Monday, 12 September 2016

Older Women, Deeper Learning, and Greater Satisfaction at University

“The ‘ideal learner’, from an institutional view, is young, well-resourced and not bound by conflicting family obligations” (Mallman & Lee, 2014, p. 3). However, some recent research published in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education challenges this view. If we consider “ideal learners” to be active, independent, critical, and inquisitive students who go beyond the set curriculum, then older women should be regarded as more ideal than younger women and men of all ages.

In our research, we asked 983 Australian undergraduate students to complete a research survey that contained measures of learning approach and degree satisfaction. We found that older women showed the greatest deep learning. In other words, they were most likely to go beyond the set curriculum and relate the material that they studied to its wider context. This greater deep learning helped to explain older women’s greater satisfaction with their degree.

This study corroborates previous qualitative research in this area, which has found that older women have more intrinsic motives for undertaking higher education. For example, consider the following quotes from mature-aged female university students:

“I’m not doing this because I want to change my job.  I’m not doing this because I think it’s going to get me any more money, I’m doing it because I want to learn” (McCune, Hounsell, Christie, Cree, & Tett, 2010, p. 696).

“I’m not doing it for vocational reasons.  I’m doing it for me” (Reay, 2003, p. 304).

For more information, please see the following journal article:

Rubin, M., Scevak, J., Southgate, E., Macqueen, S., Williams, P., & Douglas, H. (2016). Older women, deeper learning, and greater satisfaction at university: Age and gender predict university students’ learning approach and degree satisfaction. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education. doi: 10.1037/dhe0000042

For a self-archived version of the article, please click here