UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Getting here from there : facing adversity in educational pursuits Rowlands, Maureen


A fundamental aspect of Canada's social structure is the right for Canadians to get an education. Many agencies provide basic and advanced education/training to individuals, and as a result, people are presumed to have an equal opportunity. This perception of parity for educational opportunity is inaccurate (Courtney, 1992). A vast quantity of research over the last century has shown definitive trends in deterrents to participation. Many social, organizational, and situational obstacles prevent people from taking advantage of educational opportunities and an alarming number of people reach adulthood without reaching their academic potential. Even for those who continue to participate in formal learning activities the journey can be long and arduous. Struggles with internalized perceptions of inability, low confidence, poor home and classroom environment, and dislike of the structure and nature of the formal educational system create hardships. A narrative inquiry was used to get a thorough picture of participants' perceptions of past and present events at educational institutions that led to the development of dispositional barriers towards education. This open-ended interview approach enabled the researcher to identify specific negative experiences encountered by 10 individuals in the K-12 formal educational system and assess the resultant detrimental effects. The transcripts of the respondents' interviews were examined for descriptive passages that characterized their overall negative feelings towards school. These excerpts were classified under social or psychological themes to better understand trends that may lead to dispositional barriers. From these trends, the most prominent factor that seemed to foster dispositional barriers was the negative environmental conditions encountered by the participants. These conditions pertained to respondents' concerns over safety, security, and the learning environment. Other factors exhibited were issues of self-esteem, faith in the educational system, attitude towards school, peer pressure, relationships with teachers and support networks. Although these deterrents posed significant problems for the respondents, the need to obtain academic credentials for professional advancement, validation of personal worth, or to affect transformation for the benefit of others enabled participants to cope with their dispositional barriers. Where five of the 10 respondents are presently in the process of obtaining advanced credentials, two participants believe advanced learning to be disagreeable and will not actively seek further education. Through self-reflection, participants developed a means to cope with negative internalized feelings towards education. Respondents recognized several factors that were beneficial in beginning to change their attitudes and perceptions towards themselves and education. Participants found it was necessary to acknowledge their negative feelings and perceptions and to counter these with self-affirming thoughts that promoted positive thinking and enhanced their self-confidence to face their uncertainties and fears. Equally important, according to the respondents, was the need to focus upon one's desired educational goals and then to search for appropriate programs, and create the circumstances and support networks, necessary to permitted them to achieve their goal.

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