Background: Adult learners often engage in formal education because they want to create changes in their lives and are determined to succeed in their chosen field. However, they also come with emotional “baggage” of early educational experiences, frequently have to deal with a multitude of competing demands, have financial strain, may face a lack of support, illness and/or injury. In addition, they are often dealing with the challenges of unfamiliar academic work, competing deadlines and initially lack basic academic skills. As a result, this segment of the population face high levels of stress and low levels of wellbeing. Research suggests that adult learners’ wellbeing is of considerable concern and warrants further investigation, as it has greater implications related to attrition/retention and academic progression. This small and intimate qualitative study provides rich insights into how mindful self-compassion practices became a powerful tool that supported the adult learners’ resolve to continue their education.
Methods: In order to address these research gaps and practical concerns, in the current study the first author identified potential reasons as to why adult learners do not remain in education, explored the rationale for focusing on adult learners’ wellbeing, and lastly investigated whether Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) has the capacity to enhance the wellbeing of adult learners in their first year of post-compulsory education. A form of phenomenological research known as Heuristic Inquiry was applied to understand these problems.First person data was gathered from the first author and four other adult learners who took part in a condensed 6-week MSC program.
Results: This qualitative process produced a rich source of data – indicating that mindfulness and self-compassion helps adult learners enhance their wellbeing. Practising and building self-compassion was found to support adult learners when faced with challenges within their qualifications and in life.
Conclusions: The current research contributes to the collective knowledge on the topic and provides a possible resource building program, which all levels of adult education and more importantly, all modalities (face-to face/on campus and external/online learners), can utilise.