Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


College of Education

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Linda Spatig

Second Advisor

Eric Lassiter

Third Advisor

Rudy Pauley


Place-based learning has been shown to be effective for use with traditional-aged students, but not much research has been conducted to connect the use of place-based learning with adults, particularly in rural areas of Appalachia. Because of the lack of information concerning this topic, a qualitative case study was conducted among participants in an adult learning program in West Virginia. The intent of the study was to add to the body of knowledge regarding place-based learning with adults. The case study examined the experiences and perceptions of adult planners, implementers, and participants in a program called Regional Learning Opportunities (RLOs) which was conducted state-wide in West Virginia. This study focused on the RLOs in one region of the state and two individual counties within that region were examined more closely as nested cases within the regional study. The purpose of the study was to examine the factors that enabled and constrained learning in a program that was delivered state-wide but had a local focus for all participants. The data collected at the state-wide, regional and individual county levels included interviews with RLO planners, implementers, and participants, as well as observations of monthly RLO sessions over a period of ten months. Additionally, the study involved the review of all pertinent documents associated with the RLOs which included planning documents, curriculum materials, reference materials, and monthly reports. Findings indicated that participants’ reactions to the RLOs were widely variable. There was an equal number of comments that described the RLOs as very helpful as there were comments that described the RLOs as unhelpful and confusing with no real direction given to the participants.

Through analysis of the data, several enabling and constraining factors affecting learning emerged. The factors that enabled learning included both process- and content-related factors. Networking emerged as a strong process-related enabling factor, while the focus on the local community emerged as the predominant content-related factor. Among factors that constrained learning, four process-related issues emerged: separation between planning and implementation, confusion about teaching of content versus facilitation of learning, skill/experience variability among participants, and inadequate resources which included sub-issues related to knowledge, staffing, and time.


Place-based education - West Virginia - Case studies


Adult education - West Virginia - Case studies