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A Phenomenological Study of the Older Adult Learner's Community College Experience
Spaid-Ross, Marian A.
Sax, Caren LJeffcoat, KendraBarnes, Stephen F
xiv, 115 pages : illustrations.
The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand the college experience of older adult learners who are at least 50 years of age and attending full/part time in a California community college. Twenty older adult learners who met these criteria participated in semi-structured interviews conducted during fall 2014. The following research questions guided this study: 1. What is the community college experience of the adult learner who is 50 years or older? 2. How can institutional support and resources be created or enhanced at the community college to promote a more positive experience for the older adult student? Analysis of the data resulted in the identification of four major themes offering insight into the older adult student's college experience: (a) Do I Fit in Here? (b) Returning to College Is Not Easy; (c) Navigating the Institution; and (d) Interactions with Faculty and Peers Impacts the Experience. Overall, participants reported having had a positive experience at the community college and believed that the community college provided them with an opportunity to obtain knowledge and skills that would support or enhance a twenty-first century career. For most of the participants, returning to college was not easy. Students who felt they had the best supports from the institution and their family were the most successful. Many participants expressed that the lack of financial resources presented a major challenge to the completion of their educational goals. Although many shared that they had positive interactions with faculty, others admitted feeling they did not fit in within the classroom environment and experienced feelings of stress, anxiety, and fear of failure. Recommendations as to how community colleges might attract older adult learners include having visual images of older adult students on all college websites, brochures, and other college materials. Institutions need to enhance their resources and services to better support these learners once they enroll. Community college leaders need to advocate for the importance of serving the older adult learner and implement services, resources and programs to support their success
Includes bibliographical references (pages 96-107).
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) San Diego State University, 2015
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