Attitudes of Faculty and Students Toward Traditional and Nontraditional Students and the Intergenerational Postsecondary Classroom
This study analyzed the results of two surveys and a series of personal interviews to determine the attitudes of faculty, traditional students, and nontraditional students toward the intergenerational, mixed-age classroom. A survey was conducted of 312 traditional and 136 nontraditional students and 207 full-time faculty members on the campus of a mid-size southern public research university. The ages of the student respondents ranged from 19 to 59. The ages of the faculty respondents ranged from 28 to over 65. Interviews were conducted with five traditional-age students, five nontraditional-age students, and five faculty members. The study was designed to examine the perceptions about faculty-student relationships, attitudes toward younger students, attitudes toward older students, and attitudes toward the intergenerational classroom. Findings for the faculty indicated that only 47% preferred to teach in a mixed-age class and even less (32%) preferred to teach in a class with a higher percentage of nontraditional students. However, 57% of faculty felt that adult students' presence in class brought an improved intellectual environment and more mature class discussion. About half of the faculty viewed adults' writing skills for college as better than those of younger students. Faculty were adamant (85%) that they did not change their teaching style, type of assignments or tests, nor their management of class discussions in the mixed-age class. Based on the survey results, faculty did not believe that any tension existed between traditional and nontraditional students in the classroom. Results of the student questionnaires found that the majority of students (65%) believed that mixed-age classes were more interesting; however, only 40% of students preferred to be in a mixed-age class, and 44% of students believed that a mixed-age class had little effect on learning. Based on the survey, only 22% of students believed that tension existed in the classroom. Generally, positive attitudes by both faculty and students were found toward the intergenerational classroom in the surveys. However, negative perceptions of students toward each other were prevalent in the personal interviews. Negative perceptions of nontraditional students by faculty were minimal. The surveys noted minimal tension between traditional and nontraditional students, but the interviews revealed different feelings which were, at times, expressed very strongly. All participants believed nontraditional students brought diversity and experience to the classroom and were valuable contributors to the educational experience, but little credence was given to the difficulties faced by the nontraditional student.