Date of Award

January 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Katherine Terras


This phenomenological study sought to investigate, understand, and make meaning of the perceived advising experiences among nine adult learners. Participants were students pursuing their Master's degrees in a department of education at one public university in the upper Midwest. This research explored and described the advising experiences among, and within, three learning environments to include online, classroom, and cohort.

Three adult learners from each learning environment were interviewed either in person or through an electronic video system. Participants were asked seven standard questions, but question order and follow-up varied as a result of the emergent design of the study. Students were also asked to conceptualize meaning of their responses to afford greater detail. Interviews were transcribed and data were reviewed through thematic analysis. Interviews were coded; codes were evaluated and organized into categories of experience/need which led to the development of themes and a discussion of the central phenomenon. The identified themes were peer reviewed and went through member checking to ensure valid interpretation. In addition, the final themes and conclusions were reviewed and compared to the eight principles of effective advising for adult learners, as proposed by the Council on Adult and Experiential Learning (2000).

The experience of good advisement was collectively defined as the product of both the person (the advisor) and the advisor's required tasks of advising. All stated characteristics of a good advisor, and expectations of good advising, were identified as

necessary for adult learner satisfaction. The adult learners identified good advisement as an important, holistic, complex practice requiring an involved, passionate, trustworthy advisor working within a strong advising system.

Only one category of need was specific to students' learning environments - immediacy of response. All adult learners identified the need for frequent, immediate communication, preferably through email. However, on-campus learners needed to hear from their advisor within two days, cohort learners were willing to wait 24 hours for a response, and online learners required notification from their advisor within hours, would be frustrated beyond 24 hours, and would begin to significantly worry by the 48th hour.