Ed.D. Dissertations

Date of Award

Fall 12-14-2019

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


College of Education



Degree Name

Doctorate of Education, Ed.D.

Faculty Chair

Mark Jimenez, Ed.D.

Content Specialist

LaToya Thomas-Dixon, Ed.D.

Content Reader

Juan Vives, Ed.D.


adult learner, barrier to learning, dispositional barriers, institutional barriers, motivation to learn, situational barriers


Adult learners often encounter obstacles that impede their academic progress and either withdraw from a course or drop out of college. There has been significant research conducted on effectively instructing and motivating adult learners. However, not enough research has been conducted to help adult learners sustain their motivation when barriers arise impacting their academic success. The goal of this study was to identify barriers that impact adult learners’ academic success. The study examined the viewpoints of undergraduate adult learners at an American higher education institution to determine situational, institutional and dispositional barriers encountered impacting their academic success. The research theoretical framework was based on andragogy theory, along with social learning and sociocultural theories. A qualitative embedded case study research design was chosen because it allowed the investigator to use a triangulation process consisting of a survey, semistructured interview, and two focus groups. The data were collected employing a triangulation method from a total of 33 participants who completed the survey. A random sample of 10 participants who were selected from the initial 33 participants, participated in both the semistructured interviews and focus groups. Qualitative analysis was conducted employing an open and axial coding process for both semistructured interviews and focus groups, to capture themes and patterns from responses provided by participants. The findings of the study indicated that adult learners have academically been impacted by situational barriers, institutional and dispositional barriers.