Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Education

First Advisor

Scot Headley, PhD

Second Advisor

Terry Huffman, PhD

Third Advisor

Susanna Thornhill, PhD


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to examine the lived experiences of five nontraditional students who graduated from the Elementary Education Program at George Fox University (a degree-completion program targeting adult learners). Each of the participants simultaneously completed a Bachelor of Science Degree and obtained a teaching license during their program. The researcher sought to hear participants’ stories and how they gave meaning to experiences while completing the alternative teaching licensing program. Participants’ status as nontraditional included their age of 23 and older, working part-time, and attending classes in a hybrid part-time format. Participants shared unique stories fraught with challenges, yet all persevered to program completion and are currently teaching. In an analysis of the data, three major themes surfaced including, Participants identified multiple educational experiences both before and during their alternative teacher education program that made them self-identify as nontraditional, Participants entered the program with determination, believing that not finishing was not an option, and Participants entered the program knowing they wanted to be teachers; they wanted a clear path to completion. The implications of this work suggest a further examination of the role of grit regarding nontraditional student performance, a call to universities to include structures that support nontraditional student success, and an understanding of how the identity of nontraditional can impact student success at the university level.

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