Educational experiences of aging nontraditional undergraduate students / by John MacKenzie.
MacKenzie, John Fraser
SubjectAdult education - Social aspects
Older people -Undergraduate education
Continuing education - Social aspects
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This qualitative study describes the educational experiences of older full-time nontraditional undergraduate students. The participants in this study were over 40 years old and came from varying educational backgrounds. One left high school early while the others had graduated. All had entered the workforce directly from high school, but only one subsequently had attained higher education. None had previously attended university; however, all had degenerative injuries that precipitated a return to school. Questions that explored early school experiences, subsequent learning activities, changing social support mechanisms, and transitional events that affected participants' educational experiences provided a research framework. This study utilized life course and persistence theories to analyze data. Four main themes emerged: 1) lifelong learning; 2) educational experiences at Lakehead University; 3) adult student identities; and, 4) the impacts of age on nontraditional students. The research revealed that major life course events, a love of learning and a history of lifelong learning precipitated individual decisions to become full-time undergraduates. Early school experiences profoundly influenced older students’ choices of formal or informal educational pathways leading to full-time university study. Nontraditional students’ identities reflected complex social and family responsibilities and a focus on higher education providing enhanced economic opportunity. Age had no effect on older students’ cognitive or intellectual abilities, but age did have social consequence within the university community. All older students felt respected but also experienced ageist behaviours, including, age-based preferential treatment and infantilization.