Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Emily Green


The retention of adult learners in rural educational settings throughout the United States is challenging for adult education instructors. Adult learners in rural areas encounter internal and external barriers, including lack of self-efficacy and minimal transportation. Research exists regarding the retention of adult learners, but little is known about the barriers to persistence among adult learners in rural areas, or the motivations experienced by students and instructors. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to identify perceived barriers to retention at a rural adult learning center in Georgia and to provide suggestions to improve adult education and literacy initiatives. Knowles' theory of andragogy was used to guide this investigation. The research questions examined instructors' and students' perceived and experienced barriers, motivations, and recommendations for better strategies. Responses were recorded from semistructured interviews with 3 instructors and 9 adult students who represented the various levels of Adult Basic Education or General Educational Development within the rural setting. Data were coded and sorted by themes using inductive thematic analysis. The participants' detailed narratives indicated that situational hardships were a perceived barrier and personal investment was a motivator. Based on participants' recommendations to improve time management and incorporate technology-based instruction, a professional development training program for learning center instructors was created. The training may promote positive social change by providing research based techniques, which may increase retention and graduation rates at the local site.