Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Carole E. Pearce


Aboriginal people in Canada are less likely to complete postsecondary education than are non-Aboriginal people. This lack of education leads to increased rates of unemployment and poverty and the need for additional government supports. The purpose of this project study was to identify and examine barriers faced by Canadian Aboriginal adult students as they return to school for postsecondary education. The conceptual framework for this qualitative study was based on the work of Ertmer, which suggests barriers can be placed into broad categories of extrinsic and intrinsic barriers. A case study design was used with a purposeful sample from a local academic institution. Eleven Canadian Aboriginal adult students were interviewed, 6 who successfully completed the college entrance program and 5 who did not complete the program. One counselor from the program was also interviewed to help provide a better understanding of the complexities of the identified barriers. Data analysis included substantive and theoretical coding. Thematic analysis led to 8 overall themes or barriers that affected these students' success: level of self-confidence, social environment, racism, spirituality, government policies, mental health and addictions, perceived value of education, and perceived need to demonstrate leadership. Recommendations include the development of a professional learning community made up of students, teachers, and the Aboriginal communities where the students lived. The project emanating from this study is a 3-part workshop intended to identify and mitigate barriers of Canadian Aboriginal adult students. Understanding and mitigating the barriers will promote positive social change by increasing the success rates of this population of students as they attempt to return to postsecondary education.