Students returning to college are not generally studied, where most of the research on non-traditional students is focused on individuals returning to earn their undergraduate degree. There are, however, many students returning to receive graduate degrees as they pursue new directions in life by interest or economic necessity. Undergraduate students with experience have clear educational related goals, practical approaches to problem-solving, and high learning motivation.Returning graduate students are expected to model similar behaviors. These individuals bring a lifetime of personal and professional expertise, which we identify as “experience capital.”A review of the literature reveals that capital has been pondered since early western philosophers considered the concept of social capital in terms of „community governance‟. Others credit Dewey with the first use of the term „social capital‟. Since then, development of other capitals include human, cultural, and symbolic. Human capital is viewed as knowledge, skills, and attributes; cultural capital as an indicator of class position acquired by family and education ; and symbolic as the prestige, recognition, and fame. Today, social capital is viewed as the networks,relationships, and connections of influence and support. Experience capital is the partial union of social, human, cultural, and symbolic capital, which individuals develop from their persona land professional experiences as they progress through life.This is an exploratory study capturing the perceptions of “experience capital” of individuals with several years of professional experience in their discipline returning for a doctoral degree in engineering education. The research question this study addresses is: what “experience capital”do returning students bring to an engineering education doctoral program? The participants will be interviewed; open coding will be used to identify common themes. The results of this qualitative study will position the experiences of the participants at the partial union of social,human, cultural, and symbolic capital, in a space called experience capital.
2011, ASEE, returning students
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