Nuestras historias ("Our stories"): Transformative learning process and female Puerto Rican community college graduates

Date of Completion

January 2000


Women's Studies|Education, Adult and Continuing|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies




This study documented and described the sociocultural context of the an educational experience for sixteen Puerto Rican woman at an urban community college. This included the life events or circumstances that were primary in motivating these students to enter the community college. Equally important was the assessment of those experiences which may have been transformative—expressive of change and empowerment for these community college students. ^ Puerto Rican community college students have seldom been studied, despite the fact that the community college plays a significant role in the lives of people disenfranchised from the mainstream of United States society. The community college often represents the entry point for the majority of Hispanic freshmen in higher education. Educational attainment can help Puerto Ricans compete in the labor market and provide for the upward mobility of the family unit. ^ Through the use of educational biographies, informed by the Life World Transformation model (Wildemeersch & Leirman, 1988) Puerto Rican female degree holders were given the opportunity to tell their own stories. Three research questions representing the three stages of the Life World Transformation model: The Self-Evident Life World, The Threatened Life World and the Transformed Life World were employed to document and describe the sociocultural context of Puerto Rican educational experiences and to assess those life experiences that may have been transformative. This study was conducted as narrative research, utilizing the interrelated life history approach and biographical case study methods. These methods allowed participants to tell their stories and provided the researcher with data for assessing the meaning and transformative character of their educational experience. The methods utilized helped to connect emergent themes from the individual biographies and respond to the research questions. ^ Analysis of these data demonstrated that sixteen Puerto Rican women emerged from the community college experience having achieved and expressed a stronger sense of identity and self esteem, self-direction and motivation, and success and empowerment, all criterias for transformation. These community college graduates were resilient women who persevered despite the odds against their success. They diligently progressed towards their goals of obtaining a two year degree, and a profession that would help lift them and their families out of poverty, and into the mainstream of society. ^