Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Maureen Ellis


Practical nursing program students at a rural vocational school (RCC) in the midwestern United States were graduating at a low rate that was putting the school at risk to not meet accreditation standards set by the Council on Occupational Education. The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions of practical nursing program students and faculty at RCC about institutional, situational, and dispositional supports and barriers students faced toward graduation. The conceptual framework, Cross’s model of barriers to adult learning, was used to identify institutional, situational, and dispositional supports and barriers. A bounded case study design was employed to explore the perceptions of faculty and students regarding supports and barriers to successful graduation. Data were collected using an open-ended online survey of a purposeful sample of 20 students and 4 faculty members. Thematic data analysis followed an open coding process to identify 7 emergent themes: (a) support system, (b) class size, and (c) classroom experiences supported student success; and (a) stress, (b) responsibilities, (c) classroom experiences, and (d) access to technology were barriers to success. A deeper dive into the theme of classroom experiences revealed 5 subthemes: (a) workload, (b) fast pace, (c) class format, (d) class organization, and (e) teacher engagement. The resulting project was a 3-day professional development series taking place over six monthly 4-hour sessions covering the classroom experiences subthemes and an additional session on student assessments to help faculty support student success. This study and project have implications for positive social change through improved student learning outcomes and graduation rates leading to an increase of licensed practical nurses in the field.