Skip to main content

Learner Retention

  • Ask learners about their barriers to participation.
  • Brainstorm possible solutions with learners.
  • Have a list of community resources that can help.
  • Provide an orientation for new learners.
  • Set realistic and achievable goals.
  • Ensure learners see progress with short-term goals, authentic activities and assessments.
  • Involve your learners in class planning.
  • Focus all instruction on learners’ daily communication needs and specific goals.
  • Build community between program participants.
  • Journal with learners – exchange short letters to connect and practice writing.
  • Send personal notes (birthday, congratulations, encouragement, etc.)
  • Encourage learners to support each other.
  • Make sure learners know they are missed when they are absent.
  • Ask learners why they leave your program, and use the data to improve programs.
  • Require quality training and professional development for all tutors and instructors.
  • Recognize achievement and celebrate successes.

“Learner Persistence in Adult Basic Education” from NCSALL:

“Recruitment and Retention of Students for Literacy Programs” from the NCFL Comprehensive Recruitment and Retention Toolkit.

How do we recognize and celebrate learner successes?

  • Awards and certificates
  • Goal achievement
  • Program completion
  • Attendance
  • Nominate an outstanding achievement learner for Wisconsin Literacy’s statewide award.

Board/Wall of recognition

  • Hang pictures of learners, staff and volunteers in the program
  • Display writing sample and other learner work

Feature learners’ stories (with learner permission)

  • Newsletter article
  • Social media post
  • Invite learners to speak at an agency event


  • Graduation ceremony
  • Semester end reception
  • Learner (and family) annual celebration picnic

Incentives/Small gifts

  • Incentives (gas cards, workbooks) for specific attendance goals
  • Hi/Lo reader at the end of the semester

Put together a collection of adult learners’ writing samples