Key educational experiences and self-discovery in higher education

Gad Yair*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


This study investigates key educational experiences in higher education. Key experiences are short and intense instructional episodes that students remember to have had a decisive effect on their lives. Data comes from a sample of 3045 key educational experiences, focusing on the 11.6% that relate to higher education. The paper uses a qualitative analysis to describe different features of key experiences in higher education. The results suggest that key experiences involve a process of self-discovery where students find features about themselves they knew nothing of previously. They also help to characterize three main contexts for self-discovery in higher education. First, key experiences take place in academically challenging circumstances that get students to embark on identity adventures. Second, challenging circumstances also provided ripe ground for sage advice that professors provided their students with. These words of wisdom became leitmotifs for students' lives henceforth. Finally, the results indicate the importance of second chance opportunities for self-discovery and identity rehabilitation in higher education.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)92-103
Number of pages12
JournalTeaching and Teacher Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008


  • Challenge
  • Key experiences
  • Second chance framework
  • Self-discovery


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