Lived experiences of senior students returning to university
Master of Education
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This phenomenological study of six purposively selected senior students, over the age of sixty, explored their learning experiences at a small regional university. Participant profiles created from the students' own words, generated in the interview transcripts framed the data analysis. From the constant comparative analysis of the transcripts, an overarching theme of learning emerged. During the analyses and interpretation, three sub-themes emerged. The first two sub-themes represented the outer realities of the participants' life worlds. The outer realities, common to all participants were lifelong learning and personal performance. However, the participants' inner realities served to integrate their life-worlds. In this study, inner realities were explored using tact, which is a 'thinkingly feeling' process melding the head and the heart (van Manen, 1995). Refinement of the data and returning to the literature led to the final sub-theme of fulfilment intertwined with generativity. The participants experienced a sense of happiness as they were learning at university. They also expanded their generativity while learning among younger stu9ents and nurturing younger members of their families. Implications include the need for research in classroom-based studies of seniors' learning experiences, the use of focus group methods for seniors' collective input, the need for curriculum development and support systems for senior learners and policy development and implementation based on research.