Life Satisfaction and Perceived Meaningfulness of Learning Experience among First-Year Traditional Graduate Social Work Students

Sunday B. Fakunmoju, Gilpatrick R. Donahue, Shandria McCoy, Alison S. Mengel


Knowledge about life satisfaction and learning experience among first-year graduate students is sparse, despite its relevance to instructional decisions, academic support, and success of students. Adequate knowledge is crucial, as it may help graduate students manage personal and professional life changes associated with graduate education. Using a convenience sample of 118 first-year traditional social work graduate students in a northeastern U.S. university the study examined associations of life satisfaction and peer support with perception of meaningfulness of learning experience, as well as associations of gender, marital status, family support and perceived stress with life satisfaction. Results suggest that receiving higher peer support was associated with perceived meaningfulness of learning experience, whereas being female, being married, having lower perceived stress, and receiving higher family support were associated with life satisfaction. Reciprocal predictive relationship between life satisfaction and perceived meaningfulness of learning experience was found. In general, findings suggest that stress and support are important variables to consider in understanding life satisfaction and learning experience of first-year traditional social work graduate students and highlight the importance of peer and family support to navigating challenges of graduate education. Most importantly, findings have implications for social work education, highlighting how instructor’s utilization of instructional approaches that facilitate peer support may help ease transition into graduate education or help prevent drop out during the first year graduate students are most vulnerable to dropping out. Altogether, findings highlight why exploring perceived meaningfulness of learning experience and life satisfaction is crucial for identifying supportive needs of graduate students.

Keywords: Life satisfaction; learning experience; perceived stress; family support; peer support.

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