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Adult male learners in a community college setting: Possibilities of transformation

Ronald Daniel Weisberger, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Returning or reentry students represent an increasingly large percentage of the student population in higher education. Many of them not only manage to stay in school, but also appear to make significant strides in cognitive and affective development. Relatively few works have dealt with developmental issues of adult or returning students, and most have focused primarily on women, who constitute the majority of returning students. This study examines the effect of higher education on adult male returning students. It focuses on the possibility that by returning to school, men may transform what Mezirow (1989) calls "previously held meaning perspectives." It also attempts to determine to what extent, if any, a given sample of adult males have learned to become more critical about previously held views, and what the implications are for the way they choose to live in the world. The study draws on theories of adult development and transformative learning with emphasis on the transformative learning theory of Jack Mezirow (1989, 1991). The methodology for this study is qualitative. Six men in their second year at a Massachusetts community college were interviewed individually and asked questions pertaining to their view of themselves and the world prior to entering college and then afterwards. A focus group was held afterwards. The data was then analyzed in light of the theories examined in the study. The findings indicate that the experience at the college enabled the men to make marked changes within both the affective and cognitive domains. Viewed as part of an ongoing process, their perspectives on education, themselves and the world were transformed. This transformation also carried over to their relationships with family and friends. The men learned to acknowledge weaknesses and to ask for assistance from instructors and academic support personnel. Eventually, they learned how to connect to students and staff across age and gender lines. The men were able to confront challenges presented by difficult subjects. They came to see knowledge as being socially constructed and subject to change. They also developed a better understanding for the causes of individual and social change.

Subject Area

Community colleges|Higher education|Adult education|Continuing education|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Weisberger, Ronald Daniel, "Adult male learners in a community college setting: Possibilities of transformation" (1995). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9541166.