Electronic Theses and Dissertations




Simone Thomas



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Higher and Adult Education


Adult Education

Committee Chair

Barbara Mullins-Nelson

Committee Member

Larry McNeal

Committee Member

Jeff Wilson

Committee Member

Jerrie Scott


One of the most pervasive issues facing educators and administrators in Adult Basic Education (ABE) is student persistence. The purposes of this qualitative study were 1) to identify the experiences that African American adult learners associated with their decisions to leave ABE programs; 2) to ascertain the impact of participants' perceptions of participation in ABE relative to their self perceptions and individual learning goals; and 3) to examine the extent to which barriers perceived by participants were consistent with barriers identified in the existing literature. Three research questions guided this study: 1) what experiences do participants associate with past decisions to leave one or more ABE programs; 2) how do participants view participation in ABE relative to their self perceptions and individual learning goals; and 3) do participants perceive barriers other than those identified in the literature? This study was guided by an interpretivist theoretical framework. It was conducted at a nonformal ABE program offered by a nonprofit organization. The participants were six African American learners enrolled in ABE at the time of data collection, each of whom had previously failed to persist in this or some other ABE program. Data sources include individual interviews, focus groups, classroom observations, artifacts,a research journal, andfield notes.Findings ofhe study indicated that African American ABE studentsperceived a number of barriers. Situational barriers included family obligations, health problems,and work. Dispositional barriers perceived by participants were lowself-efficacy, shame, and negative perceptions of racial identity. Age was identified as both a situational and a dispositionalbarrier. Lack of tutor persistence, lack of individual attention, embarrassment in the learning setting, anddissatisfaction with instructional options were structural barriers identified by participants. Additional structural barriers found included lack of cultural relevance in instruction and overemphasis on grammar. Boshier's Congruence Model accurately predicted the participation decision of three participants. Thestudy's findings suggest that African American ABE students' participation decisions are greatly impacted by their experiences in thelearning setting and individual self perceptions. Unavoidable life events and competing obligations alsoled to learners' failure to persist.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.