Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Center for the Advancement of Education


The purpose of this study was to analyze the self-reported learning goals and academic self-conceps5 of the College's distance students. The study was intended to help mentors and administrators better understand these students, particularly their objectives in pursuing a higher education and their confidence in their capacities for academic success. The research questions of this Major Applied Research Project were (1) What are the motives of CDL students for undertaking higher learning as indicated by their personal educational goals? (2) How do these students perceive them-selves in terms of certain abilities, skills, and traits related to academic success? (3) How do the goals and self-concepts of distance students compare to those of other adult learners studying face-to-face with mentors? The hypotheses for the first research question were (1a) the goals most frequently cited as very important are career oriented and (1b) the goals cited least frequently as very important are social and cultural. The hypotheses for the second question were (2a) CDL students rate themselves above average for most academic characteristics and (2b) the strongest self-concepts are personal traits, rather than academic abilities and skills. The hypothesis for the third question was that goals and self-concepts of distance and mentored students do not differ significantly. A survey soliciting self-reported academic abilities: traits and skills was mailed to all CLD matriculated students during the final week of the fall 1989 term. Slightly more than 60 percent of the students returned completed surveys. Chi square tests for goodness of fit for age, ethnicity, gender and major confirmed that the respondents were representative of the CDL student population. Goal statements and self-ratings were ranked by the frequencies with which they were cited as very important or above average, respectively, and by their mean scores. Goals and self-concepts one standard deviation above the mean were judged most important or strongest and those one standard deviation below the mean least important or weakest. Goals and self-concepts were further analyzed by nine respondent characteristics: age, ethnicity, gender, income, distance education experience, previous education, years away from school, major, and educational plan. The significance of differences among characteristic cohorts was determined at the .01 level by chi square test of the equality of proportions. Variances between distance and mentored student responses were also tested at the .01 level chi square. The educational goals of ESC distance students were found to be both learning and career oriented. Social and culture goals were found to be relatively unimportant. The goals most frequently cited as very important were to attain specific job skills, to improve professional status, simply to learn, and to improve leadership skills. The least important goals were to increase appreciation of art, music, literature, and other cultural expressions; improve social status; become involved in social and political activities; and discover vocational interests. Educational goals did not vary significantly by respondent characteristics, except by major. CDL students are not strongly self-confident of their academic abilities, traits and skills. They did rate themselves very independent, but they tended to see themselves as average or below average in all other areas. They were most confident of their personal traits, such as independence, drive to achieve and persistence. They were least confident of specific skills such as those associated with interpreting poetry, solving mathematical problems, and using a computer. Significant differences ln self-concept strength were found by gender, income, distance education experience, and major. In comparing distance and mentored students, the latter were found to be significantly more learning oriented. They were also significantly more self-confident across the full range of academic self-concepts, including personal traits, general academic abilities, and specific academic skills. Based on the findings of this study, three recommendations were made to the faculty of the Center for Distance Learning. Greater attention must be given to helping students identify what they need to learn in order to accomplish their goals. Students must also be made to confront their negative self-concepts. That is, they should be di from avoiding studies because of perceived academic weaknesses. Third, CDL students must be permitted, even required, to participate in social learning experiences. Completely independent study does not allow students to judge their competitive advantages and disadvantages and, thereby, realistically assess their goals and academic strengths and weaknesses. Until they can evaluate themselves, they cannot become truly self-directed learners.

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