Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Joseph Moxley, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Meredith Johnson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Waynne James, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Julie Staggers, Ph.D.


Composition Studies, Adult Education, Andragogy, Pedagogy


The number of adult learners entering or returning to institutions of higher education is increasing in general and in relation to the traditional student population, and projections suggest that the trend will continue. As automation and technology impact the labor force, educational access is becoming a national concern and a necessity for more adult learners. Access to higher education impacts minority and economically depressed populations disproportionally and increases the personal and professional success of adult students and the long-term prosperity of their families. Although Composition Studies has a history of recognizing and facilitating student populations as they enter the Academy, adult learners have been overlooked and marginalized within Composition Studies. Through analysis of the foundational disciplinary literature, my research establishes that adult learners played a pivotal role in the development of Composition Studies and argues that Composition Studies can and should play a pivotal role in the success of adult learners in higher education. Locating adult learners in the disciplinary literature and demonstrating their impact on the theories and practices of Composition Studies creates a collective resource of research on which to ground current approaches and from which to launch future research; connecting this literature to the larger literature on adult learners allows Composition to contribute to and benefit from Academy-wide efforts. Stated simply, the goal of this dissertation is to recognize and support adult learners in Composition Studies. Such work is imperative because Composition Studies is continuing to construct adult learners through deficiency narratives and overlook adult learners in the current literature and classroom practices, as evidenced by the research on student-veterans. As a result, I suggest addressing the disciplinary responsibility to adult learners immediately through programmatic responses to the needs of adults in Composition Studies and by using the acknowledgment of their presence to call for institutional resources in support of all adult learners.