Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Amy Booth


Retaining students, particularly in the 16- to- 24-year-old category, is a constant challenge for adult basic education programs nationwide. Educators need to understand factors that affect adult learners' experiences, have a better understanding of ways to motivate adult students in a nontraditional school setting to enhance their engagement, and apply research-based techniques and targeted, practical strategies to improve student persistence. The primary objective of this case study was to investigate the perceived factors that students considered influential on their persistence and retention in adult basic education programs. Knowles's andragogy theory and Tinto's persistence theory were the theoretical frameworks for this study. The research questions were designed to understand the factors that motivate students to remain engaged in academic courses. Ten students enrolled in a high school equivalency program in a large northeastern city participated in semi-structured, individual interviews. Coding and thematic analysis were used to identify, describe, and interpret the data collected. The findings indicated that factors such as individual drive, the instructor's encouragement and high expectations, relevant topics, and connection to school all contributed to sustain a learner's persistence. A professional development project was designed from the findings to provide instructors with research-based best practices and techniques to increase students' motivation and persistence through active learning experiences in student-centered classrooms. The project will impact social change by helping educators to have more insights on theories about adult learning styles and a deeper understanding of current approaches to inspire active participation, sustain learner motivation, and improve student academic performance.