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Title: Navigating the tensions of undergraduate life : an existential phenomenological analysis of personal growth and the role of coaching at a UK university
Author: Phillips, Natalie
ISNI:       0000 0004 9359 0483
Awarding Body: Birkbeck, University of London
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis is about how 14 undergraduates, aged 18-25, at a London university, who had one-to-one coaching with professional coaches over one or two years, perceived their personal growth. Existential phenomenology was used to frame and elucidate the studies within the thesis. Participants who had coaching for one year were interviewed four times while those who had coaching for two years were interviewed five times. Data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), which yielded a fine-grained and multi-layered hermeneutic picture of participants’ experiences. Through the studies, I moved from an expansive analysis of how students made sense of university life and their personal quandaries to a more focused examination of the coaching experience itself. I discuss these studies theoretically, using existential phenomenological concepts. Personal growth has been conceptualised in many ways, including “toward fuller and fuller being” or “self-actualization” (Maslow, 1962/2011, p. 147) and the unfurling of an inner core towards fulfilling one’s innate potential (Waterman, 1984). In student development literature, growth has been conceptualised as vectors (Chickering, 1969) or stages (Baxter Magdola, 1999; Perry, 1970) that are passed through sequentially. However, I argue that these conceptualisations offer a partial perspective on how life is experienced by these students. I draw on a contemporary existential phenomenological approach (van Deurzen & Adams, 2016) and cast growth as becoming a better liver of life whilst navigating life’s challenges. I then reinvigorate the overlooked element of Perry’s (1970) framework; that is, the life tensions students must resolve. Based on my empirical work, I develop eight specific existential tensions situated in the university context and offer these as a flexible framework for students, their tutors and coaches to use when considering personal growth steeped in the nitty-gritty, day-to-day lived experience of students. Several practical implications and policy recommendations are discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available