Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Scott Mertes


Retaining adult education students has been a growing concern. The new GED requirements have generated low completion rates for a free GED program in a 3-year period, in a non-profit agency in a Southeastern state. Instructors are concerned about this problem and need to understand the factors that are inhibiting adult learners from successfully attaining their GED. This qualitative research design was the most appropriate to answer the research questions to determine the experiences that caused the adult learners to not complete the program and identify potential educational strategies needed to improve retention. Sticht's functional context theory was the conceptual

framework for this study. Fourteen adult learners previously enrolled in the free GED program participated in in-depth, individual interviews. Thematic analysis, NVivo and open coding were used to identify, describe, and interpret data. The findings indicated that lack of computer and typing skills, the conversion from paper and pencil to computerized testing, and the onset of temporary and personal and family obstacles were factors that contributed to learners not successfully completing

the program. Reinstatement of tutors and mentors and providing the participants with a well-defined curriculum for the GED courses were potential solutions to improve retention. The overwhelming evidence from the participants also suggested that a curriculum for a professional development training for instructors facilitating the online courses is an educational strategy for a potential solution to the local problem. This project has the probability to produce social change because it provides GED instructors researched-based instruction to facilitate online courses effectively to improve retention.