Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Higher and Adult Education


Adult Education

Committee Chair

Barbara Mullins-Nelson


This interpretive, qualitative study investigated the influence of spirituality in the lives six African American female adult learners. The following questions guided the research study:1) What role has spirituality played in the pursuit of educational goals of African American female adult learners? and 2)What influence has spirituality had on the development of these adult learners?An examination of the influence of spirituality in the areas of motivation, barriers, and adult development among college students framed the scholarly review of existing literature. The data collection methods included interviews, timeline and song lyric elicitations, and field notes.The interviews were audio recorded and transcribed.An inductive analysis was used to analyze the transcripts for codes, categories and themes. A variation of an arts-based approach, “found lyrics”, was also utilized to further re-present the data.Memoing, member checks, and peer debriefing were utilized during analysis to increase credibility and trustworthiness. The descriptions commonly accepted from existing literature present spirituality as a mechanism for meaning-making, a relation to a higher power, and an interconnectedness to all things. The findings were organized based on findings relative to each research question.Each participant held a Christian worldview. The four major themes, relative to the research first question, identified spirituality as:1) a source of motivation/inspiration; 2) a source of guidance; 3) a source of strength; and 4) a source of connection.The idea that spirituality is “the essence of who they are” was also a prominent theme offering insight into three key findings relative to the second research question.These key findings revealed: 1) Maternal influences significantly played a role in early experiences with spirituality and education; 2) Another category of motivator exists for the participants beyond the existing dichotomous internal and external categories; and 3) There was a movement beyond meaning-making into a greater personal awareness.Each theme and key finding is presented and discussed in detail.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

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