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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Women returning to school : a study of their background, motivations, and experiences Trimble, Erika R.


This study addresses the problems of women returning to post-secondary education after an interruption in their formal training. Increasingly, women are returning to school in the hope of participating more fully in the labour marketplace and in the hope of gaining access to equal employment opportunities. Women require skills, training and other educational opportunities which are generally offered by post-secondary institutions. At this time, it is felt that the needs of women learners in post-secondary institutions are not adequately recognized or met and that there exist barriers which inhibit women from access to appropriate learning opportunities. A discrepancy exists between what is needed by the women and what education is offering. A paucity of Canadian studies pertaining to the educational needs of women exists. The major goal of this study was to contribute to the development of a Canadian data base on women who are returning to post-secondary education. The writer was encouraged by women students, women educators, and adult educators to carry out such a research endeavour. The need for the provision of equal learning and employment opportunities has been recognized. An increasing female population in post-secondary education has been reported and points to the importance of attention in this direction. Therefore, special research consideration to women learners was needed before program requirements could be assessed and the opportunity for change recognized. The focus of this study, then, became an investigation of a career training program at a local community college; the type of program chosen might represent a typical choice for a returning woman. A survey questionnaire was used to gather input from a self-selected sample of women enrolled in a social service training program. The design called for a quantitative-descriptive study employing a large number of variables and a small sample of subjects (18). A follow-up and action phase was included in the design whereby consideration of the findings would be given by an administrative group of the college. The prospects for further study were also given consideration in that special emphasis was put on instrument development. The goals of the study were as follows: to describe the background characteristics, motivations and experiences of the selected sample of returning women students; to determine the associations between variables such as age, marital status and children and the goals and experiences of the women; and to pilot test certain implicit assumptions made about women returning to school. Measuring devices such as proportions and correlations were used. It was hypothesized that the findings would support prior research findings generated from the United States as well as the perceptions of the key informants to the study. In some instances, this was found; in other instances, new questions were raised. Because the data were not always congruent with our expectations, our previous assumptions were tested and the need for further enquiry was emphasized. Two salient issues to the women in the survey group were spotlighted; these were the importance of appropriate career and guidance counselling, and the concern about educational training and its relevance to the labour market.

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