms that challenge disciplinary, genre, and textual boundaries.

The journal is published by the Foundation for Curriculum Theory and is associated with the Bergamo Conference on Curriculum Theory and Classroom Practice, held in the autumn of each year. JCT is indexed in The Education Index.

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