Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Maleeka Love

Second Advisor

Toni Woolfork-Barnes

Third Advisor

Ramona Lewis


In fall 2014, some 21 million students were expected to begin education at the college level. Many universities have programs focused on assisting these students in their transition to college, whether it is their first time on a particular campus or their first time on any campus. The profile of these incoming students is changing each year and with this changing profile comes a wide variety of student needs: these learning needs and differences are partially founded in the changes a student undergoes as they transition from a dependent learner to an adult learner. The focus of this study is on comparing and contrasting the methods of Western Michigan University’s First-Year Experience (FYE) programs with Malcolm Knowles’ principles of adult learning (andragogy), in hopes to find areas of strength within the programs, but to also outline ways in which the programs can better address the needs of adult learners.

Data was collected via a self-designed survey, distributed to the 1,509 students enrolled in WMU’s First-Year Seminar course in fall 2014 and also via Facebook to those connected with the authors in that capacity. A 4.84% response rate generated 73 student responses from the first group, and 52 responses from the latter. Survey questions were based on three outcome assessment measures — attitudinal, behavioral, and cognitive — focused on addressing as many aspects of the student as possible. A variety of student responses revealed a disconnect in the relevance of the FYE programs to adult learners. After data was analyzed, program-specific suggestions were made in hopes of improving the alignment of the FYE department’s methods with Knowles’ principles of andragogy and positively impact adult learners’ perception of the programs.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Restricted