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Narratives of being: a longitudinal study of physiotherapy students

Hamshire, Helen Claire (2013) Narratives of being: a longitudinal study of physiotherapy students. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This narrative study sought to explore Physiotherapy students’ stories of their undergraduate experiences to gain an insight into the process of becoming and being a student. It presents findings gathered from a three-year longitudinal study in which the central aim was to listen to students’ stories told in their own words over a series of narrative interviews throughout their degree programme. As such I have presented some of the personal and social circumstances that can influence students’ experiences during the process of becoming and being a Physiotherapy student. The seven students who volunteered to be included in the study were interviewed on at least five occasions and at each interview they were encouraged with a narrative prompt to tell the stories of their experiences as a series of ‘episodes’ beginning and finishing wherever and however they felt was most appropriate. Analysis of the stories revealed that whilst each individual’s experience of university life was multi-layered, for each student a specific orientation dominated their re-telling of 'being a student' across their interviews. Thus the stories are presented in relation to these orientations: peer support (two students); financial difficulties (two students); learner self-direction (two students); or personal difficulties (one student). In addition, I have considered the narratives in terms of Heidegger’s (1926/62) concepts of ‘being’ and ‘time’ to inform the analysis and interpretation of the data: to present a more insightful exploration of the students’ experiences. These temporal narratives offer an insight into what university life was like for those undergoing it, providing a greater understanding of what ‘being a student’ meant for these particular students. The study demonstrates that ‘becoming’ and ‘being’ a student are about students developing a sense of themselves and of belonging to an institution. Ultimately a higher education is necessarily a process of becoming and as such can be considered as a transformation of ‘being’ as students develop over time.

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