Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Understanding the educational experiences of single parent nontraditional learners: Understanding common experiences to improve persistence
by Lovett, Christopher M., Ph.D., Capella University, 2009, 219; 3368765
Abstract (Summary)

The dynamic and diverse growth of the demographics at institutions of higher learners has been in significant state of change over the last one hundred years. Modern day institutions are proof that nontraditional learners are entering college to obtain skills to find a new career, to improve the lives of the family, or to complete a long desired goal. The purpose of this study was to examine a unique subset of nontraditional learners, single parent learners, and how they perceived their educational experiences and managed their various roles within the home, the community, and at school.

This study employed a case study design that examined the educational journeys of ten single parent learners enrolled at ABC College in the Northeastern United States. Nine themes emerged as a result of the data analysis: (1) What is it like to be a single parent learner? (2) Why return to school? (3) How has it impacted the family? (4) Has the return to school occurred as expected? (5) What barriers existed? (6) What supports do they use? (7) What motivates them? (8) Is there a cycle? (9) Have they experienced any personal insight?

The data revealed that single parent learners live multifaceted and demanding lives. The attempts at balancing their multiple roles often occurred with little or inconsistent social support. It was revealed that the single parent learners did not have much contact or support from other single parents enrolled at the institution. The participants described a cycle of feeling positive about their choice to enroll in college and then being overwhelmed to the brink of giving up. One’s position within this cycle could have changed on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis.

The findings of this study were compared primarily to Bean and Metzner’s Conceptual Model of Nontraditional Student Attrition. Additionally, Tinto’s Longitudinal Model of Attrition and Cross’s Chain of Response Model for Understanding Participation in Adult Learning Activities were used to analyze some of the findings of the study.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ratcliff, Terry
Commitee: Dereshiwsky, Mary I., Walling, H. Griffin
School: Capella University
Department: School of Education
School Location: United States -- Minnesota
Source: DAI-A 70/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Adult education, Higher education
Keywords: Case studies, Conceptual model of nontraditional student attrition, Cycle of motivation, Nontraditional students, Persistence, Single parents in college, Single-parent learners
Publication Number: 3368765
ISBN: 978-1-109-29644-0
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