The impact of developmental course enrollment on self, identity, and college success of first-generation college students : a phenomenological study.


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In this phenomenological study, I investigated the perceptions and experiences of enrollment in developmental coursework for first-generation college students. A Community College Research Center (CCRC) study of more than 250,000 students at 57 community colleges in the Achieving the Dream initiative found that 59% of students entering college enrolled in developmental math, and 29% enrolled in developmental English (Community College Resource Center [CCRC], 2019). Unfortunately, many of these students struggled to complete their developmental courses and ultimately never earned a credential or degree. The purpose of this study was to examine the journey of students who struggled in their developmental courses and the impact of enrollment in developmental coursework as it relates to their perception of self and their college success. The study participants for this study consisted of five first-generation community college students enrolled in an English and a math developmental class at Metropolitan Community College, and the purposive qualitative sampling strategy used was maximum variation. The data collection method employed consisted of two semi-structured interviews, and the data analysis approach used was a modification of the Van Kaam Method of Analysis of Phenomenological Data as described by Moustakas (1994). This phenomenological study elicited results that suggest strategies to improve developmental coursework delivery at the community college. The participants’ voices provided insight into the lived experiences of first-generation developmental college students and their academic journey. This study showed when first-generation developmental students’ experienced positive relationships with their teachers and perceived success in their future, academic success was achievable. The overall results from this study highlighted the continued need for research on first-generation college students enrolled in developmental classes and the impact the label developmental plays on their perception of self and academic success. Educators must understand how to create a path forward for these students and how best to support their success. This study underscored the need for future research to determine how best to assist first-generation developmental college students to maintain a positive self-perception and a vision of academic achievement and success while enrolled in their developmental classes.