Handbooks as a Format for Learning: Understanding Handbooks through a Systematic Analysis of Handbooks for Ministers' Wives
The purpose of this research was to provide a better understanding of handbooks and to establish criteria guidelines for handbook selection and use. Content analysis utilizing the library as fieldwork identified 15 handbooks for MsWs meeting selection criteria for this study. Coding and diagramming of over 2000 pages resulted in identification of 15 themes which grouped into 3 types of relationships: personal (to self and God), familial (to husband and children), and congregational (to the church). Six of these themes were recognized as distinctive to the life of the MsW.
Three time frames (1940 to 1960, 1960 to 1980, and 1980 to 1998) were established, and handbooks were found to be consistent with the social context of their respective era. An unfolding picture of the life of the MsW as portrayed by key informants revealed a shift in emphasis, with earlier handbooks portraying a lifeworld revolving around role fulfillment, and later handbooks emphasizing development as a person. A lack of learning opportunities for MsWs was noted throughout the eras. A 30+ page appendix of metaphors indicates that MsWs use their gift of reasoning through word pictures. The authors taught lived world truth as they perceived it. This study indicated clues as to appropriateness of content in handbooks and safeguards to be taken in reading them for self-directed learning or other training purposes. The implication is that handbooks are adult education by default.
Two original products resulting from this research were a schemata of the process of using handbooks as a format for learning and selection criteria guidelines for choosing a handbook. The process may be utilized in self-directed learning (individual or guided) and within other educational settings, and the guidelines may be adapted to handbooks for other populations. This research should encourage related studies to broaden the knowledge base of understanding handbooks and recognizing their place in training, utilizing field research using literature sources, and assisting MsWs with learning how to effectively manage their myriad roles and relationships.