Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Kimberly Strunk


Community colleges in Western North Carolina have enrolled many displaced workers who lack basic academic skills and are unable to find jobs. This study focused on the problem of displaced workers with low academic skills who rarely advance beyond Adult Basic Education (ABE) classes for retraining in high-tech job skills. The purpose of this single case study was to determine the barriers that prevent functionally illiterate displaced workers or nontraditional students enrolled in ABE programs from completing ABE classes and advancing to retraining programs. The adult learning styles and learning impediments framework were used to study what prevented student advancement beyond the ABE programs. Eight students were purposefully identified and agreed to participate in the study. The student participants completed open-ended questionnaires, participated in semi-structured individual interviews, and were observed in a classroom environment. The collected data were analyzed using descriptive coding and thematic analysis. The study produced 2 key themes that may help students succeed: (a) ABE instructors should adapt teaching methods to adult learning styles, and (b) the primary focus of ABE programs should be on the improvement of basic English language skills. The results of this study can be used by ABE directors, ABE instructors, and community college administrators as they seek to improve adult learning in ABE programs, increase students' technical skills, and get displaced workers back to work.