Navigating learning during the first year at university for direct entry physical education students

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The purpose of this research was to explore and gain insight into year 1 undergraduate Physical Education student experiences of learning and develop understanding of the means by which students are supported in the transition to university. It explores the perceived cognitive, affective and social demands on learning; and the challenges and barriers faced by students in becoming academic learners in Higher Education. A qualitative phenomenological approach was adopted. Interpretative phenomenological Analysis (IPA) provides a methodological framework and analytical approach that enables an exploration of the individual [and shared] lived experience of the six research participants. The research is idiographic starting with a detailed exploration of individual experience and perspectives, followed by an interpretative analysis that preserves the participant voice. Semi-structured interviews were conducted at three key points during the first year of study and transcripts were analysed using an iterative, hermeneutic approach. A process of abstraction identified four recurrent master themes that capture the student experience of learning. It is by presenting a holistic understanding of the role that ‘Self’, ‘Becoming’, ‘Belonging’ and ‘Motivation’ play in defining student experiences of learning that this research makes its contribution to knowledge. The findings of this research show that student experiences of learning are individually unique and illustrates the importance of re-evaluating transition. Participants were self-aware but held compound self-concepts that are emotionally and socially defined. Situated and meaningful interaction is critical in fostering resilience and a sense of control over learning and tensions between the relational and connected nature of experience are brought into view. Participants encountered disconnection between certain pedagogies and learning, self-determination and the regulation of study. The conclusion identifies a series of developmental themes that can inform understanding and contribute to further research where the agenda for change seeks to respond to student needs through improvements in teaching and learning; student-centred pedagogy, connectedness, emotional coping, inclusion or exclusion, and mastery oriented learning.
Date of AwardAug 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton

Cite this