Negotiating Contradictions: Rural Student-Mothers and Online Learning

Open Access
Covert, Michelle L
Graduate Program:
Lifelong Learning and Adult Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 09, 2016
Committee Members:
  • Davin Jules Carr-Chellman, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Davin Jules Carr-Chellman, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Fred Michael Schied, Committee Member
  • Adnan A Qayyum, Committee Member
  • Frederick Dudley Loomis Jr., Outside Member
  • Student-Mothers
  • Online Learning
  • Rural Students
  • Mothering in College
  • Motherhood and Higher Education
  • Rural Mothers and Higher Education
  • Rural Mothers and Online Learning
  • Mothers and Online Learning
This phenomenological study is about the lived experiences of rural mothers who are pursuing their educational goals via online learning. How and why they negotiate the often conflicting roles of mother and of student in the ways that they do is the primary focus of this research. Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) is used to further analyze the data and in order to unpack the effects of the participants’ rich cultural and historical backgrounds on their current daily lives. Five student-mothers each participated in three interviews and completed a daily journal for up to two weeks. The student-mothers shared details of their lives from birth to the present. In their first interviews, they recalled their life histories. Particular attention was paid to where they lived, whom they lived with, gender roles in their childhood homes, and their educational backgrounds. They shared details from their current lived experiences as student-mothers in their second interviews. A portrait of their experiences was created by focusing on the most pertinent aspects of their lives: their families, online programs, paid employment, division of domestic labor, extended families, and social lives. The student- mothers reflected on the meaning that was made and on themes that arose in their first and second interviews, during their third interview. They used their journals to note any reflections they had on balancing school, work, and family. The student-mothers who participated in this study prioritized their families and children above all else in their lives. They sacrificed sleep, friendships, and free time, along with many other things, to achieve their goals of earning a degree and to fulfill what they believed to be their purpose: to raise healthy, happy, well-adjusted children who feel loved. This study shows how and why.