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Dissertations

A full list of dissertations from graduates of Lesley’s PhD in Educational Studies can be found here

Following the link will bring you to SAL: the Scholarship at Lesley Repository

–RECENT Presentations of Dissertation Research–

PATIENT TO AGENT: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL APPROACH TO UNDERSTANDING EMERGING ADULT WOMEN’S EXPERIENCES OF ENTERING THE WORKFORCE

Kerry C. Akashian, Adult Learning and Development Specialization (Dissertation Chair: Amy Rutstein-Riley

 Although women are increasingly present in higher education institutions and in the workforce, and businesses led by women are thriving in the current economy, research indicates an increase in emerging adults who report experiencing excessive levels of stress and emotional conflict. This stress and conflict can contribute to the development of depression and anxiety, especially in the absence of adequate support systems. Frequent use of healthcare services, worker absenteeism, and the replacement of employees are three financial costs of stress on corporate employers. Although research on emerging adulthood supports the links between stress, emotional conflict, and support systems, less is known about the day-to-day thought processes, emotions, and experiences of emerging adults as they enter the workforce in various contexts. This study addresses the need for in-depth understanding of the day-to-day experiences of emerging adult women entering the workforce to gain insight into the potential sources of stress and emotional conflict in their experiences, the ways in which they manage or cope while entering the workforce, and the support systems that they use to encourage the growth of opportunities available to them to succeed in corporate environments. This qualitative study utilized a phenomenological approach to explore the experiences of emerging adult women who have recently entered the workforce post-graduation from four-year institutions of higher education.

ILLUMINATING A DECOLONIZED EPISTEMOLOGY:
INDIGENOUS WOMEN ON TRANSFORMATIVE EXPERIENCES WITH ADULT LEARNING AND SOCIAL WORK EDUCATION

 Diane Marie McEachern, Adult Learning and Development Specialization (Dissertation Chair, Barbara Vacarr)

Colleges and universities with their decidedly western pedagogical practices have been neither welcoming nor successful environments for indigenous populations throughout the United States. Alaska is no exception, with abysmal retention and graduation rates for the state’s native population throughout its education system. However, there are pockets of success for adult indigenous students within the University of Alaska system. This research studied the experiences of adult indigenous women who successfully completed a two-year Rural Human Service (RHS) college certificate pro-gram at the Kuskokwim campus in Bethel, Alaska. This qualitative study utilized in depth interviews as a means to gather, analyze, and interpret the stories, impressions, and insights of these women. Results were evaluated through a constructivist/interpretist lens with an interest in the ways in which the information discovered informs higher education models that serve indigenous adult populations, especially within the field of social work.

ON LANGUAGE, CULTURE AND MARGINALIZATION:
MULTILINGUAL COLLEGE STUDENTS SPEAK

Kathryn Lynne Nielsen, Adult Learning and Development Specialization (Dissertation Chair: Judith Beth Cohen)

The number of students entering college from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds continues to increase in the 21st Century. Education leaders and instructors must acquire cultural competencies necessary in order to respond to an increasingly di-verse population of learners and provide quality experiences for all students. Therefore, it is imperative to know the possible histories, experiences, and attitudes students bring to the classroom. This dissertation employed qualitative methods to study the experiences of generation 1.5 student writers and the instructors who teach them in a predominantly White college in the Northeast. This study was framed by interdisciplinary literature from the fields of adult learning, second language writing, and higher education. Results showed that generation 1.5 students felt valued by their instructors and majority peers in the classroom and that facilitated instruction served to increase feelings of comfort and inclusion. Results also showed that students experienced silence, discrimination, and separation from their majority peers outside the classroom. Recommendations to promote holistic and inclusive learning practices centered on faculty development and institutional support.

I AM A TEACHER
WALKING A MILE IN HER SHOES
A narrative study of teacher identity

Amy Parmenter, Adult Learning and Development Specialization (Dissertation Chair: Amy Rutstein-Riley)

Using an adapted life story interview process, narratives of six female mid-career elementary teachers were collected and analyzed. The stories describe the values and beliefs of these educators as they reflect on their experience being a teacher employed in one of three public elementary schools undergoing reform. Findings suggest professional development for teachers that cultivates a collaborative school culture and develops reflective dialogue and evaluative thinking is beneficial for schools in the midst of change.

 

FINDING VOICE: AN EXPLORATION OF COLLEGE STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DIFFERENCES WITH THE CONTEXT OF FAMILY

Lynn Abrahams, Adult Learning and Development Specialization (Senior Advisor: Amy Rutstein-Riley)

The transition to college affects not only students but also the entire family system. Parents sometimes become quite involved with a student’s college education, a phenomenon that is beginning to get significant attention in the student development and higher education literature (Wartman & Savage, 2008). When students who have documented learning disabilities enroll in college, the concerns of family members can be even greater (Brinkerhoff, 2002). The purpose of this study was to investigate identity development in college students who have language-based learning disabilities. This study utilized the method of multiple case study design (six cases). Each case involved a student attending the Program for the Advancement of Learning (PAL) at Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts, and a family member of the student’s choice. Eighteen interviews were conducted–two with each student and one with each family member. The study also included four home visits with family members. Voice-centered method (Gilligan, 2003) of analysis was used and “I Poems”, constructed from each student interview, were shared with students in the final interview. Results from this study support modifications to both Tanner’s (2006, 2010) and Baxter Magolda’s (2001, 2004, 2007, 2010) models of identity development. Findings from this study have implications both for services offered to students with learning differences and the approach colleges take in responding to their family members.

THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF PERSISTENCE: THE EXPERIENCE OF ADULTS RETURNING TO LEARNING

Anne Harrington, Adult Learning and Development Specialization (Senior Advisor: Barbara Vacarr)

Adult learners comprise the majority of undergraduate students in higher education and stopping-out of higher education is a typical enrollment pattern for them. Adult learning scholars and higher education practitioners know very little about the adult experience during this period of time. As experience is the source of adult learning, a theory of adult learning must begin by examining the everyday lives of adults. This study, conducted through a social constructivist epistemological framework, utilized three phases of one-on-one interviews and one demographic questionnaire to explore the experience of stopping-out with eleven adult student participants. Using the stop-out period allowed the participants to construct their own meanings from their everyday life experiences, which allowed for the researcher’s deepened understanding of how to enhance adult student persistence and learning. The study suggested that trends and themes emerged from the participants’ reflections, and diverged across age groups and gender. Interpretation was structured largely around the common themes of autonomy and independence. It is recommended that future studies refine and clarify the construct of “experience”: contextualizing it demographically, socio-historically, and developmentally to develop a framework for defining experience and understanding its relationship to learning. Narrowing the sample demographically, refining the interview protocol to examine situations more deeply, and developing a longitudinal study on the period of stopping-out are also recommended. Administrators in higher education should recognize and capitalize on the relationship between students’ experiences and their persistence in learning by developing processes in admissions, advisement, and co-curricular requirements that validate the students’ experiences.

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