Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Review of literature
 Results and discussion
 Summary and recommendations
 Biographical sketch

Title: Kolb's theory of experiential learning compared with the perceived needs of reentry students at large public universities /
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00099473/00001
 Material Information
Title: Kolb's theory of experiential learning compared with the perceived needs of reentry students at large public universities /
Physical Description: x, 212 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Rollo, James Michael, 1951-
Publication Date: 1986
Copyright Date: 1986
Subject: College students -- Attitudes -- Florida   ( lcsh )
College students -- Attitudes -- Georgia   ( lcsh )
Experiential learning   ( lcsh )
Educational Leadership thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Educational Leadership -- UF
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1986.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 201-211.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
Statement of Responsibility: by James Michael Roollo.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00099473
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000929057
notis - AEN9825
oclc - 016141302


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Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Table of Contents
        Page v
        Page vi
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    Review of literature
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    Results and discussion
        Page 87
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    Summary and recommendations
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    Biographical sketch
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Full Text







To my children,
Rebecca and Rachel,
for the precious time lost to
complete this dissertation.


Of course there are many individuals who worked with me

and supported me during this seemingly never-ending project.

Dr. Phillip Clark, Dr. Roderick McDavis, and Dr. James

Wattenbarger served as my committee throughout the project,

providing direction to my wandering ideas about older

students and adult development. Dr. Wattenbarger, serving

as chairman, was especially helpful and tolerant over the


The Office for Student Services, University of Florida,

was always understanding of my need to be a student as well

as a staff member. I truly appreciate all of the

flexibility and professional freedom extended to me during

my doctoral studies. The warmth and caring that my

associates provided will always be cherished. I hope to

repay the favor by extending the same concern and

understanding to those that follow me.

I would not be at this point in my education at all if

it were not for the love and dedication of my parents, Del

and Virginia Rollo. For instilling a love for learning and

providing the emotional and financial resources for my

lifelong education I am forever grateful. They are both

very special people.

My new family that I was fortunate enough to join by

marriage has been wonderful throughout this entire process.

It would have been impossible to complete my dissertation

without the support of Adele and Irving Roth. I am truly a

lucky person to have a "second" family that is so loving and


My love and respect go to my wife, Amy. She was always

supportive and loving through these years of study, yet she

had time to earn a master's degree, bring two wonderful

children into the world and become an excellent classroom

teacher. Her help in editing the final draft of this

dissertation was invaluable at a time when I needed it the

most and her moral support at critical times was what pulled

me through when I felt like I could not go on. She is truly

a remarkable person to whom I am eternally indebted and




ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ...................................... iii

ABSTRACT..... ........ ................................. viii


I INTRODUCTION................................... 1

Diversity of Adults ............................. 5
Reentry to Higher Education.................... 7
Developmental Tasks and Learning ............... 9
Purpose of the Study........................... 15
Limitations and Delimitations of the Study..... 16
Definitions. ................................... 17
Overview of Methodology........................ 18
Outline of the Dissertation.................... 21

II REVIEW OF LITERATURE ........................... 23

Adult Development and Reentry.................. 23
Developmental Theories..................... 24
Reentry to Higher Education............... 29
Motivation and Success.................... 30
Participation in Higher Education.......... 35
Careers .................................... 37
Typical Reentry Student................... 37
Demands on the System...................... 38
Program Needs of Reentry Students.............. 40
Orientation to Education.................. 42
Programs and Specific Needs.............. 47
Free Standing Programs for Adults......... 55
Academic Needs .................................. 57
Learning Characteristics of Adults......... 58
Learning Styles and Needs................. 60
Strategies for Serving Academic Needs..... 63
Experiential Learning Theory.............. 67
Summary........................................ 72

III METHODOLOGY.................................... 75

Development of the Instrument.................. 75
Selection of Subjects ......... ................ 78


Selection of Institutions.................. 78
Selection of Administrators............... 81
Selection of Students ..................... 82
Survey Procedures......................... 83
Data Processing and Analysis................... 83
Summary........................................ 85

IV RESULTS AND DISCUSSION......................... 87

Sample from the University of Florida........... 87
Sample from the University of Georgia........... 88
Structure of the Institution................... 89
Reentry Students..... .................... 90
Administrators............................ 95
Mission and Philosophy of Education............ 100
Reentry Students... ....................... 100
Administrators............................ 104
Alternative Learning Environments.............. 107
Reentry Students.......................... 108
Administrators............................. 112
Selection and Evaluation of Students and
Faculty ..................................... . 116
Reentry Students........................... 117
Administrators............................ 121
Social Networks Outside of Class............... 124
Reentry Students... ...................... 124
Administrators............................ 127
Campus Atmosphere.............................. 129
Reentry Students........................... 129
Administrators............................ 132
Discussion ..................................... 134
Structure of the Institution.............. 135
Mission and Philosophy of Education........ 138
Alternative Learning Environments......... 142
Selection and Evaluation of Students
and Faculty.............................. 144
Social Networks Outside of Class........... 148
Campus Atmosphere......................... 150
Needs Identified by Reentry Students............ 152
Structure of the Institution.............. 152
Mission and Philosophy of Education........ 152
Alternative Learning Environments......... 153
Selection and Evaluation of Students
and Faculty.............................. 153
Social Networks Outside of Class........... 154
Campus Atmosphere ......................... 154
Needs Identified by Administrators............. 155
Structure of the Institution.............. 155
Mission and Philosophy of Education....... 155
Alternative Learning Environments ......... 156
Selection and Evaluation of Students
and Faculty........... ................. 156


Social Networks Outside of Class.......... 157
Campus Atmosphere........................... 157
Summary........................................ 158

V SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS.................... 159

Summary of Needs for Reentry Students........... 161
Needs Identified by Reentry Students....... 162
Needs Identified by Administrators........ 165
Conclusions .................................... 168
Recommendations................................ 171
Areas for Further Study...... ................... 173
Summary........................................ 174


A CHAIN OF RESPONSE MODEL........................ 177



D TELEPHONE SURVEY................................. 183

E LETTER TO STUDENTS ............................ 186

F REPORT OF DATA ................................. 187

REFERENCES............................................ 201

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH......... .......................... 212

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



James Michael Rollo

December, 1986

Chairman: James L. Wattenbarger
Major Department: Educational Leadership

Population changes in the United States as the baby

boom cohort reaches middle age are beginning to affect

institutions of higher education. There are both fewer

traditional age students available and more older students

seeking reentry to colleges. Societal changes affecting

occupational choice, the rate of change, and financial

stability are also providing impetus for individuals to

reenter colleges at an increasing rate.

The educational needs of older individuals are

different from those of traditional age students because the

latter have increased life experience that affects their

learning. Consequently, Kolb suggests that reentry students

will approach higher education with different expectations

and needs. He theorized that to serve them adequately, an

institution must provide what he described as an integrated

learning experience.

This study surveyed undergraduates at the University of

Florida and the University of Georgia who are 25 years of


age or older, as well as administrators at the same

institutions. The data were gathered by telephone interview

using open-ended questions that addressed themes identified

by Kolb: Structure of the Institution, Mission and

Philosophy of Education, Alternative Learning Environments,

Selection and Evaluation of Students and Faculty, Social

Networks outside of Class, and Campus Atmosphere. The data

from reentry students and administrators were compared with

the needs of reentry students as outlined by Kolb.

Kolb's theory of experiential learning offers a

direction for institutional planning and can be used as a

general series of guidelines. However, reentry students

differ from Kolb's theorized needs in that they place more

emphasis on the relationship between their learning

experiences in the classroom and their future role as a

professional. Also, in contrast to Kolb, they place less

emphasis on social contacts with traditional age students as

a method of integrating into the institution.

Administrators, through the services and programs offered at

their institutions, are less sensitive to the needs of

reentry students than would be suggested by Kolb's theorized

needs. Subsequently, they rely on reentry students

adjusting to available programs and services, and individual

faculty and staff providing personal support.

The needs of reentry students have unique

characteristics that dictate specific responses. To begin

to meet adequately the needs of reentry students at large

public universities, institutions should provide the

following: a centralized office to coordinate services for

reentry students, specialized orientation, a flexible and

varied schedule of courses, a reentry student social group,

sensitive academic advisors, and a staff member to serve as

an ombudsman for reentry concerns.


Much has been written regarding the inevitable changes

that will occur in higher education as the baby boom cohort

of the 1950s and 1960s inevitably progresses through the

population into middle and old age. Most significant to

higher education, it has been projected that the number of

18 year olds in the population will begin to decline during

the 1980s and level off by 1991 at approximately 73% of the

number of 18 year olds that were potential clients in 1979.

This projection envisions an average enrollment decline of

25% (Bowen, 1980), a potentially devastating blow to some

institutions, particularly the small independent four year

institutions that have always relied heavily on traditional

age students for their support. The U.S. National Center

for Education Statistics reports that the actual enrollment

of students 18 to 24 years of age in institutions of higher

education in 1980 was 7.3 million. The projection for

enrollment of this same age group in 1990 is 6.2 million (as

cited in United States Bureau of the Census, 1983). This

difference is also evident in terms of changes in the size

of the age cohort of 18 to 24 year olds. In 1982 this

cohort was estimated to be 30.3 million or 13.1% of the

total U.S. population. However, the projections for the

year 2000 are for this cohort to number only 24.4 million or

9.2% of the total population (U.S. Bureau of the Census,

1984b). Since 1981 however, college enrollment has not

changed significantly due to increases in nontraditional

students entering universities and colleges. In the years

since 1981, 36% of the enrollment nationwide has been made

up of those 25 years of age and older. This group comprised

only 28% of college enrollment in 1972 (U.S. Bureau of the

Census, 1985b). As this portion of the population continues

inevitably to increase in size over the next 50 years, there

will be added pressures on educational institutions and

society in general to respond to these changes to the basic

demography of the United States.

The population trends, alone, are indicative of the

potential problem that could gradually change the clientele

of higher education and ultimately confront educators

directly with the reality of larger numbers of older adults,

over age 55, asking to be served. Issues that will change

the make-up of our society in rather dramatic fashion

include the longer life expectancies occurring in the U.S.

population, the coming "Senior Boom" (by the year 2030, 20%

of the U.S. population will be 65 years of age or older),

the availability of earlier retirement for men and women,

and the projection that there will be more retirees in

relation to the number of active workers with this ratio

reaching 1 to 3 by the year 2030 (Sheppard, 1980).

Influences envisioned by Long (1983, p. 31) will either

provide a crushing blow to higher education if it fails to

respond to changes in the traditional college student

population or clues as to a new direction toward which our

institutions should focus their resources. Changing age

profiles, rising educational levels, growing concern about

equity and the rights of special populations, changing

attitudes towards work, career change, professional and

occupational obsolescence, mandatory continuing education,

increasing acceptance of nontraditional approaches to

education, and the expansion of education are the social

developments that he feels will have the most significant

impact on higher education. If, as a result of these social

developments, the vacant seats predicted in college

classrooms are not filled by the inevitable older

population, shortsighted institutions that do not attract

this age group may be forced to close their doors.

Conversely, these changes could generate the opportunity to

provide lifelong learning to the entire population, a goal

that has been envisioned for this nation since the

Chautauqua movement began in the mid-19th century.

Graney (1980) found that

among older people, the "young-old," better
educated, urban, healthy, financially secure,
and generally active people with youthful self
concepts were more likely than others to be
enrolled in further educational endeavors.
(p. 85)

It appears that the United States, as a result of its

universal educational system, is presently developing a

sizable cohort of well educated, urban, healthy individuals

who will eventually become the "young-old" that Graney has

written about. By the year 2000, 64% of the 65 years of age

and over will be high school graduates while 80% of the

entire population will be graduates (U.S. Bureau of the

Census, 1984a). In a 1981 study by Ahlburg, Crummins, and

Easterlin (as cited in U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1985b)

they projected that enrollment of 18 to 24 year olds in

higher education would increase if parental income

increased. If this becomes reality, the increase or

stabilization in the number of 18 to 24 year olds enrolled

in college coupled with the demands of a well educated older

population seeking lifelong learning and retraining for new

careers could produce previously unseen pressures on

institutions of higher education. The crucial issue is

ultimately not how many 18 to 24 year olds attend college

but that as this cohort of the baby boom enters middle and

old age, the individuals who comprise it will make ever

increasing demands on higher education as they seek lifelong

learning experience for personal and professional pursuits.

Of course a new type of institution for higher education

could become a viable alternative to colleges and

universities if there is no legitimate effort by them to

meet the needs of this cohort. Work place training and

development is already roughly equivalent to the entire

elementary, secondary, and higher education system in amount

of dollars spent (Carnevale, 1986). It is unlikely that a

new institution will supplant higher education as the first

choice of those seeking further education given the limited

resources our society seems willing to spend on education.

However, other means of postsecondary education could become

more influential especially if higher education fails to

meet these needs and may further dilute those limited

resources available for postsecondary education. The above

factors will strain present physical and human resources and

force changes in the way institutions serve students across

the spectrum of age and human development.

Diversity of Adults

Central to the problem of responding to this new

population is the diversity of adults and their specific

needs. This is most evident when requests for educational

services are made. Hiemstra (1976a) pointed out that "a

teaching and learning process for adults must be built to

respond to the unique needs of those engaged in it" (p. 25)

as they, in general, are independent, self-motivated, and

capable of making life decisions; have a wide and varied

accumulation of experience from life with varied

requirements for the type and amount of education; and bring

their own personal variety of problems and limitations to

the educational process. Responding to these criteria

provides a plethora of logistical and academic problems that

institutions will have to address if they wish to be

successful with this new generation of students. In an

attempt to classify their uniqueness into manageable groups,

these "experienced" students have been categorized as goal-

oriented, activity-oriented, and learning-oriented by Houle

(1963). Hiemstra (1976a, p. 35) added self-directed learner

as a fourth category to allow for those who tend to be self-

reliant and autonomous in their learning. It is safe to say

that most adult learners, at different times during their

years of active learning, will appear in each of the four


The most easily identifiable subgroups of reentry

students include veterans, displaced homemakers,

international students, recently divorced or widowed

individuals, those pursuing career change, and dilettantes.

The distinct differences in their backgrounds and lifestyles

are a marked change from the students who have traditionally

entered institutions of higher education. This is not to

imply that traditional age students are a completely

homogeneous group of subjects with little difference among

them. However, the added factor that must be acknowledged

when addressing reentry students is the additional time

these individuals have had to diverge further from what has

been seen as the norm of the traditional age student: a

young, academically capable, unmarried, financially

dependent individual from the middle or upper socioeconomic

class. The added experience and maturity that time has

provided to reentry students, as well as the interpersonal

and financial obligations acquired through the years, have

an impact on the manner in which they operate in the world

around them and subsequently in their approach to education

when they return.

Reentry to Higher Education

The goal-oriented adult learner who renters higher

education is still viewed as an anomaly by many in higher

education, students and faculty alike. However, the above

data coupled with population projections previously reported

by Bowen indicate that their numbers will continue to rise

on our college campuses, driven by social and personal

change, and modified by the demographics of our population.

Situational, institutional, and dispositional barriers to

reentry students (Cross, 1981, p. 98) will continue to steer

students towards or away from particular institutions based

on their relative magnitude as perceived by the potential

student. These barriers will function as obstacles to

individuals not to the entire cohort.

Colleges and universities must begin to face openly the

issue of change in the status quo and recognize that the

adult learner is showing signs of interest in higher

education in significant numbers. At present, little is

done by most institutions to attract adult learners as

reentry students. There are examples in which severe

financial constraints have forced recruitment of these

individuals to ensure the survival of the institution.

Rarer still are those whose mission statements give credence

to reentry students as a legitimate target to attract and

serve. This is not due to a lack of expertise in

recruitment skills or sensitivity to the issue. A study

focusing on directors of admissions has shown that they have

extensive knowledge of the ways to serve older students'

needs and have a willingness to do so. However, few have

applied these skills to recruitment of this population

(Fauquet, 1983).

As a result of societal influences the adult learner is

being guided, albeit in many cases reluctantly, toward

becoming a reentry student, and is being offered a narrow

selection of institutions from which to choose. Community

colleges, while perceived by most students as being a

convenient and non-threatening environment, do not offer the

curricular depth of a college or university. On the other

hand, colleges and universities, unless designed

specifically for older students, have tended to view these

students as an inconvenience (Peterson, 1979).

Subsequently, from the perspective of the adult learner as

reentry student, the problem manifests itself in their

attempts to select the best learning environment available

from limited choice. The role of the institution becomes

one of providing appropriate and adequate services to

reentry students based on their academic and developmental

needs. Identifying those needs, providing the appropriate

programs and services, and communicating their existence to

potential reentry students will be critical to the success

of institutions of higher education and the students they


Developmental Tasks and Learning

Reentry students, by virtue of the developmental tasks

with which they are struggling at their various ages,

approach higher education from a perspective apart from

traditional students. The latter are in a beginning,

specialized search for identity, while reentry students are

involved in personal maintenance, reassessment of their

present status, and a delving in depth into unresolved

personal issues. The resultant interplay of these forces is

an integrative approach to their own personal development

that Erikson has viewed as essential for growth and mastery

during the crisis of "generativity versus stagnation" (as

cited in Kolb, 1981, p. 251). Kolb views this developmental

task, from an educational perspective, as movement along a

continuum of increasing complexity and relativism in an

individual's experiences as a learner.

Kolb's model of experiential learning presents a four-

stage cycle in which concrete experience becomes the basis

for observation and reflection, leading to the formation of

abstract concepts from which new actions evolve into new

experiences (Kolb, 1981, p. 235). This model is

historically linked to the work of Kurt Lewin and relies on

the precept that experience is a central process in

learning. The model is primarily developed as a theory to


conceptualize the cognitive learning styles of individuals

by relating concrete, abstract, and active processes within

an interactive model that allows for individual preferences

to be recognized in the learning process. A series of

interdependent stages are traversed in which an individual

moves between active and reflective modes of learning. He

called these stages Concrete Experience (CE), Reflective

Observation (RO), Abstract Conceptualization (AC), and

Active Experimentation (AE). Each stage (mode) is necessary

for effective learning and when conceptualized into a model

the relationship between the stages is circular in that an

individual begins to learn through Concrete Experience and

proceeds through the other stages in sequence until Active

Experimentation brings the individual back into the stage of

Concrete Experience to continue the learning cycle.

Effective learners use all four stages in the learning cycle

though there are dominant or preferred styles that are

developed through the life experience and socialization of

each individual. These individually preferred styles will

shape the manner in which people learn and the processes

they utilize to learn. As the interplay of active and

reflective methods of learning affects the approach

individuals take when acquiring knowledge, it can guide them

into or out of different academic disciplines and may

ultimately affect the profession they choose to enter.

Individuals tend to gravitate to academic disciplines in

which their learning style is most consistent with the

nature of the knowledge being learned and where the learning

style is valued by their peers.

Experiential learning can also be applied to the

broader aspects of adaptation to life such as decision

making, problem solving, and life-style (Kolb, 1981, p.

248). Kolb stated in his chapter in The Modern American

College (1981): "From this broader perspective, learning

becomes a central life task, and how one learns becomes a

major determinant of the course of personal development" (p.

248). In 1975, Kolb and Fry (as cited in Kolb, 1981)

conceptualized the human growth process as three broad

developmental stages of acquisition which extends from birth

to adolescence, specialization which extends from

adolescence through formal education or career training, and

integration in which there is a reassertion and expression

of the non-dominant learning styles of the individual. As

these developmental stages are traversed over time,

individuals begin to view the world with increased

complexity and relativism. The learning modes described

above are more closely connected to one another in the final

personal growth stage of integration. Each learning mode is

associated with a dimension of personal growth that moves on

a continuum towards increased generalization and integration

as an individual progresses through the growth stages

described by Kolb and Fry. Concrete Experience is connected

with affective complexity, RO with perceptual complexity,

AC with symbolic complexity, and AE with behavioral


The four learning modes, during the growth stage of

acquisition, are relatively independent and are

conceptualized into a two dimensional model as a circle. A

third dimension is added to the model when experiential

learning is related to personal growth. With the circle as

a base representing the acquisition stage, the model rises

perpendicular to the base, forming a cone. The top of the

cone, where it narrows to a point, represents the increased

integration and interdependency of the learning modes during

the developmental stage of integration. The model indicates

that the same learning processes are used by reentry

students as by traditional students during all three

developmental stages. Individuals begin the learning

process at the base of the cone. As they develop through

time, the cone narrows and the active and reflective modes

become more closely associated in the learning process. A

difference between traditional and reentry students is in

the relationship between the modes of active and reflective

learning at the various stages and this leads to different

expectations of the college experience.

In providing educational opportunities for adults as

reentry students, institutions of higher education can use

this integrative approach to development and learning as a

framework to describe adult development in the educational

arena. Kolb (1981, p. 252) stated that the central function


of the university is to provide to students integrative

structures and programs that counter balance the tendencies

toward specialization. The degree to which an institution

provides these programs will affect the learning environment

significantly in that it will be more closely aligned to the

developmental needs of reentry students.

Unfortunately, institutions have largely ignored these

adults as being little more than activity-oriented learners

and have been unresponsive and often indifferent to their

needs as unique from those of traditional age students.

Institutions have structured their curriculum to address the

larger traditional student population's developmental need

of specialization and as a result offer an academic

experience that is viewed as narrow and unconnected by

reentry students who are looking for integrative experiences

in their formal learning. The rapid and constant change,

continual march towards occupational obsolescence, and the

onset of changing life styles (Hiemstra, 1976a, p. 7) are

major forces that have begun to force adults to reenter

formal education as goal-oriented learners. Statistics from

community colleges already indicate that as of 1980, one-

half of their enrollment, nationwide, was part-time (Gordon

& Kappner, 1980) and 1 in 3 college students in 1981 was

over 25 years of age (Magerrell, 1981). Unfortunately,

these reentry students are enrolled in a curriculum that was

designed for someone else and while useful in obtaining a


degree, the courses and academic programs do not meet all of

their needs as adults.

Historically, institutions have been interested in

attracting a relatively homogeneous group of individuals

from a similar age group and formally credentialed

educational background and have addressed their

developmental needs accordingly. However, assumptions

regarding the homogeneity and relatively young age of the

typical student are no longer valid as a basis for planning

and implementing programs to meet academic and extra-

curricular needs. The influx of older individuals as goal-

oriented students will alter the focus of the curriculum

from what has been one of increasing specialization over the

past 80 years, to the broader context of integration across

the curriculum. The factor of time and its effects on an

individual's psychological development and academic skills

dramatically change the perspective of a student who

rentersr" education versus one who "enters" education in

the traditional manner. The resultant effect on the

institution is unavoidable once the reentry population

reaches a significant percentage of the student population

as their demands for services will begin to modify and in

some instances cause the replacement of existing programs.

Their impact will ultimately be seen in the types of

services offered as well as the orientation and focus of

both the academic and human service programs provided by

colleges and universities.


Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to compare the

theoretical needs of reentry students as identified by Kolb,

with the needs as perceived by selected reentry students and

university administrators at two large public universities

in relation to the services and programs of the

universities. In addition, the following questions were

specifically addressed:

1. What are the differences between the perceived

needs of reentry students at large public universities and

the theoretical needs of reentry students as identified by


2. What are the differences between the needs of

reentry students as perceived by administrators at large

public universities and the theoretical needs of reentry

students as identified by Kolb?

3. What are the differences between what large public

universities are actually doing to meet the needs of reentry

students, as perceived by reentry students and

administrators, and the theoretical needs of reentry

students as identified by Kolb?

4. What recommendations can be made for large public

universities to improve the quality of learning for reentry


Limitations and Delimitations of the Study

The data for this study were collected from

administrative officers and reentry students at two large

public universities using telephone interviews to survey the

individuals at each institution. The following were used to

delimit the study:

1. The arbitrary dividing line of those 25 years of

age and over was used to delineate reentry students from

other adults in higher education. This benchmark of 25

years of age and over is an arbitrary figure as the

uniqueness of reentry students is evidenced more by their

reentry than their age.

2. Information in this study was collected through

personal interviews of administrators in the three main

areas of university administration (academic affairs,

student affairs, and business affairs) and reentry students

presently enrolled at each institution. The use of

telephone interviews for data collection can restrict the

comprehensiveness of the data as it is dependent on access

to individuals who list their telephone number with the

university and restrictions of time.

3. As noted, two large public universities were used

in this study: the University of Florida and the University

of Georgia. Both of these institutions are large land grant

universities with strong research functions located at some

distance from large urban areas.


4. The study was confined to addressing what Kolb

identified as the institutional context at each university.

Questions were formulated under the following six headings:

Structure of the Institution, Mission and Philosophy of

Education, Alternative Learning Environments, Selection and

Evaluation of Students and Faculty, Social Networks Outside

of Class, and Campus Atmosphere (Kolb, 1985, p. 205).


Adult Learner: Individuals, 25 years of age or older,

involved in either formal or informal learning for any


Baccalaureate Degree Granting Institution: Public or

private institutions that are authorized to grant

baccalaureate degrees.

Land Grant University: An institution of higher

education that was established as a result of the Morrill

Act of 1862 or subsequent federal legislation connected to


Large Public University: An institution of higher

education with a student enrollment over 10,000 that is

directly associated with a state government through

legislative or constitutional enactment.

Learning Environment: The network of rules pertaining

to academic enrollment and student life, the availability of

services and programs of an extra-curricular nature, as well


as the perceptions of the student's experiences in the

classrooms and offices of the institution.

Nontraditional Student: An individual involved in some

form of higher education who as a result of his or her race,

age, marital status, previous educational background, sex,

or economic status does not fit the traditional definition

of a student.

Program: An organized activity of varying length and

complexity designed to provide information and/or service to

a particular population.

Reentry Student: An individual 25 years of age or

older, who is presently enrolled in a full-time or part-time

baccalaureate degree program and has either delayed the

start of or interrupted the progress of his or her degree

program for a significant period of time at some point prior

to graduation.

Service: A specific response by an individual, group,

or agency intended to satisfy a perceived or expressed need

of another individual, group, or agency.

Traditional Student. An individual, 18 to 22 years of

age, from the middle or upper socioeconomic class who has

attended educational institutions generally uninterrupted

since childhood.

Overview of Methodology

The data for this study were gathered from individual

telephone interviews at two large public institutions in

Florida and Georgia. The specific steps used to complete

the study were as follows:

1. A review of the related literature generated a list

of identified needs of reentry students in higher education

and the suggested programs and services to address those

needs (Appendix C).

2. The needs of reentry students identified through

the literature review were organized in the context of

Kolb's theory of experiential learning. Six central themes

identifying the context of higher education institutions

were used to develop a series of questions that connected

the needs of reentry students with Kolb's experiential

learning theory and to identify individual perceptions of

the needs of reentry students.

3. The questions were organized into an open ended

interview format focused around the six common issues

identified by Kolb.

4. Two institutions were selected for their

availability and unique identities. The University of

Florida and the University of Georgia are considered to be

traditional universities in smaller metropolitan areas with

a known history of serving traditional age students. Both

of these institutions are land grant universities and

subsequently older institutions with a statewide mission and

a strong commitment to research as part of their state and

national image. Located in two different states, the


institutions were chosen in order to avoid reactions limited

by state system procedures.

5. Five university administrators were contacted at

each institution and interviewed over the telephone. An

attempt was made to have representation at each institution

from business affairs, academic affairs, and student


6. An open ended interview was used to gather data

using the survey developed above. The data were recorded

through the use of hand written notes during each interview.

7. With the assistance of the administrators at each

institution, 50 reentry students at each institution were

contacted in writing to take part in the study. They were

selected at random from a list supplied by the university.

Twenty individuals from this sample of 50 were interviewed

by telephone in the same manner as the university


8. The data were organized into groupings consistent

with the samples to facilitate comparison between individual

respondents, groups, and institutions.

9. The data were subsequently organized around

consistent themes that were expressed by the respondents

with attention given to the differences between

administrators' responses and students' responses.

10. The needs of reentry students were identified as

perceived by the administrators and students, respectively,

at each institution.


11. The responses from each institution were evaluated

in relation to Kolb's theory of experiential learning to

determine if the administrators at these institutions of

higher education were offering integrated learning

experiences to reentry students, and whether, as stated in

Kolb's theory, the reentry students enrolled at these

institutions were expressing the need for integrated

learning experiences in the institution's services and


12. The data were reported and discussed in Chapter IV

of this study with an analysis and recommendations for

serving reentry students at large public universities

presented in Chapter V.

Outline of the Dissertation

Chapter I has provided an overview of the problem

regarding the adult learner as reentry student in

institutions of higher education. The relationship

between these students and the learning environment of the

institution is viewed as a critical factor in their success.

Chapter II is a review of the literature as it pertains

to reentry students and their relationship to institutions

of higher education. There are three foci: reentry

students in higher education, the developmental tasks that

influence this population, and the academic and human

service needs of reentry students in higher education.


Chapter III describes the methodology of the study,

including the selection of the sample, the instrument used,

and data collection techniques.

Chapters IV and V provide a discussion of the findings

and a summary of the study with conclusions and recommenda-

tions, respectively.


This chapter will focus on three areas of concern in

responding to adults as reentry students. The first area

will address adult development and its relationship with

reentry to higher education. It will be followed by a

discussion of the identified needs of adults as reentry

students and the chapter will conclude with a review of the

academic concerns and needs that must be resolved to support

learning for adults in higher education.

Adult Development and Reentry

Traditionally, institutions of higher education have

viewed students as a rather homogeneous group of 18 to 22

year olds whose education has been constant since high

school (Prager, 1983). However, it is nearly impossible to

generalize about adults as reentry students, due to their

various ages, educational backgrounds, and socioeconomic

levels (Hiemstra, 1976a, p. 32). It is helpful then, when

trying to gain an understanding of who these students are,

to look at adults through the writings of adult development


Developmental Theories

Levinson (1978, p. 35) grouped adults into three broad

age related stages of Early Adulthood (17-40), Middle

Adulthood (40-60), and Late Adulthood (60-onward), with each

stage preceded by an unsettling transition period.

Individuals will progress through each stage due to their

physical age and be confronted with the issues of each

stage. Levinson's analogy of a person's life as seasons

that they must live through gives a representation that

there is an inevitability in a person's progress through

these stages. Erickson, on the other hand, viewed adults

through a psychosocial model and described four less

distinct periods that occur after the basic issue of

adolescence centering around identity formation is resolved.

He stated that adults move through stages focusing on

outward orientation, developing relationships, generativity

vs. stagnation, and old age with diminished powers. All

four stages are loosely tied to age but there is much more

emphasis on individual divergence at different stages of

growth. A major criticism of his work, however, is that his

theory is based on the study of men and subsequently women

are seen only in the developmental context of men (as cited

in Widick, Parker, & Knefelkamp, 1978a). This theory may

have questionable relevance in the field of higher education

since the majority of reentry students are women. If he has

misread the development of adults by this omission,


Erikson's theory must be considered incomplete when viewed

in the context of higher education.

Arthur Chickering's writings in 1969 focused on the

traditional age student dealing with the resolution of their

identity. He broke down Erickson's stage of identity

formation into seven vectors that individuals must progress

through in sequence to become adults. Like Erickson, he saw

these vectors as loosely tied to age allowing for

individuals' growth rate to differ under various

circumstances. The significance to older adults is that he

was able to discern a challenge/response pattern in

individuals during this time period. This has led him to

theorize that development occurs when tasks are pursued that

allow change (as cited in Widick, Parker, & Knefelkamp,

1978b). This challenge/response issue is important in the

context of adults reentering higher education as during the

time of their reentry they appear to be at one of these

periods of transition that is necessary for continued

development. The task of pursuing a degree at a college or

university becomes a powerful force that both pushes and

pulls individuals into higher stages of personal growth.

Non-age related theories built on the work of Dewey and

Piaget and addressed stages of ethical, intellectual, and

moral development. William Perry grouped individuals into

four major areas related to the manner in which they

responded to ethical issues. Dualism preceded multiplicity

in that individuals progressed from a simplistic black and

white view of the world to an environment where there are

multiple answers. This latter stage is followed by

relativism in which individuals begin to view issues in

context and relative to other issues. Ultimately, Perry

theorized that it is possible to move into the final stage

of commitment to relativism where diverse personal themes

and commitments are used in establishing identity (as cited

in King, 1978).

Kohlberg theorizes that individuals move through six

universal stages focusing on the development of empathy and

justice. He sees this focus as the central concept of

development with the goal of having individuals move from

"none" to "much" (as cited in Smith, 1978). Perry and

Kohlberg view development through these stages as non-age

related, so movement through them by individuals is neither

uniform nor one directional. Therefore, reentry students,

though older than their traditional counterparts, may still

view the world in simplistic authoritarian terms with little

relation to the context of a particular issue.

Loevinger, as a result of her study of women aged 10 to

30, views adult development as a series of irreversible,

invariant, and hierarchical "Milestones" that are passed

during one's life. Each stage builds on the previous one

with some correlation between age and stage (as cited in

Knefelkamp, parker, & Widick, 1978). On the other hand,

Gilligan (1982, p. 6) expressed a view that women do not fit

into "Man's Life Cycle" at all and saw the focus of women's

development as one of finding maturity using the issues of

interdependence and caring as the driving force. Women are

seen to use an ethic of care in which the central theme is

for "no one to get hurt," as opposed to an ethic of justice

in which men strive to be "treated as equals."

Creamer and Akins (1981) have placed the various

theories of development into four families: Kohlberg and

Perry are cognitive theorists who describe human development

in terms of how people think; Chickering, Erikson, Gould,

Levinson, Lowenthal, Neugarten, and Sheehy are considered to

be psychosocialist in their theoretical base as they

describe development in terms of what is thought; Maslow and

Rogers are humanistic/existential in their writing by

describing individuals as moving toward self-actualization

and development; and the final group of Astin, Pace, and

Stern is labeled person-environment interaction where

behavior is a function of the interaction of personality and


The concept of a "trigger" event that causes a

transition in an individual has been helpful in

understanding the move towards further educational

experience by adults (Carbone, 1982). There are seven

trigger areas identified as career, family, leisure, art,

health, religion, and citizenship with "career" being the

primary reason for reentry (Aslanian & Brickell, 1980, p. 39).

As adults react to these trigger events and pass through a

period of transition, they will inevitably interact in


significant ways with their environment, part of which is

the educational environment. Tarule and Weathersby (1979)

classified these perspectives as time linked periods called

life phases; the progressive structures of developmental

stages and/or the characteristic preferences for certain

modes of learning known simply as learning style. They are

not mutually exclusive concepts and, as such, allow for

significant overlap. The combination of the concepts of

trigger events linked with a series of life phases is

helpful in both conceptualizing and planning program

responses by the various components of the institution.

Merriam (1979) reviewed the available theories of

development in relation to programmatic offerings and found

commonalities that can be addressed by institutions. Adults

begin to have a growing awareness that one's existence is

finite and the resultant period of introspection and self-

analysis is critical to future growth and development.

Merriam further stated that not only is it potentially the

most powerful stage in terms of life interaction but it has

developmental tasks that are unique. Her analysis also

revealed that there was no research that supports the notion

of a midlife crisis, but change is evident and there appears

to be a tendency for a male-female role reversal in middle

age in which men become more passive and women become more


In reviewing Havighurst's work on adult development,

Merriam (1978) collapsed 10 "substantial changes" into the


four categories of family, career, physical, and

psychological concerns. Using these categories, the focus

of educational programs is the resolution of developmental

tasks of the various age groups. Specifically, she stated

that education should assist individuals in redefining and

redirecting career goals, assist middle-aged women in

entering or reentering the job market, assist individuals in

developing new career directions, provide courses that deal

with the physical and economic problems of aging parents and

teenage children, and provide workshops on physical aging

and sexuality.

The developmental needs of adults are easily identified

and unavoidable by educational institutions as some response

is required and probably demanded by the students as they

progress from task to task. While it is obvious that an

educational institution cannot serve all the needs of

adults, the Carnegie Commission in 1973 stated that it is

important to promote the successful accomplishment of major

developmental tasks (Creamer & Akins, 1981). Institutions

have always responded to the developmental needs of their

traditional clientele so it is not beyond reason to expect

them to broaden their perspective to include reentry

students in the paradigm.

Reentry to Higher Education

A significant and early influence on adult education

was the Chatauqua movement which began in 1874 in upstate

New York. The theory that adults, as well as children, can

learn and that education should be extended beyond the

formal school years has been a driving force in causing

educational institutions and community agencies to open new

opportunities for adult learning (Stubblefield, 1981).

Adults as students have been determined to readily acquire

the values of the academic community they enter (Pirnot &

Dunn, 1983) and become less like their same-age peers in the

general adult population.

Motivation and Success

There is a strong move on the part of adults to

reenter, not remain on the periphery of higher education.

Morstain and Smart (1977) have developed a motivational

typology of adult students to express the reasons for

returning to education. They classify them as being either

non-directed, social, stimulation-seeking, career-oriented,

or life change in their motivation for reentry. More

importantly however, they found that such a wide range

existed in the demographics of each motivational typology,

it is clearly misleading to group adults by the traditional

methods of age, income, marital status, etc. Institutions

must begin to reconceptualize the make-up of the student

population as it exists today. These differing motivations

for reentry will lead to broader needs and requests for

services from all areas of the institution.


As adults consider a return to formal education, four

goals and barriers most significantly affect their

participation: career goals, self-development goals,

affective barriers, and situation barriers. Understandably,

situation barriers were rated highest when looking at the

total population of reentry students (Apt, 1978). Access to

an institution and financial and time constraints, to

mention the most evident, can be insurmountable obstacles

regardless of the individual's motivation level or ultimate

goal. However, within the subgroups of the unskilled,

skilled workers, and housewives, affective barriers, such as

motivation or support from family members and peers, are

rated the highest as barriers to reentry. Career goals were

rated highest as a reason for participation by the 18 to 29

year olds and by those individuals who were not presently

married (Apt, 1978). The assumption here is that the older

the student, the less likely career development is an issue

and self-development becomes the more prevalent motivational

force for most individuals seeking reentry. However, this

does not take into account the issue of occupational

obsolescence that can occur to individuals at any time in

their career.

Suchinsky (1982) divided motivational influences

effecting reentry to environmentally derived problems

dealing with family, personal issues and aging, and

developmental problems involving the various stage related

tasks of adults as careers change, children leave home, and

parents become ill or die. He states that though these

students potentially bring a mature perspective to

education, they provide a new set of problems to the

institutions as well. These problems manifest themselves in

reentry students as transitory uncertainty, strong goal

orientation coupled with a sense of immediacy, muted

aspirations, and a thirst for information (Flohr & Sweeney,


Outright barriers to reentry include lack of time,

costs, scheduling problems, assorted institutional

requirements and red tape, lack of information about

appropriate opportunities, problems with child care or

transportation, lack of confidence, and lack of interest

(Cross, 1981, p. 98). Most significant as barriers are lack

of time and lack of interest. Age, money, type of courses,

availability of courses, and personal health conditions are

less significant or not significant as students become older

(Graney, 1980). Cross (1981a, p. 124) presented the Chain

of Response model (COR) to conceptualize the process by

which adults return to education and the effect of barriers

on them (Appendix A). She stated that institutions that

wish to encourage participation start at (E) by opening new

opportunities and removing existing barriers. If this is

accomplished, the institution can begin to determine the

goals of adults and plan accordingly by responding to the

expectations and attitudes of potential students (B and C)

and provide information and programs that support them


through their life transitions (D). According to the model,

the entire process will end in the participation of adults

in higher education (G).

The highest correlate for enrollment by reentry

students remains prior educational attainment (Graney,

1980), while lower academic ability has proven to create a

tendency that may lead students to drop out (Hiemstra,

1976a, p. 28). Losty and Broderson (1980) agreed with

Graney and Hiemstra and suggested that the first course

taken upon reentry is significant in establishing

satisfaction with the college experience and possibly

subsequent motivation to goal achievement. Frost (1980)

found that the biggest problem of adults reentering school

was their perception of "not fitting in." Kuh and Ardaiolo

(1979) were able to identify differences in adults based on

the type of campus they attended that related to the issue

of institutional fit. Adults at residential campuses are

more "ready to learn" than those at commuter campuses and

there appears to be a stronger motivation to complete a

program in those who "move in" to higher education as

opposed to those who "stop in" between commitments to

family, career, and leisure. Prior choice of major appears

to be an additional predictor of success (Frost, 1980)

possibly giving the reentry student somewhere to "fit in"

from the beginning. Some institutions have found that

grouping reentry students who have similar apprehensions and

motivations during their first college term allows mutual

support and comraderie to develop and improves the beginning

experience (Reinfeld, 1975). This may be the same

phenomenon that has always existed in higher education where

entering first year students take similar or identical

courses together at the outset of college and live together

in residence halls. Academic independence is gained over

time, not expected when they walk through the door on the

first day of classes. It appears older students may benefit

from this type of program as well.

Of course all students, no matter their age, do not

complete their academic programs. However, 7 out of 10

students complete their degree over time, with the primary

reasons for dropping out being job responsibilities, lack of

time, lack of funds, or illness. Conversely, self-

improvement tends to be the main reason for continuing with

their academic program (Reehling, 1980). Many of the

reasons for dropping out are unrelated to the student. The

stated requirements of the institution, attention given

during enrollment, informality of the learning setting,

attention given to student needs, type of instructional

methods, and course content all contribute to whether a

student remains at an institution (Hiemstra, 1976a). Adults

do have alternatives to higher education that are informal,

voluntary, and have unlimited license in regard to substance

and relevance (Harman, 1976) in the form of lifelong

learning opportunities throughout their community. Given

the variety of choices, when adults drop out they may


actually be choosing a better alternative for their unique

needs, not rejecting education as a whole.

Adults seeking academic study are a "social challenge"

for institutions to provide access to education (Cross,

1976, p. 73). To view them primarily as a way to fill empty

classroom seats is a disservice to them and society. The

crux of the matter is that the educational experience must

be a legitimate opportunity for these individuals to meet

their needs or it is a waste of resources and provides a

false message to adults seeking reentry.

Participation in Higher Education

The growth in the number of reentry students began

after World War II when the "G.I. Bill" brought large

numbers of veterans to college campuses for the first time.

In 1947, 18% of all college students were 25 to 34 years

old. This grew to 22% (over eight million students) by 1973

plus an additional 800,000 students 35+ years of age

(Plotsky, 1976). By 1981, 33% of all students were at least

25 years old (Magerrell, 1981). Significantly, women at

that time outnumbered men for the first time since World War

II with the largest increase coming from those over 35 years

of age. That segment of the population has doubled since

1972 (Fisher-Thompson & Kuhn, 1981). Another dramatic

change in the make-up of the student population is that 72%

of these students over 25 years of age attended school part-

time as compared to only 17% of traditional age students

(Magerrell, 1981). These data significantly affect program

responses aimed at reentry students.

A study by the Association of American Colleges

verified that prior experience in higher education continues

to be a major factor in return to formal education. While

13% of all Americans participated in some form of adult

education, 31% of them had five or more years of higher

education, 26% were college graduates, and 20% had some

college education ("Knowledge gap," 1984). These part-time

adults comprise 26% of the population at universities.

Though significantly less than the 64% enrollment of part-

time reentry students at community colleges, it is still a

major sub-population for universities in these days of

dwindling traditional age students (Hamilton & Wheeler,


Hooper and March (1978) found that 92.8% of the

students over 62 years of age had college experience in

their youth and Kaplan (1981) found 29% of Elderhostel

participants had graduate degrees. It is highly likely that

institutions of higher education will have ever increasing

numbers of returning students as the children of the baby

boom, who attended college in massive numbers, reach their

60s in the year 2035. This society may be in the beginning

phases of the greying of our college campuses.



The trend continues for Americans to change careers, as

one in three does so during a five year period. A national

study in 1974 showed that 77% of the 18 to 60 year olds

wanted to continue their education (Hamilton & Wheeler,

1979). When these data are examined in relation to

information from Rawlins and Davies (1981), that career

related reasons are impetus for 50% of the reentry students,

it appears that education is integrally related to this

trend. However, traditional career related programs may not

be suitable for reentry students as 79% saw themselves as

different than the younger students on campus (Rawlins &

Davies, 1981). Based on this information it is

inappropriate for campuses to force reentry students into

preexisting traditionally oriented programs for career

development. The emphasis is different among reentry

students in that women are more likely to plan careers in

the service professions and identify intellectual

stimulation as the highest goal. Men on the other hand are

more interested in job preparation and career advancement as

managers or in the science oriented professions (Malin,

Bray, Dougherty, & Skinner, 1980).

Typical Reentry Student

Data from the National Center for Educational

Statistics in 1980 described the typical adult student

attending college, as one who is 36 years old, female (57%)

with an income of $20,000 and two years of college (as cited

in Frye, 1980). Frye also noted that this student is

usually looking for career and/or personal enhancement at a

two year college and is probably paying his or her own way.

Eighty-two percent of these students are white and 63% are

married. Over 60% of the married students report having one

or more children (Zeik, 1980). As noted earlier, the

competition to bring this population to campus will increase

as projected enrollments of traditional age students

decline. This was seen by Zeik as potentially destructive

to higher education as a whole as some institutions have not

only exaggerated their claims to potential students, but

have used false advertising campaigns to fill their empty

seats in an effort to remain solvent.

Demands on the System

Adults, as a group, represent more diversity in life

situations, goals, previous experience, skills, intellectual

capacities, and styles of learning than most institutions

are accustomed to acknowledging or planning to serve

(Weathersby & Tarule, 1980). In addition, Walsh (1979)

hypothesized that these adults will return to education with

a background of activism from the 1960s and will be less

passive than traditional students in their demands as their


numbers increase. The future of higher education will be

decided on supply and demand issues and institutions that

wish to succeed must begin to address the market place.

This seemingly inexhaustible supply of students learning

throughout life will demand the programs and services that

will fulfill their needs, not passively accept whatever is

offered (Bulpitt, 1973). Weathersby and Tarule (1980)

stated that the needs and uses of education shift with the

life cycle and that individuals use formal education as a

support for their life transitions. Unfortunately, society

has historically organized higher education primarily around

the developmental tasks of young adults, ages 18 to 25. In

order to respond to the societal changes that exist today,

institutions of higher education must begin to rethink the

role of education in helping older adults find resources to

restructure their lives. Cross (1981a, p. 9) suggested that

institutions encourage a "Blended Life Plan" in which

leisure, education, and work are intertwined throughout life

as opposed to a cyclic life plan that is presently followed

by most individuals and institutions. The demand for

educational services is going to exist and while higher

education is the obvious supplier to meet the demand, there

is no guarantee that another type of institution will not

fill the void that exists for many adults seeking further

educational opportunities.


Program Needs of Reentry Students

Learning is necessary throughout life as new

developmental tasks surface. While most learning is

planned, enjoyment or self-fulfillment is usually the

driving force (Hiemstra, 1976a, p. 38). It is important

then, at minimum, to provide some sort of dialogue about the

teaching-learning situation for learners who become reentry

students, to help them to understand the parameters of the

formal setting they are about to encounter (Candy, 1981).

In 1974 the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that only

20% of the jobs in the United States would require

bachelor's degrees for competent performance in 1980. As a

result, O'Toole (1974) stated that there are four areas for

higher education to address: job fit, relationship between

education and job success, work place educational

opportunities, and certification and credentialism. Bowen

(as cited in Halstead, 1981) further delineated the role of

higher education on the premise that it is wasteful to use

less than all the capacity of the adult as a reentry

student. His 13 principles and proposed guidelines to

maximize the use of this capacity are as follows: adults of

all ages can learn, they need unbiased information about

opportunities to learn, admissions and residence

requirements must be flexible, scheduling must recognize job

and family obligations, instruction should be tailored to

the pragmatic interests of adults, qualified teachers should

be used, services to all should be comparable, instructional

and other costs should be the same, colleges should strive

to reduce monetary and non-monetary barriers to older

student attendance, tuition and fees should be low, supply

of new programs should stay ahead of demand for existing

programs, and adult programs should be of a quality equal to

that of the institution's main program.

We know that students who reenter education have

different needs and expectations and that they are not

always satisfied with their educational experience.

However, one study showed that reentry students at small

universities were more satisfied than those who attend large

universities (Kuh & Sturgis, 1980). The most important goal

of most reentry students (i.e., personal satisfaction)

appears to be the area in which colleges and universities

have been the least successful. There does appear to be a

difference in the experience of students seeking external

degrees, however, as they have responded that both personal

satisfaction and success in the world of work was gained as

a result of their educational experience (Sharp & Sosdian,

1979). One aspect that may be generally overlooked by

institutions when trying to program for reentry needs is

that the population of reentry students is skewed towards

women. Reehling (1979) pointed out that the number of women

over 25 reentering college increased 112% between 1972 and

1979. Institutions will have to structure their services

with a conscious move towards acknowledging the distinction,


if any, between services geared specifically to women or men

if they plan to adequately serve this population.

Creamer and Akins (1981) have identified the major

developmental concerns of adults as both traditional age

students (17 to 25) and older students (25 to 55) (Appendix

B). When comparing the two lists, one is struck by the

change in emphasis in which an individual first learns to be

independent, and then focuses on coping with the changes

that occur as he or she ages. The structures in place at

our educational institutions, in the form of counseling

centers, academic and career advising programs, residential

facilities, health services, and other human service

oriented programs, may well be capable of responding to both

"types" of students. The difference may only be one of

strategy and methodology that is based on a sensitivity to

these different needs, not a total revision of existing

programs or new, narrowly defined programs to serve only

older students.

Orientation to Education

Apt (1978) viewed adults as approaching education from

five different orientations. They are learning, desire for

sociability, personal goals, societal goals, and needs

fulfillment. Some mechanism for lifelong learning has

become a coping skill necessary for both individual and

societal survival (Cross, 1979). The need to stay current

in today's rapidly changing world drives the student in some

cases toward using reentry as one of the available options.

However, this drive does not keep them in higher education

if their expectations and needs are not met. In a study of

continuing education programs at public community colleges

in the State of Florida, program relevance was found to be

significantly related to adult participation (Troup, 1980).

For the most part, it appears that adults reentering higher

education are not dilettantes passing away the empty hours.

Today's adults have more leisure time and must face the

crisis of early obsolescence across the entire range of

careers and professions. No previous generation has had to

face both this blessing and this curse. Additionally, they

retire earlier and live longer (Boyer, 1974). As a result,

Boyer suggests that we build more flexible scheduling

arrangements into undergraduate years, mix formal and

informal learning throughout the adult working years, and

give more than lip service to older men and women. Adults

interested in higher education ranked personal contact with

the institution as the most important reason for choosing to

reenter (Apt, 1978). When they arrive, they need a firm

grounding in the intellectual basics, knowledge of

themselves as developing human beings, and a sense of

belonging that fosters a sharing of ideas and values

(MacPike, 1981). They will push the university or college

to be more flexible and if present in sufficient numbers

will force a change in the educational environment.

Family, career, physical, and psychological concerns

dealt with from the perspective of addressing an

individual's appropriate developmental tasks will provide a

legitimate focus for programming (Merriam, 1978). While it

appears that part-time study is the present norm for reentry

students, there are some alternatives that allow for both

academic progress and acknowledgement of the time and

financial commitments of adults. Evening programs, summer

programs, weekend colleges, co-op arrangements, internships,

and external degree programs have proven successful at a

variety of institutions (Hall, 1980). These approaches can

be broken into two distinct categories. An institution can

modify its regular schedules and/or it can add special

reentry oriented seminars. In addition to the programs that

Hall identified are self-directed study, competency based

education, credit for learning from life experience, taking

courses from a number of schools in a broader interpretation

of independent study (the expanded classroom), and allowing

for holistic planning to respond to personal educational and

career goals (Blaze & Nero, 1979, p. 5) which provide more

alternatives to meet the diverse needs expressed by reentry


Frye (1980) suggested the establishment of a lifelong

learning or human resource center for coordination of these

programs provided its goals and limitations were clearly

defined and the academic departments were tied to it. This

program recommendation addresses both the broad and specific

needs of reentry students. He suggested, with a touch of

cynicism, that institutions allow students to have both

dignity and registration; use new students as a reason to

repair bad instructors; provide that requirements for adults

not be lessened; insure that teachers provide course

objectives and explain how they are used; remove all

artificial time constraints; make no assumptions about the

ability of the students enrolled; insure that faculty give

only meaningful, justifiable assignments; integrate adults'

experience into the classroom; allow adults time to adjust;

have early evaluations and assignments for success in

academic settings; and recognize adults' needs for positive


Demko (1979) suggested that the key to a successful

program for adults is to develop easier access to programs,

to recognize the many subgroups in the population and to

market specialized programs to those distinct populations.

The relationship between the students and the institution at

this point centers on the admissions function (Fauquet,

1983). Adults perceive that universities do not usually

want them to enroll (Chambers, 1980) so it is critical that

some mechanism addresses their unique circumstances to

encourage participation. The students must pass this

potential "bottleneck" and proceed into established programs

with some support from the institution. An important aspect

of any successful program with adults involves some

opportunity for counseling, preferably by professionals, as

opposed to administrators or teachers as is more likely

(Knox, 1979). Courtney and Wozniak (1978) added that

attrition diminishes when an emphasis is placed on the

development of life-coping skills as a part of accepted

instructional settings and techniques. Adults are most

likely to want some individualized contact with one person

centering on developmental needs they are experiencing

(Olski, 1980). Opportunities to seek personalized help must

be available as a support service for adults.

It is not always necessary to have major changes to

meet the needs of reentry students. Sensitivity to

differences and flexible policies and procedures can be very

helpful in creating a positive environment for reentry

students (Rawlins & Davies, 1981). Even without specific

programs for reentry students, many individuals have been

both persistent and successful (Rheeling, 1980).

Sensitivity to their needs is best gained experientially by

the staff of the institution. Student contact is far

superior to pencil and paper needs assessments in gaining

information about the campus environment for reentry

students. An established student support group provides a

vocal collection of students who can identify the needs of

their peers and the underlying relative importance of those

needs to those who care to listen (Plotsky, 1976).


Programs and Specific Needs '

The concept of providing lifelong learning

opportunities has few enemies until it becomes necessary to

make changes in the traditional practices of the institution

(Cross, 1981a). The institution must undertake an

evaluative/planning process through which it identifies the

needs of its students, faculty, and staff and its potential

students. The focus however must be on the potential

clients of the institution if it is to be successful

(Murphy, 1981). Murphy suggested a review by the

institution of its mission and capability, a market analysis

of the community, and a series of campus discussions to

include faculty, administrators, and students as starting

points in beginning to change an institution towards serving

reentry students.

Hodgkinson (1976) stated that there are presently four

things institutions can do to attract reentry students

without a marked effort. They can leave the campus open

through extended hours of operation, provide a liberal

studies adult program, provide individualized study, and

offer degrees by examination. All of the above are

presently offered to varying degrees at many institutions.

A change in emphasis to include reentry students in these

established programs may be all that is needed to serve many

of these individuals. Sherer, Herrig, and Noel (1978)

recommended that administrators first research the market

place and be willing to adjust the college's programs to


meet reentry student needs. Through these programs it

should then provide credit for prior learning, foster self-

understanding, build self-confidence, provide a relevant

education, and fit the adult's learning style. They go on

to suggest that specific programs involving better

counseling and advisement, special orientation programs,

improved registration procedures, more alternatives in the

class schedules, more financial assistance, an increased

awareness by faculty regarding reentry students, and

increased social contact with their peers to improve the

environment and help retain these students when they do


Carbone (1982) placed more of an emphasis on working

with the staff and faculty. By educating and orienting the

faculty to flextime and class scheduling variations,

providing resources about adults and their unique concerns

to the faculty through the college library and a campus wide

conference on adults, and providing tuition free classes for

faculty members on the topic of adult development the

institution can significantly change the environment it

offers to the various student populations who enter, or as

in this case reenter.

Kegel (1977) recommended an extensive list of services

and programs to serve reentry students. These include the

development of special brochures and publications directed

at reentry students; modification of registration

requirements for the convenience of adults so that they can

register by telephone, by mail, at odd hours, and possibly

at off campus locations; a reentry specific orientation

program; programs to familiarize faculty and counselors to

the extent that adults are attending the institution;

flexible hours for counselors; a financial aid service that

is aware of reentry students; child care facilities; a

newsletter and a general inclusion of reentry students in

committees and events at the institution.

Saslaw (1981) viewed programs and services from the

perspective that most reentry students are employed part-

time students. The focus, then, is on helping students

develop academic skills and working with schedules,

curricula, and instruction that are appropriate to adult

responsibilities. Saslaw suggested that institutions modify

admission policies, financial aid, and program requirements

to serve these students more directly. Wintersteen (1982)

placed more responsibility on the student by primarily

providing an information and referral service geared to

reentry students and a reentry student handbook.

Additionally, Wintersteen suggested that institutions should

provide a returning student program, have a recruitment and

retention program, provide career and vocational counseling,

provide social support services, give credit for prior

learning, and provide academic alternatives to returning

students. Many of these components were used in developing

a program for returning homemakers at a California community

college in providing a unique alternative to traditional


classes and through specialized recruitment. The result was

the development of a strong sense of community among the

reentry students in the program with a 60% retention rate

and a 100%+ increase in enrollment the following term

(Taines, 1973).

Rawlins and Davies (1981) found that many reentry

students wanted daytime classes so they could attend while

their children were in school, overnight accommodations for

commuters, a counselor specifically for adults, workshops

aimed at reentry students, and a reentry oriented brochure.

Roach (1976) recommended that colleges provide counselors

for adults as reentry students, assertiveness training,

support groups, conferences to train staff and the student's

family, some form of personal support to students, and an

orientation program.

Corrado and Mangano (1982) suggested that activities be

designated for students and their families, that

institutions establish student support networks and a peer

counseling program to augment support from staff members,

and that they provide information on career and academic

options and life span development. They also recommended

workshops to sensitize faculty and administration to reentry

students, a change in the type of instruction to include

home television and off campus options, easier registration

procedures for adults (such as an off campus location),

tutorial services, a staff designated to work with adults,

and child care services.


Cunningham (as cited in Lance, Lourie, & Mayo, 1979)

stated that "the older student cannot (and will not)

completely fit into a system molded for an 18 year old" (p.

10). Institutions must look at the differences in this

population and respond to the unique subgroups. To address

these differences, Lance, Lourie, and Mayo (1979) surveyed

reentry university students and found that reentry females

expressed stronger needs than reentry males. The needs of

both male and female reentry students include a designated

reentry admissions counselor, an appropriate orientation to

campus, an exclusive lounge area for older students, peer

counselors, a specialized credit course for reentry students

to ease the transition, help with reading and writing

skills, availability of individual counseling, possibility

of career exploration, workshops on career development,

communication and human relations skills, a day care center,

a reentry column in the student newspaper, and help with

general academic skills. The latter can be augmented with a

basic skills assessment to identify and correct weaknesses

before they become a negative influence on the student

(Suddick & Vaccaro, 1983).

A 1976 study at the University of Massachusetts-

Amherst, where 47% of the student population is over 25

years of age, identified financing academic studies,

locating housing, opportunities for leisure, and

opportunities to rethink educational and career plans as

primary needs of the students (Valley, 1979). Notably


lacking from this list of needs when compared to others is

that alternative schedules and special orientations are not

mentioned as primary needs. Given the size of the older

student population it is possible that those needs have

previously been addressed when the reentry population first

gained significance at the institution.

Services provided by "Students Over Traditional Age"

(SOTA) groups at many institutions focus on social

activities, academic assistance, referrals, and

interpersonal growth. These peer oriented support groups

are most helpful in dealing with the self-motivating reentry

students (Hunt & Stone, 1979).

Rawlins (1979), when asking students over 30 years of

age, found that they not only needed help with enrollment

procedures, improvement in services relating to housing,

financial aid, child care, and academic advising, but that

they viewed themselves as different from traditional age

students and that they perceived their needs as being

different. A longitudinal study of 1000 individuals who

were 30 years of age identified needs in career planning,

information about health services, and guidance in human

relations skills with an emphasis on marriage (DiSilvestro,


In response to many of the issues discussed previously,

the University of Texas at Dallas decided to establish a

college to deal specifically with reentry students. While

the courses for the Bachelor of General Studies degree were

drawn from other colleges at the university, the support

services and non-academic programs were designed to meet the

needs of those enrolled in what the students called

"Maturity College." These services included community

outreach and recruitment, admissions counseling,

orientation, academic advising by faculty familiar with

counseling reentry students, financial aid, informal

socializing, independent study and flexible scheduling, and

extra-curricular activities (Galerstein, 1977). This focus

of reentry services allows for greater visibility of the

programs and support systems for students. However, the

services are basically the same for all students and are

probably duplicated in other places on the campus.

Saslaw (1981), combining the recommendations of the

Carnegie Commission and the Women's Reentry Project:

Project of the Status and Education of Women, provided a

summary of specific needs of reentry students. The needs

she identified are an admission policy based on ability and

achievement, recruitment at the undergraduate and graduate

level, financial aid, counseling services, career

development programs, faculty role models, academic

counseling, psychological counseling dealing with family

issues and personal problems, flexible scheduling of

courses, ease of credit transfer, availability of credit for

experiential learning, non-standard credit programs, skill

refresher or remedial courses, child care provisions, and

adequate, safe parking and transportation.

Creange (1980) suggested that institutions evaluate

existing programs for accessibility and orientation toward

adults. He grouped these programs as information services,

transportation and commuter services, medical insurance and

health services, student employment and placement services,

legal services, and extracurricular activities. Hall (1980)

added more specific programs and services to Creange's list

by including recruitment, admissions and registration,

financial aid, transfer policies and residency requirements,

flexible course scheduling, and additional support services

such as extended hours, child care, and basic skills and

refresher courses.

Malin et al. (1980) grouped the needs of reentry

students into three broad categories of time problems,

financial aid, and counseling/career. These are seen as

primarily "first services" to get the reentry student

started in an academic program. Subsequent services,

however, must be provided to keep the student enrolled and

progressing towards individual goals. Rawlins (1979)

proposed that during initial enrollment, the student should,

throughout all of the academic and interpersonal components,

have an opportunity for personal counseling regarding

reentry and the evaluation of prior academic work.

Following this process are services of orientation, an

informational outlet for reentry concerns, support groups,

inservice programs to effect change in the system, and the


need for special efforts by the institutions to ensure that

adults are aware of existing services.

Kasworm (1980a) found that older students have less

usage and perceived satisfaction and need for what she

called "Campus Assimilation Services" such as orientation,

on-campus housing, the student union, and campus affiliated

religious centers. The same was true for "Mandatory

Interaction Services" such as health services, student union

activities, and academic advising. Older students and

younger students reported the same level of usage and

perceived satisfaction and need for "Individualized Academic

Community Services" such as personal counseling, financial

aid, career/vocational counseling, study skills, tutoring,

and job placement. The major distinction appears to be that

older students viewed on-campus services that were readily

available to them in the larger community as less valuable.

The element of personalization is the key for adults.

Services that give individualized, specialized support that

reentry students can personalize to their unique concerns

are seen as worthwhile and will be utilized.

Free Standing Programs for Adults

Karwin (as cited in Carnegie Commission, 1973, p. 107)

proposed the concept of a "Learning Pavilion" as an academic

center to address the individualized nature of adult

learning. Facilities that include a centralized study room,

seminar rooms, tutorial rooms, counseling offices,


administrative offices, technical support and storage,

typing rooms, a child care center, and a parking lot would

be a hub of activity and support the services needed for

adults as reentry students and as a continuing education

center for the institution and community. Outside of the

academic world it could be equally useful as a free standing

lifelong learning center in a community.

Flohr and Sweeney (1982) proposed that an "Adult

Learning Specialist" is needed with expertise in the

institution's program offerings and academic requirements,

adult development and learning styles, individual assessment

techniques, occupational and vocational information, and

written and verbal communication skills. This individual

would serve as the "Dean of Students" for reentry students

and could be connected to existing offices or stand alone in

conjunction with an "Evening College" or "Learning


Educators must possess an increasing variety of roles

to serve adults. They must have an understanding of the

adult educator, the field of adult education, the adult

learner, adult education environment, programing, and the

learning process (Rossman & Bunning, 1978). The General

Report of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and

Development (1977) stated that it is essential that modern

societies respond to adults as legitimate learners for

social, economic, and cultural reasons. The needs of

reentry students are well documented and closely tied to the


needs of traditional students. Institutions can easily

provide many of the necessary services by modifying the

perceptions of staff and faculty and filling the gaps in

existing services with new programs and support services.

Academic Needs

Adults are people whose lives are overflowing with

commitments, obligations, and burdens. The time and energy

available to invest in academic pursuits must compete with

personal, social, family, community, and other tasks,

responsibilities, and diversions that press upon the lives

of most adults (Lenz, 1982, p. 2). While the necessity to

adapt to the changing circumstances of life constitutes a

powerful motivating force (Cross, 1981a, p. 2), the

conflicts that arise can inhibit or stop the attainment of

educational goals without support from the academic

components of a college or university program. Creamer and

Akins (1981) suggested that a substantially different

environment in content and teaching method is required to

create an optimum condition for the development of older

students. One way to address this environmental distinction

is to base learning on what the United Nations Educational

Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) viewed as the

seven literacies. These are stated as communication skills,

scientific perspective, sense of time and history, sense of

space (connection of parts), arts and aesthetics, knowledge

of the body, and Homo Faber (understanding of ourself as a


producer) (Rivera, 1978). However, curricular content is

only one part of the equation when dealing with adults

reentering higher education. These curricular areas must

then be viewed in the context of differing theories of adult

development to adequately address their academic needs.

Learning Characteristics of Adults

Adults expect the skills they acquired through life

experience to be valued and recognized (Prager, 1983). They

are not the passive attendants that institutions have

perceived the traditional age student to be in the past.

Programs and services that give reentry students an

opportunity to review skills previously acquired can support

enhanced self-esteem and improved academic performance and

educational aspirations (Prager, 1983). Hendrix and Stoel

(1982) stated that there is a new and revived interest in

liberal education with characteristics that follow Kolb's

integrative approach to education for adults. There is a

focus on helping the individual become an active and

independent learner, rather than one who is passive and

dependent, and an emphasis on generic knowledge and skills

rather than those that are specialized. Flexibility to

continue learning, confronting personal and societal values,

an understanding of their cultures, and concern for the

needs and problems of the future are also indicative of the

move by institutions toward integrative learning.


Whitesage (1979) stated that we should discuss the

limitations of degrees for adult learners instead of using

them to merely keep struggling institutions afloat.

Seventy-five percent of reentry students are looking for

skill improvement; however, only 5% of the adults that are

on campus are credit seeking (Tough, 1977). Tough suggested

that the emphasis should be on teaching them how to learn,

not what to learn. This is crucial when considering that

only 10% of an adult's learning comes through a formal

setting, though 90% of adults conduct at least one major

learning event each year (Tough, 1981). Institutions can

play a major role in affecting the development of lifelong

learning skills during a student's relatively brief stay in

the formal educational setting.

Hunter and McCants (1977) found that students over 24

years of age showed a stronger preference than younger

students for structure and organization in the academic

setting. Those who chose to return wanted a formal setting

in the classroom. Their strong desire to succeed as

students is indicated in that older students are more likely

to have a high grade point average (GPA) and married women

are more likely to be high achievers as measured by GPA (Von

der Embse & Childs, 1979). Men, on the other hand, are less

successful in adjusting than women in that they have less

positive intellectual and personal achievement during their

educational experience and suffered more from family

complaints about time commitments and the amount of money

spent on their education (Malin et al., 1980).

The effect of aging on the learning process must be

considered when providing academic experiences for reentry

students. However, there is a distinction to acknowledge.

Research has shown that the "speed" of learning is affected

but not the "ability" to learn as one gets older (Frye,

1980). Older students, for a variety of factors, have shown

that they can be very successful in an academic setting when

the conditions exist that allow them to balance their

multiple roles and acknowledge their difference from

traditional students.

Learning Styles and Needs

In the academic setting, learning and the individual's

current developmental roles and concerns are directly and

intimately related. Adults have extensive experience that

learning can help to transform or extend through focusing on

the meaning, values, skills, and strategies previously

acquired. This is coupled with the external societal

pressures presently forcing new learning to occur, so that

adults can remain productive in a society of rapid change.

The learning needs of adults center on current life

situations from a practical and developmental standpoint

(Brundage & MacKeracher, 1980). Relevance quickly becomes a

key issue when adults reenter higher education.

Smith (1976) stated that adults take new information

and incorporate it into previously organized patterns of

knowledge. Their learning style can be understood in terms

of amount of autonomy, procedures to be used, the pace and

timing of learning, and the sensory paths best utilized.

Adults are more likely to use generalized, abstract thought

and are likely to express their own needs and learning

process to instructors which allows them to negotiate and

collaborate in planning their own learning experience

(Brundage & MacKeracher, 1980). They differentiate between

learning styles, which is the "changing" of meanings,

values, skills, and strategies and cognitive styles which is

"organizing" experience into meanings, values, skills, and

strategies. In attempting to meet the academic needs of

reentry students, Brundage and MacKeracher suggest five

guidelines for institutions and instructors to incorporate

into their philosophical base. They are as follows: every

adult has his or her own individualistic style for

processing information and for learning, no information is

available on how adults develop their learning style,

teachers must acquire skills in facilitating learning

styles, there is no best way to learn, and adults self-

select learning institutions.

Lenz (1982, p. 24) cited special learning problems of

adults that include the learning conditions (physical

surroundings), psychological barriers, memory barriers, poor

study habits, and basic skills deficiencies. Though the


reentry student has become a significant subculture on

campus today, institutions still assume that these students

should adapt to the environment designed for 18-22 year olds

(Kasworm, 1980a). We continue to use formal schooling (in

the most traditional sense) as the way to educate adults.

Paradoxically, most adults do not use a formal setting for

their learning, so success of those few who attempt to adapt

to the environment of campus are the pioneers who may

broaden the educational opportunities on college campuses

for their less adventurous peers.

Billingham and Travagliani (1981) found five

characteristics to predict success in an individualized

degree program. They are age at entry (the earlier the

better), GPA, number of hours transferred or obtained

through experiential learning, types of learning options

utilized, and attitude towards personnel and counselors of

the institution (if they saw them as helpful). The biggest

breakdown in programs for reentry students comes not from

lack of support services or academic services, but from the

fact that there are no combined programs that provide

support services and academic content in one program

(MacPike, 1981). There is no coordination between the

various components of an institution to meet the needs of

the whole student. The result of this type of response by

institutions is that there is a lack of some services at

worst and duplication of other services that if combined


could provide resources for other needed services not being


Strategies for Serving Academic Needs

Tarule and Weathersby (1979) stated that the

developmental process is a continuously more sophisticated

way of learning how to learn. The style by which an

individual learns is thus an important consideration that

allows one to adapt to new and unfamiliar surroundings

against the context of the learner's environment and

experience (Pigg, Busch, & Lacy, 1980). There are many

similarities between effective teaching of young adults and

older adults as reentry students. However, older adults are

unique individuals in their breadth of life experiences,

demands on their time, varied and competing sources of

attention, approach toward the learning task, and inactivity

of learning and study skills (Forman & Richardson, 1976).

Brundage and MacKeracher (1980) stated that all adults,

when entering a new learning experience, begin with

dependent type behaviors and move toward interdependent

learning behaviors as they proceed. During this process,

adults utilize three modes of learning described as

directing, facilitating, and collaborating. All three are

important at various times for the learner but there is no

best mode for a teacher-learner relationship. A variety of

situational factors affect the best mode at the time of

learning. These include subject matter, size of class,

availability of other resources, and interest level and

abilities of the students among others.

Lueers (1983) stated that it is important to get adults

involved in their learning both practically and emotionally.

Relevance to their goals as learners is critical, as is a

connection to the vast store of knowledge they already

possess prior to their reentry. Lueers suggested that

differentiated learning styles and a slower pace, coupled

with non-cognitive factors such as support and assistance,

will be productive in getting and keeping adults involved.

Frankel and Brennan (1983), however, viewed this

relationship more simply and suggested that the goal is to

help the adult students see themselves as autonomous

individuals by teaching problem solving through a case study

approach. The latter method, also supported by Lueers, is

designed to get the students involved with the learning

process. It is integrative in nature as it addresses

multiple skills, different learning modes as described by

Kolb, and an interface with previous experiences of the


Lenz (1982, p. 21) developed the following criteria

necessary for adult learning to occur: the information has

some personal meaning for them, they can relate what they

are studying to their learning goals, they are active

participants in the learning process, they are exploring new

information and experience, the learning sessions are

uninterrupted and extended over a substantial span of time,


they can consolidate what they have learned before going on

to new information and skills, they receive feedback during

learning, and they can learn in an unpressured, non-

competitive environment. Lenz also restates the uniqueness

of adults and supports the learner-centered approach to

education to complement the individuality that is lacking in

a subject-centered curriculum. Adults favor a

multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary approach to learning

in order to integrate phenomena into their experience. The

most suitable teacher-student model in this context becomes

one of three relationships: host-guest, client-consultant,

or partnership.

Knowles (1973, p. 102) stated the goal of teaching is

one of providing procedures and resources to help learners,

not the mere transmittal of information and skills. He

describes an "androgogical teacher" as one who establishes a

climate conducive to learning, creates a mechanism for

mutual planning, diagnoses the need for learning, formulates

program objectives that will satisfy needs, designs a

pattern of learning experiences, conducts experiences with

suitable techniques and materials, evaluates the learning

outcomes, and rediagnoses learning needs.

Weathersby (1976) cited the purpose of formal education

as one of legitimizing continued development by easing the

transition through the various life phases. Institutions,

then, should respond to life phase issues through enhancing

consciousness of adult development, extending the definition


of legitimate learning, reconceptualizing educational goals

(learning styles as well as content), analyzing the

assumptions underlying programs, reviewing policies and

instructional methods in the context of adults as learners,

and support of the faculty (Tarule & Weathersby, 1979).

Programs that provide for integration of prior life
experience, life planning activities with future academic

experience, and academic programs that demand the use of

analysis and communication, address some of these issues

(Hendrix & Stoel, 1982). As an example, Lake (1980)

described a simple program designed to meet the needs of

blue collar workers on shift work that is totally

individualized (including orientation to the program)

through the use of audio tape, while Zeik (1980) suggested

the "weekend college," which mixes experiential and

classroom contact, as another method to serve adults in new

ways. Both programs have continued problems with advising

and counseling but are able to address other barriers that

restrict reentry and offer learning experiences to those who

would ordinarily be excluded from formal education.

Of course, night programs, weekend colleges, and the

like are not a panacea. While two-thirds of the

institutions of higher education have programs that include

directed reading, life work experience, independent study,

travel study, community projects, internships, and even no

class requirements the problems arise where there is a heavy

dependence on unsupervised part-time faculty and little, if


any, available auxiliary services such as libraries, a

counseling center, and a bookstore (Zeik, 1980).

Rawlins and Davies (1981) supported the idea that major

changes will not be needed to meet the needs of reentry

students. Instead, sensitivity and flexible policies and

procedures can accomplish significant change to meet these

needs. In a traditional view of education, knowledge that

is taught remains static while knowledge that is used tends

to be dynamic (Ingram, 1979, p. 8). Many perceive colleges

and universities as remaining static in today's rapidly

changing world. It is clear that higher education, in

particular, must begin to provide society with adaptable

individuals who are relevant through their knowledge of how

to learn, not what they have learned, if the gap between

what is needed by society and the individual and what is

offered by the educational system is to narrow.

Experiential Learning Theory

In an attempt to resolve the gap between what is

offered by higher education and what is needed by society

and reentry students, Kolb has developed a model for

education that combines learning theory with developmental

concerns across the life span of individuals. He began by

defining learning as the process whereby knowledge is

created through the transformation of experience (1985, p.

36). Learning is a continuous process that is grounded in

experience, where present experiences as well as those

incorporated from the past are repeatedly compared to form

new knowledge and effect new experiences. In this context,

the outcomes of learning are not as critical as the process

that is used. Kolb viewed this process as holistic in

nature yet involving opposing modes of adaptation to the

world. This opposition must be resolved for learning to

become incorporated into knowledge. Learning has to be

related to the interaction between the person and the

environment while resolving the conflicts that arise as an

individual tries to adapt to the world. When applying this

concept to education, learning that combines work and study

as well as theory and practice provides the individual with

a better opportunity to test new information against their

own accumulated experience and wisdom (Kolb, 1985, p. 6).

This is very important to those who reenter higher education

as they demand that there be some relevance to the

educational experiences they are required to complete.

The learning process is conceptualized as a four stage

cycle through which an individual proceeds. Learning begins

with the Concrete Experience (CE) of the individual and

leads to Reflective Observation (RO) during which the

individual digests the experience and reflects on it from a

variety of perspectives. The third stage in the learning

cycle calls for Abstract Conceptualization (AC) in which the

observations are integrated into reasonably sound theories

for personal use. This leads to the final stage of Active

Experimentation (AE) in which these theories are put into

use to make decisions about the surrounding world and to

solve problems that may arise (Kolb, 1981, p. 236). The

natural progression is that this experimentation leads to

new experiences which will begin the cycle again. The new

cycle will of course be affected by the previous


These four stages call for the individual to use

opposing methods (modes) of learning as they proceed through

the cycle. The individual moves alternatingly from being

directly involved with the experience to detaching himself

or herself to analyze the event. Kolb (1981, p. 236) has

described this contrast as moving from actor to observer or

specific involvement to general analytic detachment. The

successful learner is one who is able to choose the most

appropriate method to use at any given moment while learning

and will move back and forth between interaction and


Kolb has gone a step farther with his theory of

learning than those who view learning as purely a cognitive

process. Building on the work of Lewin in the 1940s and the

sensitivity training of the 1950s and 1960s, he has proposed

an interface between learning and experience that addresses

the distinct role that experience plays when an individual

learns. However, once experience is interjected into the

model, time and the effect of cumulative experience must be

addressed as well. In response to this factor he has added


a third dimension to the model to identify human development

issues and stages as they relate to experiential learning.

To simplify the model, Kolb has divided the human

growth process into three broad developmental stages (Kolb &

Fry, as cited in Kolb, 1981). Acquisition is the period

that lasts from birth to adolescence during which the major

learning tasks center around cognitive structures and basic

learning abilities. This stage has been studied extensively

by Piaget as a cognitive learning theorist. The next stage,

specialization, brings the individual through formal

education or career training into early adulthood and

focuses on the development of a distinct learning style that

best meets an individual's needs in a chosen career path.

Multiple forces are at work during this stage, internally

and externally, to shape the individual's learning style.

The final stage is identified as integration and begins at

approximately mid-career for most individuals. Integration

is marked by the emergence of the non-dominant learning

modes that have been held down by the dominant mode needed

to succeed in a chosen career path. There is a rebirth of

enthusiasm at this point in an individual's life that could

result in a career change, a significant lifestyle change or

new direction in the previously chosen career. This stage

coincides with what some have identified as the mid-life

crisis. Kolb, however, has placed it into a context where

it cannot be considered to be a crisis, but instead a

natural growth stage that is best described as a resolution

of previous learning through experience.

With the interface between the circular model of the

learning cycle and the vertical continuum model of personal

growth, the experiential learning model of Kolb now assumes

the shape of a cone. This model of a cone shows the

changing relationship of the learning modes through the

three stages of development. The base of the cone is

represented by the acquisition stage with the four learning

modes at their polar positions on a circle. As an

individual moves through time, represented by the vertical

axis of the cone, the four learning modes move closer to

each other as the individual's desire for integration of his

or her learning increases.

Kolb (1985, p. 162) has stated that integration has

suffered in higher education in the modern era. The

increased emphasis on professional education and the

specialization of the curriculum has limited the amount of

integration of learning that is possible. Add to that the

size of some universities and the logistics of instructing

large student populations and it becomes more apparent why

there is little emphasis on experiential learning as a

planned part of the curriculum. However, with today's new

student populations, there is a rich resource for

integrative development. Dialogue across the age levels at

a university provides an opportunity for new experiences and

learning in a context of lifelong learning (Kolb, 1985,


p. 207). The richness of these interactions can add

dramatically to the learning experiences of all members of

the educational community.

Ultimately for experiential learning, as Kolb has

envisioned it, to occur, the entire institutional context is

at issue. The departments, university structure, mission

and philosophy of education, alternative learning

environments available, selection and evaluation criteria

for faculty and students, social networks outside of

classes, campus atmosphere, and the like (Kolb, 1985, p.

205) must provide opportunities for integrated learning

experiences as the norm, not as special programs for those

who seek them out. Institutions have the resources to

provide the opportunity for learning that addresses the

entire learning cycle and the increasing size of reentry

student populations at institutions is providing the

necessary demand for this shift in emphasis in curriculum.

What is needed is a shift of focus that will allow these

vast resources of our institutions of higher education to

meet the needs of these students and society.


The adult student is returning and will continue to

return to formal education to address personal and career

related issues. Whether it is the credentials it bestows or

merely the depth and breadth of university life that is

attracting reentry students is unimportant. The focus of


education has always been the college campus, and though new

forums and technologies will expand opportunity, the nucleus

of higher education remains the campus with its faculty,

library, and in the most basic sense, its ivy covered walls.

Institutions of higher education are attracting

increasing numbers of adults and incorporating them into the

main stream of traditional university life. It is not a

fair assessment of the abilities of these adult students to

merely grant them admission and assign them a class

schedule. Universities can provide the support services

necessary to ensure the success of adults returning to

education and in the process provide an updated, well

educated, and enriched work force for society.

While it is arguable that there may be better

alternatives for adults to continue their learning, they, as

individuals, have chosen in many instances to join

university communities and as tuition paying members make

demands of both academic and human services. The

responsibility now rests with the various institutions that

open their doors to this expanded student population, to

address the resulting expanded needs. Failure to respond

adequately may very well result in disgruntled, frustrated,

and angry citizens who are disenchanted with formal

education and probably less than sympathetic to the fiscal

and philosophical issues that face higher education today.

Addressing the needs of reentry students will provide the


opportunity for a successful experience when student and

institution interact, and increase the value of both.

Determining the needs of this diverse population prior

to attempting service delivery is critical in this period of

limited resources for higher education. Institutions and

individuals must acknowledge their desires, basic needs,

limitations, and values to begin addressing the global needs

of reentry students in an organized and thoughtful manner.

This study begins to identify these similarities and

differences and provides a starting point for institutions

and reentry students to begin this process of serving

diverse student needs.


The justification for a study of reentry students has

been outlined in Chapter I and supported by a review of

available literature in Chapter II. This chapter will

explain the process used to complete this study including

the development of a survey instrument, identification of

the sample, and the compilation and analysis techniques of

the acquired data.

Development of the Instrument

A review of current literature was utilized to begin to

identify both the expressed needs of reentry students at

colleges and universities and the programs and services that

have been designed to meet those needs. Studies that

focused on providing academic and human service support for

reentry students at community colleges, private

universities, small state colleges, and large public

universities were identified through a search of the ERIC

data base and professional journals. This provided a broad

cross section of programs and institutional responses to

reentry students under a variety of conditions and

institutional programs. Though the study was limited to two



large public universities, resources of typical institutions

of higher education were used as a basis for determining the

variety of programs in existence for reentry students. This

method identified the widest range of programs that could

conceivably exist at a large multifunction university.

Through the various resources identified in this manner, an

extensive list of needs was generated by combining the

results and recommendations of the various studies and

reports (Appendix C). Kolb's theory of experiential

learning was used to organize the list of reentry student

needs around central themes that he identified as the

context of the institution. The structure of the survey

addressed the following areas: structure of the

institution, mission and philosophy of education,

alternative learning environment, selection and evaluation

of students and faculty, social networks outside of class,

and campus atmosphere (Kolb, 1985, p. 205). Kolb states

that for integration to exist at an institution, certain

conditions must be met within the context of the institution

as outlined above.

Within the structure of the institution, reentry

students should be integrated into the traditional

population of the institution and its curriculum to

encourage dialogue across age levels (Kolb, 1985, p. 207),

and successful programs should have a focal point for

learning such as the role of the professional or in

utilizing learning methods that require multiple


perspectives (Kolb, 1981, p. 252). In the mission and

philosophy of education, the institution should encourage

the development of lifelong learning skills (Kolb, 1981, p.

252) and acknowledge and address the diverse student

population across age levels. The institution should offer

alternative learning environments by providing learning

experiences that are directly tied to adult experience

(Kolb, 1981, p. 252) through internships, co-op work

programs, work study programs, independent study, and

external degrees. Additionally, the faculty should offer

methods in the classroom that combine work and study with

theory and practice (Kolb, 1985, p. 6). Through the

selection and evaluation of students and faculty, there

should be flexible admissions and residency requirements,

the granting of credit for prior learning, and an

understanding by the faculty of the diversity of various

learning styles (Kolb, 1985, p. 6). Social networks outside

of class should support opportunities for reentry students

to interact socially and through student activities, and

provide opportunities for dialogue across age levels in a

social context (Kolb, 1985, p. 207). In the final area of

campus atmosphere, the institution should express an

acceptance of the diverse nature of the student population

and an acceptance of reentry students as part of the student

population (Kolb, 1985, p. 6).

The survey instrument was constructed by developing

open ended questions that corresponded to the needs of

reentry students identified in the review of literature as

they applied to these central themes. The focus of the

questions addressed the degree of integration of learning

experiences as identified by Kolb, to determine how each

institution attempted to meet the needs of reentry students

at the later stages of adult development. The questions

were then organized into a structured interview format that

was used as the survey instrument (Appendix D). Each

interview was intended to last approximately 30 minutes. As

each question was open ended, there was the possibility for

further exploration of some issues through follow-up

questions by the interviewer for purposes of clarification.

Selection of Subjects

Two institutions were selected to be the focus of this

study. The individual subjects were then selected from the

populations of these institutions. The criteria used to

select these institutions and the individual respondents are

described in detail below.

Selection of Institutions

This study gathered data from individuals at the

University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville and the University

of Georgia (UGA) in Athens after they were identified as

being the largest public institutions in their respective


states with each having an identifiable population of

reentry students.

The University of Florida

Located in Gainesville, UF is the largest and oldest

university in the State University System of Florida with a

traceable history from 1853. In 1906 the university was

established in Gainesville and merged with the land grant

college that had been located in Lake City. It is a

residential campus with total enrollment in the fall of 1985

of over 36,000, the largest university in the south, and the

10th largest in the nation. Along with Ohio State

University and the University of Minnesota, it offers more

academic programs on a single campus than all other public

and private institutions with over 114 academic majors and

correlating graduate programs located in 20 colleges and

schools. The University of Florida is one of nine

universities governed by the State Board of Regents in

Florida. It is recognized nationally for its programs in

agriculture, forestry, engineering, and accounting. The

campus includes a major medical center which houses the

Colleges of Medicine, Dentistry, and Veterinary Medicine

among others and the university has a College of Law

(University of Florida, 1985, p. 3).

Gainesville is a city of approximately 85,000 in the

northern part of Florida. There are no major metropolitan

areas within easy commuting distance of the campus so


students must reside in the Gainesville area to attend UF.

Consequently, the large residential student population

causes the university to have a strong influence on the

economic and physical environment of Gainesville and the

surrounding area. The presence of UF is also visible

throughout the state through the Institute of Food and

Agricultural Science which supports facilities and extension

programs in all Florida counties. There are individual

academic programs that exist off campus serving specific

urban populations, but the focus of UF is as a research

center for the state of Florida in the form of a traditional

university. The university was selected in 1985 to join the

Association of American Universities (University of Florida,

1985, p. 3).

The University of Georgia

Founded in 1785 and physically established in 1801, the

University of Georgia (UGA) is located in Athens, a city

with a population of over 75,000 located approximately 60

miles east of Atlanta. The university has a traditional

liberal arts background and was broadened to become a land

grant university in 1872. It presently is organized into 13

schools and colleges with a fall 1985 enrollment of

approximately 26,000 and since 1931 has been governed by the

Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. The

strong traditional influence is evident in its motto: To

teach and to inquire into the nature of things.


Subsequently, it views itself as a research center that has

both a primary focus on teaching and as a provider of

service to the state through its extension and continuing

education programs (University of Georgia, 1985, p. 3).

Selection of Administrators

A telephone directory of each institution was obtained

to identify individuals who held specific positions in the

administration. Emphasis was placed on identifying those

individuals who held the following positions or their

closest counterpart: vice President for Academic Affairs,

Associate or Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs,

Vice President for Student Affairs, Dean of Students,

Registrar, Director of Admissions, Dean of the College of

Arts and Sciences, Associate or Assistant Dean of the

College of Arts and Sciences, Director of Instructional

Resources, and Dean of the largest college on campus other

than the College of Arts and Sciences.

The above group of administrators was used in this

study because they are responsible for policy formation and

program development at their various institutions within

their administrative areas. Their understanding of the

issues surrounding reentry students will determine or impact

the orientation of any academic or student service program

in their college. The leadership of these individuals will

determine whether their college or division serves reentry

students either consciously or as a hidden minority that

must conform to the traditional norms of university


The administrators were contacted by telephone and

individual interviews were scheduled based on the

availability of the respondents. Five administrators were

interviewed during the traditional work day at each

institution. An attempt was made to have at least one of

the interviews with an administrator in the Division of

Student Affairs at the institution. During the interviews

the individual's responses were recorded through the use of

hand written notes.

Selection of Students

With the assistance of a staff member in the Division

of Student Affairs, the Registrar at each institution was

contacted to obtain a complete list of students enrolled as

undergraduates in a degree seeking program who are 25 years

of age and older. This list included name, local address,

student classification identifying graduate or undergraduate

status, and local telephone number. Fifty individual

students were chosen at random from the supplied list and

contacted in writing to request that they participate in the

study through a telephone interview (Appendix E). The

individuals at each institution were then contacted by

telephone in the evening and on the weekend over a 3-week

period with the goal of completing interviews with 20

individuals. These individuals were contacted at each


university as a sample of opportunity from the 50 students

who were originally contacted in writing. The interview

process was identical to that used with administrators.

Survey Procedures

Administrators and students were contacted as a sample

of opportunity as described above. When contacted by

telephone, respondents were asked if they would agree to

take part in the study at that time or decline to

participate. If they agreed to continue, a statement was

read to the respondent outlining the scope of the survey and

to provide a working definition of reentry students for this

study. Questions were asked in sequence with some follow-up

questioning for purposes of clarity or further explanation

of each response. Responses were recorded by hand during

the interview and compiled into a data base on a

microcomputer at a later date.

Data Processing and Analysis

These data were collected over a span of two separate

3-week periods through telephone interviews by one

individual. Guba (as cited in Patton, 1980) stated that the

first problem that a researcher has to resolve with

qualitative data of this type is that he or she must

determine "what fits together." The researcher looked for

recurring themes when comparing data from the various

respondents and groups of respondents to determine if the

data could be grouped by theme or topic area. Patton (1980)

stated that inductive analysis can be used to identify

patterns, themes, and categories of analysis. He stated

that the researcher can then use predefined themes to

organize the data for presentation. This method was used by

the researcher by first reporting the data within the

context of the research questions.

The data were grouped by institution and cross

referenced by the administrative title or student status of

the respondent. Information from each interview was

extracted and organized around central themes that appeared

consistently in various responses to identify similarities

and differences among the individual responses and the two

institutions. After the central themes were identified from

individuals and by institution, comparisons were made among

administrators at the different institutions,

administrators and students at the same institution, and

students at the different institutions. Similarities and

differences were identified among the above groups and

combinations of groups to identify the full range of needs

at public universities and the programs and services

offered. Data from each group of respondents were described

separately within each group of questions. These responses

were then grouped by theme within the six criteria

identified by Kolb to describe integrated learning at an

institution of higher education. These themes, identified


by the researcher, were stated as perceived needs of reentry


A list of the needs identified by the reentry students

was developed from the information gathered in the student

interviews. The information gathered from the

administrators was also developed into a list based on their

perception of the needs of reentry students. A distinction

was made between programs that presently existed at their

respective institution and those that should be offered to

reentry students. Comparison and analysis of these lists

and the responses to the survey questions led to suggestions

for program development and program modification at public

institutions in both the academic and human service areas.

These suggestions are reported in detail in Chapter V of

this study.

All data reported in the body of Chapter IV is in

narrative form to utilize the breadth that exists in

qualitative data. The responses to each question in this

study were also organized around a taxonomy developed by the

researcher and reported as quantitative data by type of

respondent at each institution (Appendix F).


A series of personal interviews was conducted at two

large public universities to obtain information from reentry

students at least 25 years of age and administrators

regarding the needs of reentry students at that type of


institution. The interview centered around themes taken

from Kolb's theory of experiential learning to determine if

large public universities were providing educational

experiences that meet the needs of adults reentering higher

education. Additionally, the interviews compared what is

offered by institutions with the expressed needs of reentry

students to determine if Kolb's theory was accurate in

describing the need for integration in the learning


Chapter IV reports the findings of the interviews and

an analysis of the information gathered. Comparisons and

contrasts are made between the various groups of respondents

and placed in the context of the experiential learning

theory to develop suggestions for future program direction

and studies.


The basic problem of this study was to compare the

theoretical needs of reentry students as identified by Kolb

with the needs as perceived by selected reentry students and

university administrators at two large public universities

in relation to the services and programs of the

universities. With a goal of contacting 40 individuals, 38

reentry students from two institutions were actually

interviewed and included in the study along with 10

administrators who held key positions that could possibly

affect programs for reentry students at each institution.

Sample from the University of Florida

Twenty telephone interviews were completed with reentry

students attending the University of Florida. These reentry

students interviewed included 6 women and 14 men who were at

least 25 years of age or older and who were enrolled in

academic programs that led to the baccalaureate degree.

They ranged in academic standing from freshmen to senior and

were enrolled in a variety of colleges including education,

engineering, pharmacy, architecture, and liberal arts and

sciences. All telephone calls were completed during the

0 "7

evenings or on the weekends. Data were recorded by hand

written notes that were subsequently transferred to an

electronic data base program on a microcomputer for

manipulation and comparison.

In addition, five interviews were completed during

normal working hours with the administrators. The

administrators were all persons who had worked at the

University of Florida for periods ranging from 6 to 29

years. They held the titles of Dean for Student Services,

Director of Admissions, Vice President for Student Affairs,

Associate Vice President for Business Affairs, and Vice

President for Academic Affairs. Data were recorded in the

same manner using the format that was used when interviewing

students. The data from each source were therefore directly


Sample for the University of Georgia

Using the same time restrictions and methods described

above, 18 reentry students were interviewed from the

University of Georgia after contacting all individuals with

current telephone numbers from the random sample of 50

individuals that had been originally contacted in writing.

One other individual, when contacted, declined to

participate in the study because of her work schedule. This

was the only individual who declined to participate at

either institution. The remaining individuals in the group

of 50 were either unreachable in the evenings or on the


weekend during the 3-week period, or they did not have a

current telephone number. The reentry students interviewed

included 11 women and 7 men in a variety of colleges

including agriculture, fine arts, arts and sciences,

pharmacy, and education. All of those interviewed were 25

years of age or older and were seeking degrees in programs

at the baccalaureate level. Similar to the University of

Florida, five administrators were contacted during normal

working hours. This group included the Director of

Admissions, Vice President for Student Affairs, Vice

President for Business Affairs, Associate Dean for Arts and

Sciences, and Senior Associate Vice President for Academic

Affairs. All data were maintained in the same manner as at

the University of Florida for ease of comparison.

Structure of the Institution

Kolb stated that institutions should integrate reentry

students into the traditional age population and encourage

dialogue across age levels. He also believed that

successful programs should have a focal point for learning

such as the role of the professional or by the use of

learning methods that require multiple perspectives on the

part of the student. The questions in this portion of the

survey addressed both universities' orientation program and

the types of restrictions and services that the universities


Reentry Students

The majority of reentry students interviewed at the

University of Florida did not take part in the university

orientation activities and had little or no knowledge of

them. Most of them chose not to attend after being informed

of their existence but one individual stated that she had

not known that an orientation program was available. The

few who did attend expressed disappointment over what was

offered. The harshest criticism was a statement calling the

program "stupid and a waste of time." Another student,

after stating it took eight hours to register, said "I could

have done better on my own." Only one student interviewed

felt that orientation was a good experience and provided

reentry students a good overall view of the university.

When asked if they were aware of any special

accommodations for reentry students during orientation, most

of those interviewed were not aware of any. Individuals

acknowledged the availability of a student support group

that operated on campus but had not followed up or asked for

more information about it.

Some individuals stated that during individual

conversations they were discouraged by faculty members in

their chosen college at the university. One of them stated

that he was told by an advisor "you're not going to make it;

don't waste our time." Another individual acknowledged that

working full time prohibited participation in any type of

program like orientation. While most reentry students had

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