Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Sydney Parent


A decline in retention for teachers and students in an adult English as a second language (ESL) education program has raised questions about restricting state funding for a college located in southeast Texas. The decline has resulted in the program not meeting enrollment requirements by the state, which may be connected to the core relationship between the ESL instructors and their students. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore how ESL teachers describe their relationships and interact with academically diverse students enrolled in a local ESL adult education program. Bandura and Thorndike’s social cognitive theories were used to guide this study. The 5 voluntary participants were purposefully selected and had 0-6 years teaching experience in adult ESL. Data were collected through semistructured interviews and classroom observation. A thematic analysis, which consisted of open and axial coding, was used to analyze the interview and observation data. Two themes emerged: Teachers struggle when communicating with diverse and multiple-grade students, and teachers limit their interactions with students to those interactive suggestions provided in the textbook and do not include other opportunities for classroom interaction. Based on the findings, a 3-day professional development workshop was designed to improve teachers’ relationships with academically diverse, adult ESL students. This endeavor could support positive social change by developing better relationships between ESL teachers and their students to increase retention of adult ESL students, thereby retaining grant-funded programs.