- This study was designed to investigate a phenomenon, retention of Hispanic adult second language learners in Washington State's community colleges, from a qualitative paradigm and phenomenological approach. The focus of this study was to capture eight foreign-born Hispanic ESL non-continuators' voices and experiences, in their native language of Spanish, who dropped out of Washington State's community colleges and unveil the phenomenon behind the factors leading to their retention barriers.
The following questions guided the research: (1) What are the retention barriers of Hispanic English as a Second Language population in Washington State Community Colleges? (2) What is the profile of the foreign-born Hispanic ESL learner in Washington State's Community Colleges? (3) Why do Hispanic ESL participants drop out? (4) What services are needed and provided to increase retention patterns of Hispanic ESL learners? (5) What services could make a difference in retention of Hispanic's English as a Second Language participants?
A qualitative methodology and phenomenological approach of in-depth interviews was the research paradigm utilized for data collection. Participants were recruited from a survey implemented at various community colleges' and communitybased organizations' ESL programs in Washington State. Criteria for inclusion as a potential participant in this research required adult participants to be: (1) foreign-born Hispanic, (2) a resident of Washington state, (3) in the age range of eighteen to thirty years of age, (4) a prior drop out student from one of Washington State's community colleges adult basic education ESL programs, and (5) a volunteer to participate in the study.
This study unveiled factors that caused retention barriers for eight foreign-born Hispanic ESL adult learners that dropped out of Washington State's community colleges Adult Basic Education ESL programs. In many Adult Basic Education ESL programs in Washington State, foreign-born Hispanic adults are largely voluntary candidates, and the role of student is just one of the countless roles competing for their time and attention. From the eight foreign-born Hispanic non-continuators' voices and experiences, the findings indicate that retention is a complex phenomenon involving various institutional, situational, and dispositional factors. This study's findings also unveiled structural issues for the eight foreign-born Hispanic participants, creating systemic structural barriers to their socioeconomic and education development in the United States. This means no one factor could provide an explanation for the retention phenomenon.
The eight foreign-born Hispanic adult non-continuators' situational and dispositional factors overwhelmed their zeal for ESL instruction, ESL level completion, and/or ESL program completion. The interview question guide unveiled reasons often voiced as the causes for non-continuation: (1) family struggles and hardships, (2) lack of childcare, healthcare, and transportation, and (3) long work hours. At the same time, the eight foreign-born Hispanics adult non-continuators had pragmatic reasons for engaging in ESL, and felt that the programs would provide meaningful contextual learning for immediate or long-term goals for the home, workplace, or community.