Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career and Higher Education

Major Professor

Kathleen P. King, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Thomas Cox, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Thomas Miller, Ed.D.

Committee Member

William H. Young, Ed.D.


adult, illiterate, reading, postsecondary education


This phase one study was conducted using qualitative research methods in order to describe to policymakers and local literacy program experts more completely the current challenges and needs some adult women in Tennessee with low-literacy skills face when pursing higher education or a professional career. In turn, such information can assist them in better identifying appropriate resources and interventions to serve these women.

Data were collected through a cross-case analysis of two individual case studies and five interviews with three adult learners and two literacy program experts. Artifacts (e.g., flyers) were also collected, but provided no substantial contribution to the data. The themes that emerged from this study were the need to 1) bond with an instructor, 2) attain more than a part-time job, 3) to overcome past experiences in school, 4) programs to be offered in close proximity of where the adult learners live, and 5) for instruction to include financial literacy.

Implications for practice included, but are not limited to, proximity of the literacy program to the adult learner and the need to be more broadly advertised, emphasizing the fact that these services are free and available to everyone.

This study was designed to be the first phase of a continuing research effort. It provides a strong, informal case that further research is needed to serve a largely underserved population of women with low-literacy skills in Tennessee who need the services provided by state and local literacy programs.