School of Education


Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)


Shanna Akers


lived experience, emotional effect, meaning making, failure, student nurse


Education | Nursing


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to examine the lived experiences of students after failing a nursing course, resulting in the students either sitting out a semester prior to repeating the course or making the decision not to return to a program at all. The central research question for this study was “what are the lived experiences of students who fail a nursing course?” This study retrospectively examined the failure of nursing students to better understand how they processed the event, gained meaning from the experience, and found supportive measures that were useful in moving forward to the next step in their educational journey. The theories guiding this study were Knowles’ adult learning theory and Bandura’s social learning theory, with a nod to Frankl’s theory of meaning making. Participants consisted of 12-15 adult students accepted to an associate degree nursing program in the southeastern United States who failed a nursing course with a D or F. One-on-one interviews and focus small group sessions were conducted in a private conference room at a joint community college center that serves students from three different higher education institutions. Participants were also asked to write a letter of support or advice for a future student experiencing the phenomenon to gain further insight in how they survived the failure, gained meaning from the experience, and were able to move forward following the academic set-back. Data analysis was conducted using van Manen’s thematic analysis to discover the participants’ lived experience following failing a nursing course.