Resilience : a case study of the post-secondary experience of Trio Program students

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Kline, Willa
McElhinney, James H.
Issue Date
Thesis (D. Ed.)
Department of Educational Leadership
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The purpose of this study was to describe the resilience in adult at-risk college students who had overcome adverse circumstances and the role resilience played in the post secondary experience in formal education. This qualitative study examined the characteristics and behaviors of resilience within the framework of human development.The eight study participants were clients of the Educational Opportunity Center program in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The study participants were low-income, first generation college students. Several assessment tools were administered to evaluate levels of resilience in the eight participants. In addition, all participants were interviewed, which allowed the participants to share their post secondary experience.The analysis of the evidence gathered showed that the eight participants exhibited traits of resiliency. These traits included being goal-oriented and exhibiting a desire to excel, exhibiting positive responses to new opportunities, using a capacity to delay gratification, demonstrating a high level of personal discipline and responsibility, being self-understanding and independent, exhibiting a high self-esteem, being flexible and creative in responding to life events, displaying a strong internal locus of control, making wise use of the presence and support of a caring person, building positive relationships with others, selecting environments that provided positive and high expectations as well as an opportunity to participate and contribute, possessing an easy-going temperament, finding meaning in life and having a vision of the future, responding with a sense of humor, and possessing a strong faith.All of the eight participants believed that resilience is present in all people and that resilience can be learned. There was not sufficient evidence provided by the assessment tools in this study to support strongly that resilience is a developmental process in adulthood. However, the analysis of the data gathered from the interviews suggest that resilience may be learned and strengthened by observing and learning from others.Conclusions and recommendations of this study focused on the identification of resilient at-risk adult students, determination of the role environment plays in the development and use of resilience in at-risk adult students, and the evaluation of effective assessment tools in identifying resilient at-risk students. Implications of this study for low-income, first-generation post secondary students include providing and strengthening the support of at least one caring adult in students' lives, as well as determining methods to teach or foster resilient behavior in at-risk adult students.