Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Nancy J. Evans


The purpose of this inquiry was to explore how Central American immigrant women experienced and gave meaning to the phenomenon of adult learning in the Midwestern United States. Data collection followed Seidman's (1998) model for in-depth phenomenological interviewing, which combined interviews informed by the methodologies of life story and phenomenology. Three in-depth interviews were conducted with five Central American immigrant women living in a Midwestern metropolitan area. These interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The transcripts were crafted into first-person narratives that captured the participants' life stories of learning. The transcripts were also inductively analyzed through a process that included naming topics, developing categories, and identifying themes. This analysis led to identifying common themes and major domains. Findings were represented in two ways: (1) five life stories of learning in Spanish with full English translations, and (2) eleven themes supported by quotations in Spanish with corresponding English translations.;The life stories reconstructed the women's learning experiences from childhood to adulthood and illustrated a shift between country of origin and receiving country. Key concepts in Elder's (1995) life course paradigm proved useful for interpreting similarities and differences among the participants' life stories. Six patterns revealed interacting factors that contributed to shaping the participants' self-concepts as learners and perceptions of learning: (1) historical change and timing; (2) socioeconomic status, rural or urban setting, and family composition; (3) gender socialization; (4) linked lives; (5) context of reception; and (6) human agency.;The themes uncovered three domains in the participants' experiences and perceptions of adult learning in the receiving country: Concept, Process, and Outcome. Especially revealing was that the participants' learning processes were continuous, informal and incidental, experiential, and relational. These findings underscored the influence of both internal and external factors on adult learning processes.;The inquiry offers a schematic interpretation of the findings that suggests that the phenomenon of adult learning was intimately bound to the participants' immigration experiences and shaped by the interplay of four elements: (1) Learner Identity, (2) U.S. Context of Reception, (3) Learning Process, and (4) Learning Outcomes.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Ana Guisela Chupina



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

527 pages