Motivation 1 Motivation and Adult Learning Motivation 2 Abstract This article examines the reasons why adult learners choose to further their education. The author describes the results of a survey conducted as part of an online undergraduate business course discussion and applies the comments of the survey participants to formal theories in the field of adult learning, most notably, Jack Mezirow's theory of transformative learning. Major changes in life circumstances are noted as the driving force in motivating the survey participants pursuit of higher education, but are often interwoven with a variety of less significant, but still important motivating factors. Motivation 3 Motivation and Adult Learning “Motivation is a concept that defines why people think and behave the way they do” (Wlodkowski, 1999, p. 1). Motivation, the concept, is a broad topic, but motivation as it relates to the adult learner is less so. Adults are motivated to learn by certain, very specific things. If an instructor understands these motivating factors, he or she can better meet adult learner needs in the classroom. What motivates adults to learn? Adults seek out learning experiences in order to cope with specific life changing events – being fired, getting married, retiring, relocating, etc. The more life changing events an adult encounters, the more likely he or she will look for learning opportunities to help cope with those life changes. According to a recent UNESCO survey, 90.6 percent of adult learners seek additional education due to job or career related reasons (Merriam & Caffarella, 1999). Adults who are motivated to look for a learning experience do so mainly because they have a need for the knowledge of skill being sought (Zemke, 1984). Adults look for educational experiences that will help them get a better job, earn more money, have more leisure time, or get into a more satisfying career field. “Learning, for the adult, is a means to an end, not an end in itself” (Zemke, 1984, p. 1). In a survey conducted by this author of 25 adults participating in undergraduate higher education in an online business course at a private college in the state of Michigan, 22 of them cited career related reasons as the motivating factor for enrollment in an educational program (See Appendix A: Adult Learner Survey, p. 12). The adults who participated in this survey made comments such as the following: Motivation 4 Right now I work for Ford Motor Company, and I'm sure everyone knows about all the layoffs that have been coming up in the automotive field, that is why I initially started going to school. I need something to fall back on. Since there are many new areas in my career, I am motivated to gain and expand my knowledge in these different areas. I plan to complete a degree in Health Administration and feel it would also make me more of an asset to the corporation. I held that position for 15 years and realized that I needed something more. I knew in order for me to move up and on I needed a college degree. Initially, my goal was to obtain a bachelor's degree so I would be able to be promoted at my previous company. I want to have a degree to fall back on in the event that the company I work for goes under. Unfortunately this was only a contract position and I needed full time employment. I regrettably had to leave Microsoft and pursue full-time employment elsewhere. My goal is to be able to return to Microsoft in a full time position as a Software Developer in Test. In order to attain this goal I need to obtain my Bachelors degree in Computer Science It is obvious that work-related issues are responsible for motivating many adults to seek further education. Most adult learners are employed and gain much of their identity from their work, so it is not surprising that so many of them seek education for job-related reasons (Merriam & Caffarella, 1999). An adult’s work identity is, in many cases, how he or she measures success. When something happens to disrupt one’s work identity and measure of success, it can be enough to make the individual take action and pursue further education. Motivation 5 In Jack Mezirow’s (1990) theory of transformative learning, the idea that perspective transformation, or a change in the person’s perspective is often initiated with a disorienting dilemma. Mezirow believes that perspective transformation begins when a person encounters different life experiences. Often the experience is emotionally charged and fails to fit the person’s expectations, or he or she encounters an incongruity that can't be given coherence (Mezirow, 1991). If this crisis can't be resolved through the application of previous problem- solving strategies, the learner then engages in self-examination. Self-examination leads to exploring new options for “forming new roles, relationships, or actions, which leads to formulating a plan of action” (Merriam & Caffarella, 1999, p. 321). Although critics have argued that transformative learning occurs in a more gradual process, the participants in this author's survey (See Appendix A: Adult Learner Survey, p. 12) do list a number of situations that fit within Mezirow’s theory. For example, survey participants write: My husband has been out of the Information Technology industry for more than six months because he was laid off. The companies hiring for his line of work are, naturally, picking people with a degree for these jobs rather than someone who may have the same knowledge without the degree. So, that shows me that in a bad economy, the ones with the degrees will be chosen. Then my motive changed to supporting my daughters when I realized I was going to become a single mother. When I got married and was unable to continue my education for a while, I felt helpless. About five years ago I had the unique opportunity to work at Microsoft as a Software Test Engineer contractor. Unfortunately this was only a contract position and I needed full time employment. I regrettably had to leave Microsoft and pursue full time Motivation 6 employment elsewhere. My goal is to be able to return to Microsoft in a full time position as a Software Developer in Test. I got all of the classes out of the way up until the point where I needed to do my observation classes. This is when I had to quit. My husband and I just simply could not afford to put our son in day care during the day while I took observation classes and did not work. About six months ago, my brothers came to live with me. Our mother was doing really badly and the state took her three boys away from her. Now my husband and I are getting ready to adopt them. Major changes in a person’s life circumstances, especially those that influence an adult’s work identity, are certainly motivating issues that drive them to seek further education. Life circumstances and major events often prompt the adult to look within him/herself and question some of their basic assumptions about life which in turn becomes the motivating factor for seeking further education. In addition, there are other motivating factors that should not be over- looked as well. In the author's survey (See Appendix A: Adult Learner Survey, p. 13), learners also cited the following reasons for pursuing additional education: I have just started my college journey (again), and I am really enjoying the ride so far. I would imagine that once I get to the end of this degree, there will be another one that I want to pursue. It's the learning that is the hook. Going to college was an "unrealized" thing for me. It was one of those things I have to do in order to check it off of the "Kelly's life wish" list. I really enjoy learning in a classroom environment as well. Motivation 7 I do this for them and for my own children. I am a role model that things in life are as good as you make them. By going to school, I show them how important an education is. By bringing home good grades, encourages them to do the same. If I have a drive to never quit, then they will always try harder. What motivated me to go back to college was primarily the fact that all my friends have degrees. When I was done having children it began to bother me. The other reason I stay motivated is because eventually we would like to move to another country, and at least one of us should have a degree in order to qualify for citizenship. Quite a few of the adult learners surveyed listed reasons like those listed above as motivation for returning to school. Interestingly, however, in many cases the personal reasons were in addition to, and in many cases, secondary in nature to their primary career-related goals. Morstain and Smart (as cited in Merriam & Caffarella, 1991) identified a six-factor solution to understand adult motivation in terms of education: 1. Social Relationships – meeting new friends or members of the opposite sex. 2. External Expectations – complying with the wishes of a higher authority figure. 3. Social Welfare – altruistic orientation, community service. 4. Professional Advancement – job enhancement 5. Escape/Stimulation – alleviating boredom 6. Cognitive Interest – engaged for the sake of learning itself Adults are motivated to participate in educational activities for a variety of reasons; therefore, professional advancement shouldn’t be the only factor under consideration when dealing with adult motivation to learn (Lieb, 1991). Motivation 8 Once an adult identifies the necessity of further education, either for personal or professional goals, and enrolls in an educational program, the instructor should identify the needs of the adult learner. A good instructor will recognize the differences between a traditional learner and an adult learner and try to create an environment in which the adult will flourish (Lieb, 1991). In order to be a more effective instructor to adult learners, one must first understand how adults learn. Understanding why people behave the way they do is vitally important to helping them learn. Adults have a self-concept of being accountable for their own lives. They develop a profound psychological desire to be viewed and treated by others as being capable of self-sufficiency. They become ready to learn those things they need to know in order to deal effectively with their real-life circumstances (Wlodkowski, 1999). Adults are autonomous and self-directed, goal-oriented, relevancy-oriented, practical, and full of life experiences and knowledge that should be tapped within the classroom environment. Instructors must involve adult learners in the learning process itself. Instructors should allow learners to assume responsibility, work on projects that reflect their interests, and act as facilitators to guide them to their own knowledge instead of simply supplying them with facts. Instructors must also show adult learners how the class will help them reach their goals and how the course material is applicable to their life (Lieb, 1991). Instructors must see adult learners as unique and active, so they can emphasize communication and respect. Instructors must comprehend that through understanding and sharing resources, they create greater energy for learning. Since adults view themselves as responsible for their own lives, they feel a greater need to be successful within the educational environment (Wlodkowski, 1999). In addition, instructors should be aware that adults are there, Motivation 9 in many cases, due to identity altering situations. Mezirow (1990) believes that an educator should include transformative ideas in their practice by helping the learner focus on and examine the assumptions that underlie their beliefs, feelings and actions. Instructors should encourage learners to access the consequences of their beliefs, explore alternative assumptions, and test the validity of assumptions by participating in reflective dialog. This way learning becomes more reflective and critical and opens the person up to new ideas and to the perspectives of others (Mezirow, 1990). Instructors, at a basic level, want adult learners to “responsibly begin, continue, and complete learning activities with a reasonable amount of effort and with successful achievement" (Wlodkowski, 1999, p. 13). If every adult learned this way, there would be no problem, but an adult’s view on motivation is more complicated. Adults want to be successful learners and this goal is consistently pressuring them because success indicates competence. If adults struggle to experience success, their motivation for learning will generally weaken. “For their motivation to be sustained, adults must experience choice or willingness along with their success in the learning activity" (Wlodkowski, 1999, p. 13). Since choice and success are crucial motivators, instructors must make a distinct effort to allow for both. Choice plus success can equal continued motivation and meaning for adult learners. Instructors should strive to take those ideas and go one step further. By adding value and enjoyment to choice and success, an adult learner will find satisfaction in the learning as well as meaning (Wlodkowski, 1999).To allow for this, instructors should try to establish a friendly, open atmosphere that shows the participants they will help them learn. This can alleviate the fear of failure right from the start. The degree of difficulty should be set high enough to challenge the Motivation 10 learners, but not so high they become frustrated. Instruction should predict and reward participation, ending in success (Lieb, 1991). Feedback to adult learners is important as well. Detailed feedback contributes to continued motivation. Learners must also be rewarded and reinforced. A learner who is rewarded finds enjoyment in learning. Positive reinforcement should be used with adult learners since the result of negative reinforcement is extinction – obviously detrimental to motivation (Lieb, 1991). In addition, retention of the material is necessary to complete the learning cycle and provide the learner with a learning experience that is perceived as valuable. Learners must see a meaning or purpose to the information being learned and understand how to interpret and apply that information. An instructor should provide many opportunities for learners to practice the material. The best way to retain a learned skill is to practice it. Finally, an instructor should strive for transference of learning. Transference is the ability to use the information taught in a new setting. Since an adult learner is specifically motivated by the desire to learn new skills and ideas that he or she can apply to real-life situations, this step in the educational process is crucial. If the learner can transfer the learned material to his or her real life, he or she will consider the learning experience to be worthwhile (Lieb, 1991). Every adult wants to enjoy the learning process and be able to apply the new learning to his or her own life. By taking all of this into consideration, instructors and course developers can tailor course material, discussion topics, assignments, etc. to reflect the unique way adults learn. An instructor who actively works to meet the needs of the adult learners in his or her care will provide a valuable experience that both parties can enjoy. Motivation 11 References Lieb, S. (1991). Principles of adult learning. VISION, (1), . Merriam, S., & Caffarella, R. (1998). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide. (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Mezirow, J. (1990). Fostering critical reflection in adulthood: A guide to transformative and emancipatory learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc. Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc. Wlodkowski, R. (1999). Enhancing adult motivation to learn. (2nd.ed.). San Francisco: Jossey- Bass. Zemke, R. (1984). 30 things we know for sure about adult learning. Innovation Abstracts, (8), . Motivation 12 Appendix A Adult Learner Survey (Workplace Communication undergraduate course at a business college in the state of Michigan) Questions and Results (25 responding) Instructor comments as part of Week 5 – Career Goals discussion: “As we approach Week 5, I am reminded just how important it is to have a solid goal in mind when you undertake something as major as a college degree. Let's face it - it is hard work, time consuming, and expensive. But, completely worth it! For example, when my husband was in the Navy, we moved constantly and I got tired of trying to find a new job each time - and, I was tired of leaving jobs I had worked hard at! So, I decided I wanted to teach online. That was the goal. From there, I figured out how to reach that goal (by earning a Master's degree) in as short amount of time as possible. I had the degree in 16 months and started teaching online as soon as my thesis project was approved and my transcripts were official. By focusing on a specific goal, I was able to stay motivated. It is wonderful to dream of what your degree will bring you, but take it one step further and set a specific goal - research companies that you want to work for, find out what they require, learn names of people, contact the HR people there and find out what qualifications, certifications, etc.. they look for in candidates - make yourself into the perfect hire and be in a position to get that job as soon as you finish. If you are earning your degree just for fun, great - if not, set a goal!” Question posed for 30 adult students participating in a Workplace Communications undergraduate course at a business college in the state of Michigan: “So, with that in mind, please tell me what motivated you to go to college? What are your goals?” Student responses: 1. Right now I work for Ford Motor Company, and I'm sure everyone knows about all the layoffs that have been coming up in the automotive field, that is why I initially started going to school. I need something to fall back on. Three years later, my reasons are a little bit different. My fiancé also works at Ford and we now have a 10 month old baby boy, I don't want to work at Ford for the next 30 years. My ultimate goal is to work from home. 2. I have many goals that I want to get done. I have decided to keep going on to get my next degree after I got this one done. My children are the ones that motivated me to go to college, Motivation 13 because I feel if I didn't have children I might not went college. I have figured that I wanted to show my children mom went to college so I feel that I need to. 3. Since I changed from Critical Care Nursing to Occupational Health Nursing, it was a total career change. I am still involved with nursing care and treatment but more of my job involves preventative medicine, case management, benefit cost reduction, and supervision. Since there are many new areas in my career, I am motivated to gain and expand my knowledge in these different areas. I plan to complete a degree in Health Administration and feel it would also make me more of an asset to the corporation. 4. Right after high school I went straight into the grocery business. I worked my way up to in 13 years I worked my way from box-boy to Asst. store manager. I knew I did not want this as a career and began seeking other opportunities. I hired on with IBC (my present company) and began as a vacation relief driver. Within four months I was promoted to Area Sales Manager and a year later to Retail Sales Manager. I held that position for 15 years and realized that I needed something more. I knew in order for me to move up and on I needed a college degree. I researched hundreds of jobs and found that HR had the most opportunities and options. I then researched different colleges, looking for one that would fit my needs. Once that was in place, I told myself that I would be in HR by the time I obtained my AA degree. Once I achieved that goal, I then set my sights for a position as a HR manager by the time I achieve my BA. After that I have my sights set on an Administrative Law Judge. 5. The thing that motivates me the most is knowing when I’m done how much time I will have and how I will enjoy what I do since it is my major and something that I actually chose to do. 6. Initially, my goal was to obtain a bachelor's degree so I would be able to be promoted at my previous company. Then, we took a vacation at Big Bend national park. Not far from there is the little town of Alpine, Texas. My husband and I fell in love with that town. Our long term goal is to move to Alpine. However, employment can be hard to come by in a small town. So my goal is to get my Associates, then Bachelor's, then Master's, and possibly a PhD in computer science. With that set of credentials, I am hoping I can either obtain a teaching position with Sul Ross or a teaching position for an online college. 7. I have found my dream job. At my previous job, I said that I want to run a small business for someone (but not have to have the financial burden). Five years ago, I found that job. Now I want my degree for four reasons 1) self-esteem - It isn't the wage that motivates me because I am compensated very well based on my work experience. I just don't want to be the smart girl who didn't finish college. 2) improvement - I want to expand on my skills and learn new skills to help the company I work for grow. 3) security - NOTHING in life is guaranteed. I want to have a degree to fall back on in the event that the company I work for goes under. Other employers may not value experience over education like my current employer. 4) learning - I looovvveee to learn. This may sound geeky, but I love to take these classes. I check the message boards frequently throughout the day to see what is going on. I even like doing my homework....I know it sounds funny, but that's me. Motivation 14 8. There are a couple of things that keep me motivated. One reason is because I know that education is the only way to get a good job and remain secure. For example, my husband has been out of the Information Technology industry for more than 6 months because he was laid off. The companies hiring for his line of work are, naturally, picking people with a degree for these jobs rather than someone who may have the same knowledge without the degree. So, that shows me that in a bad economy, the ones with the degrees will be chosen. In fact, we have people come in to Personnel Department at the airport all the time with degrees trying to get entry level Typist positions. It is VERY sad. The other reason I stay motivated is because eventually we would like to move to another country, and at least one of us should have a degree in order to qualify for citizenship. Since he cannot go to school while collecting unemployment, I need to really get in here and do well with my classes. 9. That's a very complex question for me. Mostly because there are many reasons I decided to go back to school. The first reason I decided to go back to school is for security. I don't want to be left broke if something were to ever happen to my husband, since he is currently the breadwinner in the family. I also wanted to go back to school to set an example for my children. I started having children VERY young, so I never had a chance to go to college. Now that I'm an adult, I know how important it is to have a college degree. My goals are to have my associates of business with concentration in accounting by this winter. Then I plan to stick with it and have my bachelors in business within a year from that. I would like to work for a large company one day as a controller or as a forensic accountant. I'm very open to interesting jobs though. Who knows what I'll eventually end up doing one day! 10. I have always felt like I have had a monkey on my back by not having my degree. Many people in my field (Network Security) have their degrees and sometimes it is uncomfortable not having mine. I also think that, this sounds cheesy, but I have missed out learning the things that my colleagues have learned by not finishing my degree. 11. Going to school is very hard to always go, be on time and turn in your homework but with the goal of getting your degree pays off at the end. I have been going to school for 6 years and I have one semester to go and I'll be done, phewwww. The past couple of semesters are getting harder and harder to go but I know I’m about to reach my goal of bachelor’s degree which will be my biggest accomplishment! I received my Associate’s a few years ago and was so happy I reached my first degree now I’m aiming for my second. It’s my motivation knowing I have worked so hard for so long to get my degree and with it I can get a better job that pays more money. 12. I have had a strong desire to go to college since I was in elementary school. Life didn't happen in a way that allowed me to go four years straight out of college. I have been going off and on for the past 15 years. My first motivation was the pleasure of learning. I don't think I really knew where I was going other than I enjoyed the accounting field. Then my motive change to supporting my daughters when I realized I was going to become a single mother. Well, the end is now in sight and I have a clear direction. Here is what I want: I will be finishing my Associate’s Degree in Accounting within the year. Motivation 15 I am going to start free-lancing from home within the year, so that I may dedicate more time to my family and my husband's business. I will only have about a year to finish my Bachelors Degree, so I will be continuing my education as I begin my home business. 13. What motivated me to go back to college was primarily the fact that all my friends have degrees. When I was done having children it began to bother me. I wish I would have gotten my degree before children, but it didn't happen that way. I know that I can do this and now I am proving it. 14. In high school, I had really good grades and I've always dreamed of getting a college degree. When I got married and was unable to continue my education for a while, I felt helpless. I then found out that many universities and colleges offer 100% online degrees. I made up my mind that I want a degree and that I can do it. My husband and family are supportive of me and I think that others' support really helps. I think that what motivates me to go to college is the feeling of accomplishment. Also, since I'm thinking of running a business or working with my husband in his business, I need the degree to be able to work effectively and efficiently. 15. I have just started my college journey (again), and I am really enjoying the ride so far. I would imagine that once I get to the end of this degree, there will be another one that I want to pursue. It's the learning that is the hook. 16. About five years ago I had the unique opportunity to work at Microsoft as a Software Test Engineer contractor. Unfortunately this was only a contract position and I needed full time employment. I regrettably had to leave Microsoft and pursue full time employment elsewhere. My goal is to be able to return to Microsoft in a full time position as a Software Developer in Test. In order to attain this goal I need to obtain my Bachelors degree in Computer Science. This is a rather difficult goal since I have a full time job and a full time family, but I feel the benefits will greatly outweigh the cost. 17. I vacillate between goals. I really like working for myself and I am working harder than I ever did for someone else (and that's really "wow" to me because I put in some hard hours at my prior company). I also feel this urge to climb a corporate ladder and be one of the infrequent female CEO's for a Fortune 500. Regardless of what I decide, I am moving on to my M.B.A. 18. Going to college was an "unrealized" thing for me. It was one of those things I have to do in order to check it off of the "Kelly's life wish" list. I really enjoy learning in a classroom environment as well. I also realized that a degree gets you in the door long before equivalent experience will. Most companies now want a BS/BA or equivalent PLUS 4 or 5 + years of experience so that is 9 years of experience. I can have both at the same time. I have also seen a glut of MBA preferred ads as well. 19. My husband really helped to motivate me. Before I started taking classes for my Business Management degree, I was going to school to be a teacher. I got all of the classes out of the way up until the point where I needed to do my observation classes. This is when I had to quit. My Motivation 16 husband and I just simply could not afford to put our son in day care during the day while I took observation classes and did not work. Even the "side jobs" that I got were not enough to help pay the bills. I had to give up my lifelong dream of being a teacher. It all seems to be working out for the best though. First, I was able to get a great position just recently because I am almost finished with school, second, there are so many new teachers out there that have student loans to pay back and can't get jobs, and third, I have really grown to like my Business Management courses. I have found that I will be able to do a whole lot more with this degree than I would've been able to do with a teaching degree. I can open my own business, be a manager, be a director, go to law school, anything. 20. I also want to give our kids the very best and I don't mind at all contributing as much to the family as my husband does. I don't want my kids to have to go through some of the hardships that I had to when I was younger and even now. This is another really big motivator. 21. I was an hourly production worker for 18 years when I was asked if I was interested in becoming a supervisor. I jumped at the chance passed all my testing and within six months I was a permanent salary employee. I enjoyed my new position and performed very well. I was promoted to General Supervisor three years later. But at my yearly reviews it was highly recommended that I peruse a degree as I could not be promoted past a 7th level without one. My goal is to stay with General Motors and be promoted to an 8th level. It may take me a few years but my goal is to succeed with my plan! 22. I really had to think about this before I answered. The healthcare field is so in demand right now. I can go to any city in any state and find a job, and a fairly decent paying one at that. However, I didn't want to be a floor nurse for the rest of my career. Now that I have a lot of good and varied experience under my belt, I want to keep the cushy management job that I have. Fortunately the facility that I work for allowed me to take my current position with an Associate’s degree with the provision that work on my bachelors. That was all the motivation that I needed, because I had been thinking about it for about the last year or so. I'm also able to get tuition reimbursement, so I can apply that to my loan and I won't be stuck with a huge debt at the end, especially since my husband is a student too. 23. I decided to return to school after I decided to stop working to take care of my son. My goals are to first receive my associate's degree in Human Resources Management and after this I will obtain my bachelor's degree in Human Resources Management. I will be receiving my associate's degree in September. I was motivated by my children. I wanted to further my education so that I could get a better paying job in order to help provide for my family. I will be entering into the bachelor's program in the fall. I am going to try to find a job in HR management while I am seeking my Bachelor's degree. 24. Well, I went to college so that I could provide for myself and start my life as an adult. I also get to help others because of what I have learned in college and the type of job I have right now. Helping others has been a part of my goal and by furthering my education I can or will be able to start my own business and provide home health care for people as well as give others in the medical field an opportunity to work in the field that they are qualified to work in. Motivation 17 25. My two children were my initial motivation. My husband has worked hard the entire time we have been together (8 years next month). And it seems the money is always the same. My children are my life, always have been and always will be. I never had an ideal up bringing. My mother was only 15 when she had me. This meant living with my entire family, back and forth for quite a while. I want to give my kids more, and what they deserve. About 6 months ago, my brothers came to live with me. Our mother was doing really badly and the state took her three boys away from here. Now my husband and I are getting ready to adopt them. It is hard at times, and I know my brothers have been dealing with many of the same problems I did while growing up. This is my ultimate motivation. I want to make the money I need, so that I don't have to worry about their future. They didn't ask for the life they were given, and they shouldn't have to suffer. I do this for them and for my own children. I am a role model that things in life are as good as you make them. By going to school, I show them how important an education is. By bringing home good grades, encourages them to do the same. If I have a drive to never quit, then they will always try harder. It is my devotion to them that keeps me going every day.
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