Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Chair; Cheryl Getz, EdD; Theresa Monroe, EdD


case-in-point, adaptive leadership, metacognition, metacognitive development, group dynamics, experiential learning, leadership development, leadership education, graduate programs


Leadership scholars have identified a growing gap between the complexity of 21st century organizations and the capabilities of individuals in positions of leadership to adequately address these challenges. This gap has contributed to a so-called complexity crisis—a situation in which the demands placed on those in leadership positions increases “at a rate that significantly outstrips the rate at which” leaders are cognitively developing (Rich-Tolsma & Oliver, 2016, p. 1). One way to respond to this growing need for complex adult thinking is through metacognitive development initiatives. However, finding educational methods to promote metacognitive development has proven to be difficult.

The purpose of this study was to examine whether a course utilizing Case-in-Point (CIP) teaching methods at the University of San Diego (USD) could be a successful strategy for developing metacognitive knowledge in adult students. The study explored a) the experiences of students in a CIP course and whether the pedagogy supported or inhibited their learning and growth and b) the extent to which the constructs and theories of metacognitive development aligned with, or, possibly, contradicted, the data collected. A qualitative approach, using both inductive and abductive methods, was employed to analyze participant interviews, class observations, student assignments, course materials, and developmental assessments.

Findings suggest the course is distinctive in its experimental nature and format, and that specific elements of the pedagogy generated transformative participant experiences and produced growth through the leveraging of productive discomfort. Some other elements of the course, however, appeared not only to be uncomfortable but also unhelpful in promoting personal learning and growth. Consistent with these findings, most participants’ assessments often were paradoxical, meaning participants offered affirmation and critique, almost simultaneously, when reflecting on the value of the pedagogy and course experience. Finally, the study found that there was alignment between the course goals and objectives and the constructs of metacognition, but metacognitive development varied depending on the level of student engagement and buy-in to the course pedagogy. This study offered recommendations and insight from the data regarding the course structure, assignments, and facilitation of case-in-point methods moving forward.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies