Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Douglas V. Davidson

Second Advisor

Dr. Lewis Walker

Third Advisor

Dr. Paula Brush

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Gunilla Holm


Increasing numbers of nontraditional students, of whom many are women, are enrolling in two-year and four-year colleges and universities. The purpose ofthis study is to critically examine the experiences of nontraditional undergraduate women and their preferred learning environment--pedagogy vs. andragogy. Students were asked to respond to a variety of questions in order to reflect upon their preferred learning environment. The researcher looked for differences inthe experiences of 20 (ten Black and ten White) nontraditional female undergraduate college students within their respective institutions based on their race, socioeconomic background, age, and religious background. Also, the researcher focused on why these nontraditional women return to institutions of higher education, whether or not they feel silented within their institutions, as well as any barriers (situational, institutional, dispositional) they may impinge upon their academic success.

The researcher utilized a triangulation of methods to examine their experiences. These methods included a demographic questionnaire, one-on-one taped interviews, and focus group sessions. The study revealed that the earlier educational experiences, as well as family relationships, impacted why they arenontraditional college students. Also, regardless of race, social class, and/or age, all women are motivated to return to higher education for similar reasons, and they all experience similar situational, institutional, and dispositional barriers. The narratives revealed that some women do feel silenced within their institutions because of race, age, and gender. Further, nontraditional female undergraduate students prefer a more engaged pedagogy where their pastexperiences are valued as part of the teaching/learning process.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access