Exploration of experiences influencing the academic achievement of university students with learning disabilities in persistence to graduation

Breslow, Bridgit
Major Professor
Nancy J. Evans
Committee Member
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Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

The purpose of this phenomenological study was to investigate and better understand the aspects and experiences associated with academic success for students with learning disabilities (SLD) in college. The information gathered was reflective of the experiences of juniors and seniors who were positively academically persisting toward graduation in the near future.;Three in-depth interviews were conducted with students who self-identified as having at least one type of documented learning disability, and who were receiving accommodations for said learning disabilities at Iowa State University. The participants included four students: two male students and two female students, all Caucasian, although race was not a deciding factor in who was chosen as a participant. The participants were all traditionally-aged college students; two were transfer students from a community college to a four-year institution.;Five themes emerged from the data. The role of family in providing support: All four participants had families that offered unwavering support to their students from an early age through admittance to college. Support ranged from involvement to activities at school to developing compensatory strategies to overcome challenges of the learning disability in school work. Self-awareness in relation to the learning disabilities: Participants in the study were able to become successful throughout college by not only learning where areas of weakness existed, but also where areas of strengths could be maximized in order to reach full academic potential. The sources of motivation for persistence toward graduation: Sources of motivation were internal and strengthened by support of family. The challenges of life with a learning disability in college: For all participants, the biggest challenge in college associated with the learning disability was the additional amount of time needed to complete assignments. Moreover, each participant experienced having a negative interaction with an unhelpful faculty member at some point during his or her college career.;Higher education institutions must be aware of their role in the success of SLD in college. They need to recognize the challenges that are typical for SLD, as well as ways that faculty and staff on campus can be empowered to support SLD. Because this is a growing subpopulation on college campuses across the country, increased attention is needed to support awareness of the needs of this group by all on campus.