Interpreting the first-year experience of a non-traditional student: A case study
This article concerns non-traditional students’ involvement in Australian higher education. It aims to deepen understanding of enabling and constraining factors for this group’s retention, through an in-depth case study of a non-traditional student’s university experience. The study is underpinned by principles of phenomenology, hermeneutics and idiography with data analysis involving an inductive coding process and a thematic analysis. Findings draw attention to the need to provide support for non-traditional university students in developing a sense of connectedness and resourcefulness. The study makes an original contribution to knowledge by challenging the assumption that western theories of psychology, which privilege an individualist perspective, adequately explain and predict behaviours of non-traditional students who are members of collective social systems. It emphasises the need for researchers and practitioners to adopt an interpretative stance that accommodates a collectivist perspective. Without this approach, student behaviours may be misinterpreted and their circumstances may be unfairly undervalued.