Background: The educational environment has a significant impact on students' behavior, sense of well-being, and academic advancement. While various research methodologies have been used to explore the educational environment, there is a paucity of studies employing qualitative research methods. This study engages in an in-depth exploration of chiropractic students' experiences of the meaning of the educational environment. Methods: A qualitative approach was employed by interviewing 26 students in four focus group interviews at two different points in time. A conventional manifest and latent content analysis was chosen to investigate and interpret the experiences of the educational environment in an undergraduate chiropractic training institution in Sweden. Results: The analysis resulted in five overarching themes: Personal growth; Being part of a community; A place of meaningfulness; Trust in a regulated system; and Scaffolding relationships. Early in the training, the meaning of the educational environment was experienced as part of a vocational community and the scaffolding of intra-institutional relationships. In later stages, the environment was experienced in terms of personal growth - balancing academic pressures and progress within the professional community - thus laying the foundations for autonomy and motivation. During the clinical training, the environment was experienced as where learning happens, thus creating a place of meaningfulness. Throughout the training, the formal and clinical environments were experienced as isolating, with little bridging between the two. A regulated system - conveying an operative organization with clear communication regarding what to expect - was experienced as important for an apt educational environment. Conclusions: We found that experiences of an educational environment are dynamic and change over time. When restructuring or evaluating curriculums, educational managers can consider the emerged themes as constituting facets relating to the educational environment, and thus possible learning conditions. Likewise, researchers can consider these aspects of the educational environment when: interpreting results from quantitative and qualitative inquiries, constructing and refining instruments, or conceptualizing and framing the educational environment phenomenon.
2015. Vol. 15, 128