With the growth in the adult student population over the past few decades, better serving this student population has become a focus of many institutions (Altbach, 1999; Witt, Wattenbarger, Gollattscheck, & Suppiger, 1994; Cohen & Brawer, 1996). In addition, studies show that introductory English courses function as gatekeepers to persistence towards a degree (e.g., Sommers & Saltz, 2004; Michaud, 2011). Given the importance of English composition to adult learners’ success, the purpose of this study was to explore and understand how adult learners in an introductory English composition course experience and understand the classroom. The study was designed under the conceptual framework of andragogy, which upholds a model of adult learning (Knowles, 1984; Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 2005), as a lens through which to examine data. A hermeneutic phenomenological methodology, in keeping with a constructivist stance, allowed for a deep exploration of the phenomenon as a lived experience that adhered to the tenets of van Manen’s (1990) research approach. A community college campus site served as the site of data collection, and one course, ENG 111, English Composition I, figured as the course considered the shared phenomenon. Nine adult learners, defined as those students aged 25 and above, participated in two semi-structured interviews, one at the start of each term and one at its completion. The interviews solicited their individual understandings of their experience, allowing for a rich collection of narratives. Using thematic coding in keeping with van Manen’s (1990) methodological approach of interpreting of spoken narratives as text, the narratives yielded individual themes, which were then compared across cases to generate larger themes that represented the shared understandings of all participants. These overarching themes were: (1) Applying background experiences to learning attitudes and approaches, (2) Navigating outside responsibility conflicts, (3) Appreciating supportive and equitable interpersonal relationships, and (4) Experiencing greater confidence in academic writing. While the study design sought to elicit deeper understandings of a particular phenomenon and so cannot be generalizable (Creswell, 2007), the findings nevertheless suggest conclusions and recommendations that provide useful direction and insight to this student population and future research, which close this study.
|Advisor:||Jakeman, Rick C.|
|Commitee:||Howard, Lionel C., Riedner, Rachel|
|School:||The George Washington University|
|Department:||Higher Education Administration|
|School Location:||United States -- District of Columbia|
|Source:||DAI-A 81/5(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Adult education, Community college education, Language arts|
|Keywords:||Adult learner, Adult students, Community college, English composition, Hermeneutic phenomenology, Higher education|
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