School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


Alexandra Barnett


learning disabilities, persistence, academic success, higher education, dyslexia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyscalculia, dysgraphia


Education | Special Education and Teaching


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to discover the factors that contributed to persistence in online doctoral programs for students with learning disabilities (LD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The theory guiding this study was Tinto’s theory of student persistence, as it suggested the more students were academically and socially integrated into their institution, the more likely they were to persist in their studies. The Central research question of this study is, “What are the factors that contribute to persistence in online doctoral programs for students with LD and ADHD?” Participants in this study consisted of seven individuals with learning disabilities or ADHD who had completed all of their required coursework in their current online doctoral program and had started the dissertation phase of their program, and four who had graduated from their online doctoral programs within the last two years. Candidates were selected using purposive sampling. Perspectives of students with LD and ADHD as they related to their academic persistence were shared. The lived experiences of online doctoral students with LD and ADHD were studied using online discussion board prompts, individual interviews, and focus groups. The data were collected and analyzed using Moustakas’ transcendental phenomenology approach and generated six themes and commonalities among the participants in this study. The themes were Overcoming Challenges and Barriers, Adaptation and Coping Strategies, Motivation, Self-Efficacy, Support Systems, and Personal Determination and Perseverance. The data analysis revealed empirical, practical, and theoretical implications along with recommendations for future research.