Asee peer logo

Work in Progress: Adult Learner Pathways to Prosperity through STEM

Download Paper |


2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

ERM Technical Session 24: Studies on Socioeconomic Status

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


DeeDee Conway Southern Methodist University

visit author page

DeeDee Conway serves as the Associate Dean of Operations at the Lyle School of Engineering at Southern Methodist University. Prior to joining the Dean’s Office, DeeDee worked in accounting in both University and Corporate settings. DeeDee holds a BBA from American Public University, a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and an EdD in Higher Education from Southern Methodist University. A licensed real estate agent and a notary public in the State of Texas, DeeDee also holds memberships in the American Society for Engineering Education, the Association for the Study of Higher Education, the American Educational Research Association, and the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

visit author page


David Deggs Southern Methodist University

visit author page

David Deggs serves as Executive Director of College Access Programs and Research Associate Professor in the Simmons School of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University. In this role, he is responsible for leadership and oversight of programs that provide college preparation and transition assistance to students in Dallas area schools and academic support to McNair Scholars at SMU. David has nearly 20 years of experience in higher and adult education. His research interests focus on how social capital is manifested in communities to support or negate educational attainment.

visit author page

Download Paper |


The Adult Learner Pathways to Prosperity through STEM research project is being developed to investigate and understand how, and to what extent, motivation, determination, self-control, and grit factors into adult learners’ pursuit of a postsecondary STEM certificate/degree program in a high demand occupation (e.g., healthcare, information technology, engineering, and logistics). The program will target adult learners who are active participants in a college access and transition program in a large urban setting in the southwest. A local postsecondary institution is working to provide support to high need, low socioeconomic families to fund college degree completion. The program represents the potential to be scalable and replicable across the United States.

The intellectual merit of the Adult Learner Pathways to Prosperity through STEM (ALLPS) research project is based upon its primary goal to investigate and understand the impact of situational and dispositional barriers among adult learners. The intellectual merit of this project is further substantiated in the need to better understand the drivers that influence successful postsecondary placement, matriculation, retention, and graduation among adult learners pursuing a STEM based degree program and those who are working to complete remediation through developmental mathematics courses. Understanding these motivators and drivers can serve to further advance prosperity among this growing group of STEM learners and those students who must complete developmental math courses. Proper support of adult learners’ academic and career transition needs which can lead to increased prosperity is contingent upon understanding the levels of individual motivation, determination, self-control, and grit.

The Adult Learner Pathways to Prosperity through STEM (ALPPS) research project is being divided into three distinct areas of work that will include the following components: 1. Development of an evidenced-based program that supports adult learner transition and success as they pursue degrees in STEM fields, 2. Delivery of direct student services as researchable interventions to support adult learner success in postsecondary STEM fields, and 3. Execution of a rigorous research project that will utilize mixed methods approaches to measure and examine the impact of adult learner motivation, determination, self-control, and grit that will inform evidence-based approaches for improving success of adult learners in STEM degree programs, including success in mathematics courses.

Adult Learner Pathways to Prosperity through STEM research project will be a mixed-methods study that will begin with qualitative data collection to inform the design of project interventions and creation or adoption of quantitative instruments. This exploratory study will employ case study methodology. Case study methodology is appropriate for this research study where a contemporary problem will be investigated through several sources of data. It is anticipated that the results of this study will inform future research regarding adult learner motivation, determination, self-control, and grit for adult learners seeking STEM credentials in postsecondary education. The evidenced-based practices related to the interventions in this study will be both replicable and scalable to other postsecondary institutions.

Conway, D., & Deggs, D. (2019, June), Work in Progress: Adult Learner Pathways to Prosperity through STEM Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33590

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2019 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015