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NAME: Maria Piantanida, Ph.D.

TITLE: Adjunct Associate Professor

AFFILIATION: University of Pittsburgh, School of Education

DISSERTATION TITLE: Piantanida, M. (1982). The practice of hospital education: A grounded theory study. UMI ProQuest Digital Dissertations #AAT 8317299.


A grounded theory methodology is used to generate (1) a substantive theory of practice for Directors of Education in hospitals and (2) a formal theory of professional practice. A context for examining the practice of Directors is established by reviewing the involvement of hospitals in education, the evolution of departments of education, and the growing role of educational practitioners in hospitals. Conditions related to the integration, purpose, structure and financing of education are then examined. The implications of these conditions for purposeful action and principles for guiding the practice of Directors of Education are proposed. Multiplicity, fluidity, and complexity are seen as the underlying characteristics of the conditions confronting Directors. Mediation and transcendence are conditions proposed as fundamental modes of response to the conditions.

Concepts developed in relation to the substantive theory are used in conjunction with concepts derived from the literature to develop a formal theory of professional practice. The arena of professional practice is seen as the confluence of two major dimensions‹Acting-Knowing and Theory-base-World View. The role of the professional practitioner is seen as having three dimensions‹the practitioner who provides service to clients; the researcher who contributes to the knowledge base of the profession, and the member of a professional community who joins with others to evolve his/her practice and advance the profession.

An in-depth rationale for grounded theory is provided by describing the methodology within the broader context of the naturalistic research paradigm. Assumptions related to creditability, auditability, confirmability and fittingness are discussed in order to explain how the grounded theory methodology addresses issues of rigor.


I became interested in qualitative research in 1980 when I began to work on my dissertation. Because I was the first student in the School of Education to do a qualitative study, I felt a strong obligation to provide an in-depth rationale for grounded theory as a legitimate form of research. After finishing my dissertation, my interest in various approaches to qualitative research continued--an interest I pursued by remaining in The Dissertation Study and eventually teaching an introductory course on qualitative research at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education.

I experienced the dissertation process as intensely educative and deeply meaningful. This seemed to run counter to a commonly expressed view that the dissertation is an academic hoop to be jumped through as quickly as possible. Therefore, one of my on-going professional commitments is to let other doctoral students know that the dissertation can be personally fulfilling and to support the learning of those who want to cultivate a mindset for engaging in qualitative research. To this end, I have participated in a number of sessions at AERA conferences and have co-authored several publications (see below) .

Over the years, I have come to understand that my approach to qualitative research is grounded in an interpretive world view. With this realization has come an interest in exploring the philosophical underpinnings of interpretive research as well as writing as a mode of inquiry. Currently, I am particularly interested in exploring the personal essay as a mode of curriculum inquiry.

Curriculum was my field of doctoral study and curriculum development has been the focus of my professional work. Since the early 1970s, I have worked with faculty content experts on curricula related to:

  • arts and humanities through the University of Pittsburgh External Studies Program
  • emergency medical services through the Western Pennsylvania Regional Medical Program
  • multi-disciplinary approaches to the care of the elderly through the Pennsylvania Geriatric Center
  • protective services for the elderly through the Pennsylvania Department of Aging
  • career opportunities in health care through the Pennsylvania Governor¹s School for Health Care
  • dynamics of adoption through the Three Rivers Adoption Council
  • pharmacy education through the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy
  • educational praxis through Carlow College

Learners in these various programs have ranged from the general public, to gifted high school students, to undergraduate and graduate students, to experienced practitioners, to university faculty..


Piantanida, M., Tananis, C.A., & Grubs, R.E. (in press). Generating Grounded Theory of/for Educational Practice: The Journey of Three Epistemorphs. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education.

Piantanida, M., McMahon, P.L., & Garman, N.B. (2003). Sculpting the contours of arts-based educational research within a discourse community. Qualitative Inquiry, 9(2), 182-191.

Piantanida, M., McMahon, P.L., & Garman, N.B. (2003). On the value of ³leaky boundaries²‹A response to Patrick Slattery. Qualitative Inquiry, 9(2), 198 - 201.

Piantanida, M., Garman, N.B., & McMahon, P.L. (2000). Crafting an arts-based educational research thesis: Issues of tradition and solipsism. In P. Willis, R. Smith and E. Collins (Eds.), Being, seeking, telling: Expressive approaches to qualitative adult education research. Flaxton, Queensland, Australia: Post Pressed. (Invited chapter.)

Piantanida, M. & Garman, N.B. (1999). The Qualitative Dissertation: A Guide for Students and Faculty. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Piantanida, M. Reflections on Curriculum and Instruction in Professions Education: A Heuristic Model. (1996). Becoming a Learning Professional, Conference Proceedings. John Smyth editor and convener. Adelaide, Australia: Flinders Institute for the Study of Teaching.

Piantanida, M. (1992). Interpretive inquiry: Implications for professional education. Invited chapter in Informing Policy and Practice through Interpretive Inquiry. N.L. Haggerson & A.C. Bowman editors. Lancaster, PA: Technomic Publishing Co. pp. 39-59.

Garman, N.B. & Piantanida, M.P. (1991). The academic/professional portfolio. The Australian Administrator. 12 (3): 1 -5.


In keeping with my current professional goal to devote more time to writing, I am working on several projects including:

Musings on the Personal Essay as a Form of Curriculum Inquiry (book chapter in the form of an essay)

Musings on Ontological Congruence in Educational Practice and Inquiry (book chapter in the form of an essay)

Engaged in Learning: Dilemmas of Enacting a Discursive Curriculum (a collection of essays)

Gone before their Time: Coping with the Loss of an Adult Sibling (a book)


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