Students' Lived Experiences in Women's College Classrooms: A Phenomenological Study
Several positive student academic outcomes are associated with women's college attendance, yet little is known about how women's college students make meaning of classroom practices, experiences, and interactions. The purpose of this study, a qualitative research endeavor in the hermeneutic phenomenological tradition, was to achieve a better understanding of the nature of the lived classroom experience at a women's college and the meaning women's college students made from their everyday lived classroom experiences. The sample consisted of 10 participants at a single women's college in the southern region of the United States who had completed at least 60 credit hours at the institution and were enrolled as full-time residential students. Data were collected through a series of three interviews conducted with participants and reflection essays authored by participants.
Study participants described the women's college classroom environment as a place where professors encouraged student participation in classroom discussions and where students could voice ideas, experiences, and uncertainties in an accepting space. The women's college students in this study indicated they received individual reaffirmation and intellectual validation from professors and peers, and over time became more likely to take risks with their thinking, aloud, in the classroom environment. Study participants made meaning from their classroom experience by actively reflecting on how these experiences fostered personal growth, comparing lived experiences to preconceptions, and imagining how their undergraduate experience would have been different had they chosen to attend a coeducational college.