Culturally diverse cohorts: The exploration of learning in context and community

Open Access
Callaghan, Carolyn Marie
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 17, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Edward W Taylor, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Elizabeth Jean Tisdell, Committee Member
  • Martha Jean Strickland, Committee Member
  • Kimberly A Griffin, Committee Member
  • Cohorts
  • cultural diversity
  • adult education
  • sociocultural perspective
  • culturally diverse cohorts
This dissertation explores the experiences of culturally diverse interactions and learning in adult cohorts. A cohort is defined as a group of students who enter a program of study together and complete a series of common learning experiences during a specified period of time (Saltiel & Russo, 2001). There is much research on the general use, challenges, and benefits of cohort education. However, the current research base lacks multiple perspectives on student learning and interactions in culturally diverse adult cohorts. The purpose of this qualitative study is to explore how diversity, as manifested by the divergent backgrounds of fellow cohort members, informs the learning experience in cohorts. The findings of this study reveal the ways in which cohorts both foster and impede a greater cultural appreciation or awareness among cohort participants. Theoretical interpretations from sociocultural theory and Hays’ ADDRESSING model offer holistic approaches to cohort program development and diversity programming. This qualitative study utilized interviews from twelve students in culturally diverse cohorts. These interviews suggest that members of culturally diverse cohorts learn from the wide-ranging diverse lived experience of other members creating an empowering and sustaining educational journey. These findings contribute to increased understanding of cohort experiences, and inform cohort programming regarding value, role, design and implementation. Culturally diverse cohorts offer unique systems of trust, empowerment, and support for adult learners, and provide a context for learning as they move toward shared educational goals. Exploring contexts and communities of cohorts inform how different cultural assumptions and power relations based on sociocultural and diversity factors play out in the classroom.