Teenage girls in virtual worlds: Do they find online classes meaningful?
Kim Mitchell Bethea, The University of Wisconsin - Madison, United States
The University of Wisconsin - Madison . Awarded
This qualitative study examined the life experiences of teenage girls in online classes.
Research describes the world of the teenage girl as one of enormous stress and change, filled with pressures to conform and to be accepted. Do online places provide safe spaces where girls can speak openly, ask questions, and participate in an environment where identities don't always depend on appearance? We are at a point in our history when the vast new territory of World Wide Web technology brings different possibilities into the established world of classroom communications. This study addressed the research question, “In what ways do teenage girls find the online learning experience meaningful?”
Using an interpretivist framework, and drawing on phenomenological and feminist research methods, this study examined life in online classes through a participatory research strategy. Subjects for this study were teenage girls in grades 10–12 who completed at least one online course for credit at one of two virtual high schools (the Florida Virtual School or the Virtual High School). Data was collected through non-structured interviews. Data analysis followed the constant comparative method and yielded nine themes and seven patterns. The results of this study are descriptions, through these themes, patterns, and comments in the students' own words, of the lived experiences of teenage girls in online classes.
The girls in this study described being engaged, motivated, and comfortable with online learning. Students found a wealth of new topics through online learning that supplemented their school's classroom offerings. Students described being comfortable asking questions online, and forming meaningful relationships with those teachers who communicated often. Students did not describe making friends or communicating often with other students. They characterized the online course as a workspace to get the job done. Students took responsibility for their own learning and enjoyed the time, place, and space independence online learning afforded; they expressed however, a preference to study in both the online and classroom worlds. The themes and patterns detected in this study provide insights for researchers and practitioners who are investigating how we balance the physical and online educational worlds.
Bethea, K.M. Teenage girls in virtual worlds: Do they find online classes meaningful?. Ph.D. thesis, The University of Wisconsin - Madison.
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