A Hermeneutical Exploration of the Relationship Between Undergraduate Students and Their General Education Theatre Arts Appreciation Courses Open Access
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Ideally, undergraduates view their elective courses in general education curriculums as having value. Unfortunately, scant research exists on the value of theatre arts appreciation courses. This study addressed that void through hermeneutical exploration of experiences of a purposeful sample of seven students enrolled in theatre arts appreciation courses. Two research questions guided this study: “For undergraduate students taking a general education theatre arts appreciation elective, what experience(s) allowed the course to transcend from perfunctory to inspirational?” and “To what degree did taking a general education theatre arts appreciation elective impact the students’ perception of their overall higher education experience?” Methodologically, hermeneutic phenomenology was used to uncover data through conversational interviews with undergraduates. The works of Nakkula and Ravitch (1998), Seidman (2006), and Van Manen (1990) provided a foundation for data collection and analysis. The findings of the study are represented through a one-act play to (re)present educational research that “bring[s] the text to life in ways that the reading of it could not” (Bagley & Cancienne, 2002, p. 7) and to treat research participants as more than just “text to be read or interpreted” (Moustakas, 1994, p. 19). Profiles of the seven subjects were created to allow the reader to become more familiar and engaged with the participants. From the words and conversations of those participants, I amalgamated four characters, with a fifth, the facilitator, serving as the researcher’s voice. The results of this study suggest that students entered passively into their theatre arts appreciation course, engaged with it through discussions with students and the professor, and came out with the trajectory of their life changed. The findings suggest that becoming life-ready is a phenomenon that occurs when seemingly nonengaged or passive students enroll in a course that is broad, detailed, and subjective enough to allow them to transcend their world visions. This qualitative study offers insight into students’ thinking and feelings and contributes to the overall conversation and assessment of higher education elective courses in performing arts and the unique contributions they offer undergraduates. Based on these findings, conclusions and recommendations are offered.