The Lived Experiences of GED Students: What Do Their Experiences Tell Us?

Open Access
Snider, Susan Lynn
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 12, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Gary Kuhne, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Gary Kuhne, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Esther Susana Prins, Committee Member
  • Melody M Thompson, Committee Member
  • David P Baker, Committee Member
  • General Educational Development
  • high school equivalency diploma
The General Educational Development (GED®) Tests, established in 1945, helped determine soldiers’ high school qualifications for the workforce, as they returned home from WWII. Because many soldiers dropped out of school to join the military, achieving a certain score on the test was a way for them to demonstrate that they had attained high school equivalency. Today, this credential has evolved into a second chance certificate for many high school dropouts. The southwestern Pennsylvania students, who were part of this research, demonstrated the persistence, tenacity, and determination they needed to achieve the goal of passing the battery of five GED Tests. The theoretical framework of functionalism explored how these students fit into a society that values educational credentials. The educational opportunities offered through the adult education programs these students attended, enabled them to discover their strengths, abilities, and capabilities. Some researchers believed these were qualities they possessed all along and in the case of these adult learners, they believed it was the support they received especially from their teachers that assisted them in learning more about transitioning to work, post-secondary opportunities or training. They grew not only academically, but personally as well. They were grateful for the patience, flexibility, and respect shown to them by their adult education teachers, something they felt was lacking in their former educational settings. Their families and classmates also supported their efforts. Many of the students experienced extraordinary changes in their lives that helped them fulfill their goal of receiving their GED credential. Those who were parents wanted to continue to be role models for their children and reinforce the importance of a good education to them. The methodology of qualitative interviewing helped convey the experiences as the adult learners explained their individual processes of entering an adult education program and preparing not only for the GED Tests, but also for their future. Their experiences tell us that while some students were down, they were never out. They would not let their circumstances dictate their future. Their stories demonstrated that they had learned from their life lessons to be persistent and diligent in order to achieve their goal of receiving their GED credential.