Norma Vijeila


The focus of this study was to examine the stories of men and women who dropped out of high school and later returned to school to earn a higher education degree. Previous research outcomes proposed that an individual's self-efficacy influenced academic motivation and judgment of capabilities to perform actions and overcome obstacles. Although high school dropouts have been studied in depth, the voices of individuals that have pursued furthering their education after dropping out have not been heard in self-efficacy studies. The study intended to answer three research questions: (a) what was the motivating factor to return to school after dropping out of high school, (b) what factors enhanced or inhibited the development of the self-efficacy of those who had dropped out of high school to eventually earn their degree in post-secondary education, and (c) how did self-efficacy sources influence the academic paths of resilient high school dropouts? This qualitative study followed an interpretative phenomenological analysis research design. Four significant findings emerged from the analysis of the participants' responses. First, exposure to adversity and the dropout predictors identified in the literature were present in the stories of the participants. Second, higher income, better jobs, and respect and credibility motivated the participants. Second, higher income, better jobs, and respect and credibility motivated the participants to return to school. Third, positive adults, educational aspirations, and observing others achieving success enhanced the participants' development of self-efficacy. Fourth, self-efficacy was found to influence the academic paths of resilience. The findings from this study can be used to inform school practices and program development. Based on the results of the interviews, students would benefit from the continued research of the effects of exposure to adversity, development of counseling and mentoring programs, increased vocational and job opportunities, and program development focused on enhancing student self-efficacy.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Educational leadership, administration, and policy; High school dropouts; Self-efficacy; Resilience (Personality trait)

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Northrop, Matthew