Persistence Research and Practice

This page highlights research in a crucial area of adult basic education, persistence.  What keeps our adult learners in class?  What strategies can we use as instructors and in our programs as a whole to help students overcome barriers and achieve their learning goals?


At Home in Class: Creating Community

Creating classroom community is a key component in helping students persist in their studies.  This Google Slides presentation by Laurie Weston of Pitt Community College shows how her program/instructors work to build community in their classrooms.  Click HERE to find the presentation.  


How Do Students View Your Class?

How would it feel to be a student in your class?  Click HERE to find out what its like to be a student in many classes.  While this article focuses on the high school classroom, its conclusions about instruction apply to adult basic education.  


Making it Worth the Stay

Click HERE to find the groundbreaking study done by Andy Nash and Silja Kallenbach highlighting findings from the New England Adult Learner Persistence Project completed in 2008.  

The key finding: "We have come to believe that ultimately, the persistence strategies derive their power from the fact that they meet these affective needs of adults: Sense of belonging and community, clarity of purpose, agency, competence, relevance and stability."  


Perseverance: Keeping Our Students in Class

Click HERE to find the handout for a webinar done by Steve Schmidt for the COABE Virtual Conference on October 25, 2018.  


Persistence: Helping Adult Education Students Reach Their Goals

Click HERE to find the classic study done by John Comings in 2007 which summarizes previous research into adult education learner persistence and how programs can use it to improve outcomes for their students.  


Practitioner Example: Kitty Head - Kentucky 

Click HERE to find an article written by KET highlighting the strategies award winning teacher Kitty Head uses to build community in her classroom.  


Supporting Academic Persistence in Low-Skilled Adult Learners

Click HERE to find this literature review on adult education persistence.  Key findings include: "Building up positive supports such as supportive relationships inside and outside the classroom, clear goals and a sense of self-determination are critical to increasing academic persistence." 

Another key finding: "When students believe that their instructor has a genuine concern for them and their academic success, it has a positive effect on their persistence regardless of the amount of actual contact time. Other important instructional characteristics are organized and clear instruction, relating curriculum to students’ lives, providing instruction at the appropriate level of difficulty, building academic self-efficacy through reminding learners of prior accomplishments to help them make facilitative attributions, and using learner centered teaching practices and goal setting, particularly with career exploration and planning."

Supporting Learning and Motivation 

Click HERE to find the National Academy of Sciences publication Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Supporting Learning and Motivation edited by Alan Lesgold and Melissa Welch-Ross.  Pages 15 to 27 focus on adult learner motivation.