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UBC Theses and Dissertations

What is the experience of high school for those who struggle? León, Shirley

Abstract

This study focused on the common, shared experience of struggling in high school, rather than background characteristics of students who struggle. A discovery-oriented approach aimed at describing rather than analyzing the experience of struggle was utilized. A qualitative phenomenological research design was used to investigate and explicate the experience. Seven women who had struggled to complete high school volunteered to describe their experiences in in-depth, audio-taped interviews. Eleven themes were identified that made up the story of struggle. The results support the ideas that struggling in high school is a complex phenomenon, that students who struggle come from diverse backgrounds and that some are highly capable underachievers. This study raised questions about stereotypes of students who struggle. Students can be assisted in times of struggle and their achievement potential can be maximized. Educators must create opportunities for students to develop a sense of belonging within the system as well as to express individuality through autonomously chosen and personally meaningful activities. Participation in extra-curricular arts and sports can facilitate these goals. In the integrated narrative description of struggle the results were tied conceptually to theories of identity development and wellness, self-determination and intrinsic motivation, and engagement.

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