Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Ed.D. Doctor of Education

Academic Discipline

Curriculum and Instruction


The purpose of this study was to explore the meaning that teachers and their adult students construct of their classroom experiences and to see how those meanings impact the teaching/ learning process. Because of the multiple factors affecting an educational experience, this study took the view that this should be explored in a holistic way. Most educational research focuses on the teacher's perspective, with students and their learning considered as the result of the educational process. In order to more fully understand what is occurring in classrooms and what students are actually learning, it is important to ascertain student perceptions of their learning, and it's relative value to them.

This was a case study done in the naturalistic, ethnographic mode. The adult learners in one cohort of a non-traditional degree completion program were interviewed as to their understanding of what was occurring in class, what they were learning, and what aspects of their experience were important to them. Three specific course modules of this program were used as the basis of the student interviews. In addition, the teachers for each of these modules were interviewed to obtain their understanding of what was occurring in the classroom and what they perceived the students were learning. These sets of interviews were then compared to see what common understandings were revealed by both teachers and students.

The key aspects that these adults students understood and perceived as importants to their classroom experience and to their learning were 1) their relationship to the teacher, 2) their relationship to the other students in the cohort, and 3) their own personal life issues or concerns; and least important was 4) content or subject matter. The teachers similarly perceived the relationship that they developed with their students as important and essential to encouraging growth and change in their students. With this emphasis on relationships, these results suggest that when designing learning experiences for adult students that affective and cognitive issues need to be taken into consideration. In addition, the impact of the cohort and the teacher on individual student learning needs to be examined more fully.


With permission of the author, this dissertation was scanned in January, 2015, and published here in March, 2015.