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A thematic analysis of the self-directed learning experiences of 13 breast cancer patientsy

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Although self-directed learning is a common response for many of the 183 000 American women who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, very little is known about the nature of the experience for them. Four themes emerged from interviews with 13 breast cancer patients describing their self-education efforts in regard to their disease. A qualitative paradigm was used for this study with data collected using a pilot-tested semi-structured interview protocol. Purposeful sampling technique was employed to identify information-rich subjects who were within three years of diagnosis and who had used self-directed learning extensively in coping with their breast cancer. Using the constant comparative method, four common themes emerged from the analysis of the interviews. First, empowerment: the women in this study felt stronger and more in control in their breast cancer situations because of their self-directed learning efforts. Second, connectedness: the women in this study satisfied their need for connecting with other people in meaningful ways, particularly with other survivors, through their self-directed learning efforts. Third, selective learning: the women in this study were interested in learning about those things which directly related to their situations and which they perceived as positively influencing their ability to cope. Finally, the search for meaning: the women in this study were searching for more than just information about breast cancer. They also sought to understand why they had breast cancer and what meaning the experience should have for them in the future. The findings support prior research in regard to important aspects of self-directed learning, women and learning and breast cancer. At the same time, the results have contributed new information about self-directed learning in a crisis situation suggesting that in such cases the emotional context must be considered.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Oklahoma USA

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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