Dissertation Abstract

"Mattering" Doesn't Matter: An Analysis of Adult Undergraduate Persistence Patterns (Adult Students).

Publication Number:  AI9622278
Author:  Fauber, Terri
School:  The College of William and Mary
Date:  1996
Pages:  118
Subject:  Education

A steady rise in the number of nontraditional students combined with high attrition has raised questions about whether postsecondary institutions have been effective in creating environments that facilitate adult student success. This concern led to the current study which investigates whether adult undergraduate perceptions of environmental support and responsiveness to student needs affects persistence patterns.

Tinto's (1993) Academic and Social Integration Model and Schlossberg, Lynch, and Chickerings' (1989) ecological perspective have guided this study. Students' perceptions play a critical role in their willingness to become engaged or involved in the educational environment and therefore affect persistence. Schlossberg, Lasalle, and Golecs' (1990) Mattering Scales were used to measure perceptions of the degree of mattering on five dimensions of postsecondary education; administration, advising, peers, multiple roles, and faculty. It was hypothesized that adult students who perceive the educational environment as a welcoming and supportive place will be more likely to persist toward obtaining their educational goals.

The population samples were drawn from a large urban doctoral granting university located in the southeast. An analysis of covariance was used to determine whether the differences among mean scores (for each of the five mattering subscales) were statistically different. In addition, the test mathematically corrected for the extraneous variables of gender, age, marital status, number of dependents and hours of employment.

Results of this study indicate persistence of adult students is not affected by their perceptions of the educational environmental support and responsiveness to student needs (i.e. mattering). The lack of empirical evidence may suggest that the construct of mattering does not adequately conceptualize the environmental issues important to adult undergraduates or the Mattering Scales' instrument does not accurately operationalize the construct. However, gender differences and employment demands were covariates identified that influenced the degree of mattering perceived. Creating a community that establishes a sense of mattering for adult students may not have the expected impact on persistence. Further research is indicated in the area of adult students' interaction with the educational environment and its subsequent effect on persistence.

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