Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Higher and Adult Education


Adult Education

Committee Chair

Patricia H. Murrell

Committee Member

James I. Penrod

Committee Member

Barbara Mullins Nelson

Committee Member

Kathryn E. Story


AbstractThis study examines the development of trust, communication, and collaboration in a closed cohort academic community. The closed cohort has gained in popularity in recent years and is now common at the graduate level, especially in the colleges of business and education. A closed cohort is a group of students who begin and end together, and proceed in lock step through a sequence of courses. The research is a case study of a master’s program in leadership at a university in the mid-south area of the United States. The research approach is phenomenological in that the researcher was an instructor in the program and has taught every cohort. The qu-alitative method used was the focus group interview. Four such interviews were con-ducted, recorded, and transcribed. The data was analyzed using inductive interpretive analysis. The analysis revealed that trust did strengthen over time and provided a basis for more open discussion and the sharing of life experiences. This cycle of improving trust and communication yielded a collaborative learning environment that was characterized by a personal accountability for the learning and development of others in the cohort. As students learned to listen to and appreciate the perspectives of others, an extended period of self-reflection yielded a personal transformation that the student attributed specifically to their closed cohort community. Several unintended consequences regarding the presence and outcomes of dys-functional behavior are noted. They are addressed as implications for practice and further research. Attention to group dynamics and teacher efficacy offer the most fertile areas for both. The analysis suggests that conclusions from this study should have wide application to similar programs and can provide a basis for research that would continue to improve the closed cohort learning model as an effective approach for adult learners.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.