Using Behavioral Science to Improve Student Success

GEDWorks is a national program created for employers sponsoring their employees earning GED credentials. 

Employees receive a comprehensive set of resources, including personal study plans and material, practice and official tests, and an advisor to guide them through their journeys. When the GEDWorks program launched, it uncovered important learnings about the challenges faced by working adults. These learnings, along with research from the field of behavioral science, were incorporated into GEDWorks to dramatically improve students’ persistence in the program.

Sarita Parikh, Senior Director of Student Experience, and Cynthia Parshall, Behavioral Design Consultant from Touchstone Consulting, presented a brief case study at the annual Behavioral Science & Policy Association conference.* This short video presentation gives a flavor of the research-based approaches used by GED Testing Service to help more adults earn their high school credentials. It briefly summarizes some of the early challenges of GEDWorks, learnings from student research, and behavioral science based techniques used to improve student persistence. Examples include:

  • Explicitly using a “student” identity and reframing
  • Creating a sense of time urgency and averting loss
  • Social support from peers, in a private and safe environment

Helping more adults earn their high school credentials and move into the middle class is a goal that continues to warrant research and data-based experimentation. In that spirit, GED Testing Service is committed to ongoing research with real students and teachers, along with incorporating learnings from the fields of behavioral science, education, and usability.

* The Behavioral Science & Policy Association (BSPA) is “a global community of public and private sector decision makers, behavioral science researchers, policy analysts, and practitioners with a bold mission to promote the application of rigorous behavioral science research that serve the public interest.”


  1. I find that a lot of my incoming students come to class in order to get a job or get a better job. Some students stop out because they finally get a job and that job becomes a priority in their lives. I try to explain to them the difference between a job and a career. In order to have a career, students need to continue their education; however, having that job to feed their family becomes the priority in their lives. It is difficult to manage both school and work.

  2. In my state, learners can select either the GED or HiSET to earn an HSE. Students are choosing the HiSET because it is easier to take, not because they view the test as easier. With the vast majority of learners having some form of Learning Difference, they see the GED test as having too many question/answer formats to navigate during the test. They say it would add confusion and disrupt focus, so they opt for the test that has a predictable layout.

    In my view, fewer “moving parts” reduce the cognitive load for test-takers, but I leave the comparison chart for them to use to decide.

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