This paper presents findings from a qualitative study among 50 secondary school students from 10 schools in the Netherlands, aiming to understand how they experience ‘presence’–being fully (with one’s entire being) engaged in the here-and-now–in class. Although presence was a non-regular experience, students experienced it as personally relevant for a broadened worldview and becoming more confident and autonomous in their thinking and acting. Using a phenomenological approach, the authors found three general themes, as well as many variations and nuances within them, in students’ experiences of presence, related to the subject matter, interaction and students’ self. The similarities found in the situational contexts in which presence occurred–meaningfulness, student participation, responsivity and otherness–can inform teaching. Implications for teaching in order to realise such a situational context are discussed.
- personal development
- secondary school students
- teacher–students–subject matter interaction