Experiences of Adult Students in Multi-generational Classrooms

Open Access
Clemente, Kathleen Ann
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
March 18, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Elizabeth Jean Tisdell, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Elizabeth Jean Tisdell, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Patricia M Thompson, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Dr Kimetta Hairston, Committee Member
  • Denise Gaspari Meister, Committee Member
  • Gary Kuhne, Committee Member
  • Multigenerational classrooms
  • Adult students
ABSTRACT This qualitative study is a basic interpretative inquiry studying the experiences of fourteen adult students 45 years of age or older in a multi-generational community college classroom. The study is informed by social constructivism, social constructionism and andragogy. It focused on how students viewed their experiences in the multi-generational classroom and how the development of relationships among students of different ages affected the dynamics within a community college classroom. Data were collected through in-depth semi-structured interviews Three major themes emerged from this study in light of the adult students’ phases of adjustment to being in school. The first theme, dealing with their first impressions, highlighted the participants’ anxiety not only about being in school but being in a multi-generational classroom as well. It also highlighted the perceived differences between the two generations. The second theme focuses on adapting and relationship building with the younger students over time: on developing understanding and tolerance towards them; on the mutual nurturing that developed; on the manifestations of teasing; and the role of instructor facilitation. The third theme focuses on adult students’ lasting impressions of their experiences in a multi-generational classroom and highlights: the mutual learning experiences between adult students and traditional- age students; the advice to students in similar situations; and the belief that, in the end, in such situations age does not matter, but the experience of learning together does matter. The dissertation ends with a discussion in light of the adult education literature and suggestions for further research.