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Forces of Motivation for Adult Learners

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Andragogy is the art of helping adults learn. It is a new concept that has emerged with an aim of facilitating development and implementation of activities involved in adult learning. Andragogy was based on several assumptions about the adult learner (Adult Education Colloquium & Radovan, 2003, p.21). These assumptions include: Adults are driven by the need to know and hence they are required to know the reason for learning. The other one is that adults draw their experiences in learning. Self-concepts that adult learners become responsible for the decision they make on education include planning and evaluation of the learning process.

Adult learners are divided into three groups, namely the employed, unemployed and retired people. The employed adults engage in adult learning at their will or the initiative of his/her employer. The unemployed engage in learning for the purpose of gaining new skills, so that they can be able to participate effectively in the job market (Adult Education Colloquium & Radovan, 2003, p.35). They can be coerced by the society to get back to learning through withdrawal form their jobs. The retired individuals have different reasons for engaging in learning. Their reason for involvement in adult learning may be to find something that they can do in their retirement. Learning for them may also be the personal fulfillment and the quest for knowledge (Pont & Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2003, p. 37).

Andragogy

Education among adults is a collaborative endeavor and interdisciplinary. The collaboration aspect was viewed in research and practiced as there was innovation in the research involving adult education (Pantzar, 2007, p. 29). In andragogy, adult learners were closely associated with the assumptions of their new social roles. The other assumption of andragogy is that when adult learns get new knowledge, they were determined to apply it to problem solving. Finally, there is an assumption of motivation when an adult learner usually receives the motivation to learn from internal factors.

These assumptions of andragogy help in the creation of good learning opportunities for adult learners. Learning adults get involved in needs to be applicable and relevant according to the learners’ experience (Adult Learning Knowledge Centre & Ontario Literacy Coalition, 2012, p. 56). Experience is an essential factor for the adult learner as it helps in the creation of the ability to retain and also to transfer knowledge.

Adults were involved in transformational learning where through critical thinking transformation can be affected. Andragogy assumes a design of learning, which states that adults usually have the need to know why it is important for them to learn something new. The other assumption is that adult learners learn by involving themselves by practically doing.  The other assumption is that adult learners are problem-solvers. Finally, individuals involved in andragogy learn best when the material covered is to be used immediately (Pont & Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2003, p. 25).

Adult learners have unique attributes that need to be distinguished to be able to incorporate the principles used in adult learning for the design of instructions. It can thus be argued that adult learning is aimed at improving adults’ skills, knowledge, and the goals of organizational performance by applying the learnt skills to work (Adult Education Colloquium & Radovan, 2003, p. 67). It is worth noting that the theories of adult learning support the assumption that the mode in which adults learn is commonly self-directed and that adult learner have the need to apply their new skills to work. Adult learners also collaborate more in learning through their experiences. Research suggests that circumstances constituting the environment are responsible for the promotion or discouragement of learning.

These circumstances were created by the organizational structure, and they can lead to negative or positive situation, hence affecting the process of learning. Theorists of learning argue that the learning process that requires practice may take longer as compared to the one that does not require it (Pont & Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2003, p. 41). As such, the consideration of time in the process of learning is an important element. It was required that organizations consider time in learning, so that they can encourage and accelerate the learning process.

According to, adults learning theory, andragogy offers adults meaningful advantages in the process of learning. It argues that learning is usually effective, especially when the learner has experience. The theory proposes experimentation of new experiences, evaluation, reasoning, and reflection as being vital in order for learning to take place (Pantzar, 2007, p. 48). In the adult learning theory, personal responsibility, behavior, and perspectives are all critical factors. Adult learning has proved that learning is interactive as involves the use of theory and practice. In other words, adult learners learn theories and put those theories into work.

Today, many adults conceptualize the idea of learning as designed by the instructor and to occur in a classroom setting. They view it as if they have to sit in classes in order for them to learn. There are new approaches when adult learners were subjected to an environment of online learning (Adult Education Colloquium & Radovan, 2003, p. 54). This is particularly common to those learners who have a busy schedule. Hence, the online mode of learning appears to favor them. In this mode of learning, there is the use of technology in learning and, the instructor is aware what learners need and want as long as learning is concerned.

Instructors employ models and learning theories, including andragogy while working with adults online or when there is distance learning (Adult Learning Knowledge Centre & Ontario Literacy Coalition, 2012, p. 57). As most adults learned in a classroom setting in their days, new learning environments such as, online learning appear to be convenient for them.

Characteristics of Adult Learning

There are new methods of instructions and settings in this mode of teaching as compared to pedagogy. It was required that both the instructor and the learner get to know how to use the mode of learning such as online sources (Adult Education Colloquium & Radovan, 2003, p. 59). It is also vital that those who design the online mode of learning take into consideration the learning theory and how it relates to the new environment that was created in learning, especially in online and distance learning. Online learning and distance learning go hand-in-hand whereas if an individual understands online learning, he or she as well knows how to use distance learning.

It is important to note that adult learners are different from their counterparts in colleges. Adult learners have other roles and responsibilities, such as jobs and families that require their attention. There are other situations that require their attention, including childcare and domestic chores, which can interfere with the process of learning (Adult Learning Knowledge Centre & Ontario Literacy Coalition, 2012, p. 53). As such, virtually all adult learners participate in educational programs voluntarily, and they can manage their families, jobs, and other responsibilities alongside their classes. It appears that adult learners are usually highly motivated and oriented to their tasks.

Adult learners usually have many challenges just like other adults. They usually have the challenge of multiple careers and also the unstable nature of social structures. They have biological problems because their ages are increasing and, they were sometimes forced to cope with the problem of memory loss (Merriam, 2001, p. 89).

Recommendations of the problems facing adult learning

Instructors need to be aware of biological weaknesses of some adult learners because of his or her age. As such, materials for learning need to have large fonts, to be clear, large, and in bold colors. There is also the need to use images, graphics, and tables that can help in the interpretation of what is learnt by adults. The menu also needs to have clear contents (Lifelong Learning Resources, 1980, p. 73).

Instructors need to ensure that they respond to feedback from learners and, there should be tests that serve as evaluation of adult learners. Records need to be kept of all learning sessions and the instructor needs not to be biased on basis of culture, race, sex, or any other thing (Adult Education Colloquium & Radovan, 2003, p. 69).

Learning Styles in Adult Learning

They require consideration as there is a wide range of differences among adult learners. There is thus the need of individualization in the learning process in various situations and contexts of the learning process (Adult Learning Knowledge Centre & Ontario Literacy Coalition, 2012, p. 53).

The style used in adult learning needs to ensure that learners can to move across instructions at his or her own pace. The learning style should also ensure that there is the ease of reviewing previously learned concepts. It is also good if there is a provision of linked websites to learning materials (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991, p. 78). These serve as a reference point to what was contained in printed materials. The style of learning needed to ensure that adult learners were given enough time to master the contents. To ensure easy mastering, the instructor can apply multiple means, such as the use of audio ad graphics.

It is important to note that there is no adult learning theory that applies to all learning environments. The theories of adult learning help the faculty to understand his or her adult learner, so that they can design meaningful experiences aimed at helping them. To develop an online training model for adult learners, the following considerations were taken into account. The designer needs to be familiar with the way to design the online environment taking into consideration the medium of instructions and balancing the information on how adults learn (Lifelong Learning Resources, 1980, p. 72).

Adults also require being autonomous and being self-directed. Hence, they have that desire to be free and direct themselves. To do this, the instructor was required to develop a learning process that will involve actively adult learners. It is the responsibility of the instructor to ensure that there is an appropriate framework to guide participatory learning.

In this paper, it was determined that adults benefit from possessing a large reservoir of knowledge. The knowledge that they usually have has accumulated over years based on their work experiences and is useful as it serves as resources for learning (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991, p. 86). As such, it is easier for adult learners to build on their experience and knowledge by simply relating it to their experiences and events. The instructor in adult learning is required to acknowledge the essence of experience in the learning process of adults. Some theorists also argue that adult learners usually want to apply what they already know and are happy when they receive acknowledgement for what they know.

The instructor needs to be aware of past knowledge and experiences of adult learners.  Adult learners draw their experiences from vast sources, including family roles, affairs and also from work experiences. The instructor should draw examples from the experiences and use information to relate to the concept learnt.

Learning also needs to take consideration of changing social roles. The readiness of an adult to learn needs linkage with his or her developmental roles (Adult Learning Knowledge Centre & Ontario Literacy Coalition, 2012, p. 102). Adult learners, unlike those in pedagogy like it with programs organized to fulfill their own personal goals. Relevance oriented as they usually want to have reasons regarding the needs to learn and how the learning can be applied in their homes and their work places.

Something else about adult learners is that they were usually centered on problem-solving rather than subject-centered mode of learning (Pantzar, 2007, p.57). They were determined to know the reason to learn something new and how it will be beneficial to them. If the learning is taking place through an online medium, the instructor should request the student to reflect on what he or she was expected to learn and how it would be useful in the future in helping him or her attain his or her goals.

In adult learning, adult learners get motivation from internal factors rather than external factors. Factors that motivate adult learners include quality of life, self-esteem, and job satisfaction. Adult learners also respond well when the learning environment is safe and comfortable regardless of their age (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991, p. 45).

Criticism Concerning Adult Learning

Some theorists in adult learning argue that some issues in adult learning are not addressed as all people in adult learning are different because of his or her past histories. There are many varying attributes between individuals who determine how adults develop. Instructors need to take into consideration physiology, learning styles, and culture of adult learners as they develop the online mode of learning (Lifelong Learning Resources, 1980, p. 76). It was thus required that instructors get to learn from their students by listening to their views. Through this, students will be able to tell the instructor what they need to know as he or she is developing his or her course materials to by adult learners.

According, to the adult learners theory, it is important to consider the uniqueness of every learner in relation to his/her life experiences, culture, and gender. These characteristics related to life experiences, gender, and culture are as well important more than that one considered to be an adult (Adult Learning Knowledge Centre & Ontario Literacy Coalition, 2012, p. 47).

Others argue that despite andragogy contributing to adult learning, it has not done anything in clarifying the understanding of the process of learning (Pantzar, 2007, p. 132). They argue that andragogy is not perfect but rather represents the attempt to understand differences that exist between pedagogy and adult learning. This weakness present in adult learning is the main reason for being ignored.

Adult Learning Theory in Relation to Andragogy

Teaching of adults was grounded and connected to past practices and experiences for there to be the realization of future implications (Weert & IFIP Technical Committee on Education, 2004, p. 67). Adult learning is self-directed whereby its initiation can occur with or without the assistance of the instructor. Learners in adult learning also differ while some are willing to take his or her initiative as compared to others. Some learners can develop their plans to learn, organize their time, have goals, and continue enjoy the learning process (Lifelong Learning Resources, 1980, p. 56).

The andragogy theory recognizes that as an individual advances in age, he/she matures and grows, which has a positive impact on his or her personality. These individuals become more independent and usually have self-directed objectives and goals that they were required to achieve (Fellenz & ERIC Clearing house on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, 1989, p. 73).

Learning theories enable adult learners to become autonomous thinkers as they can learn on how they can negotiate meaning, values, and purposes rather than concentrate on other people.  For all learners to benefit from the learning process, they needed to be involved in active learning, which is a transformative way of learning.

From the above discussion, it is clear that there is no single theory that explains the learning process of adults. All the theories have their own strengths and weaknesses. It can thus be argued all adult learners are different and diverse based on their past histories. All the theories emphasize flexibility, self-direction, and flexibility in the learning process rather than on the content.

All adult learning theories have been customized as they are learner-centered, hence customized to suit the needs of adult learners (Adult Learning Knowledge Centre & Ontario Literacy Coalition, 2012, p. 58). All approaches used in adult learning can help develop the understanding of adult learning in a better way. The online source of learning for the adults will continue to grow to aid them.  More advanced technologies will emerge and help adult learners in their learning.

New Trends in Adult Learning

Adult education is important as it promotes social inclusion of all groups. As such, adult learning needs new ideas to cope with changing issues in the world. This has been best explained by that, when people migrate from one country to another, they were required to have new knowledge and skills. Among the older people, adult learning is important as it helps keep him or her active in the workforce.

There has been an increased collaboration between private and government sectors that seek to enhance the context in which adult education has been conducted. Most employees have enrolled with the adult education program in most countries of the world (Brockett &Hiemstra, 1991, p. 86).

The market segmentation has seen an increase in the number of people engaged in the provision of adult education. There are many specialties in adult education, including family, health, workplaces, welfare, and services to the disabled people (Weert & IFIP Technical Committee on Education, 2004, p. 132).

There has sprung out many adult learners’ advocacy unions and associations. They are meant to acknowledge the struggles and the achievements of those who engage in adult learning. Another trend is the expansion of the use of technology among adult learners. Workplaces and homes have computers while others have access to Internet services. This is important in the promotion of online learning, which is a mode used in adult learning.

Telecommunication and communication technologies have given a boost to the learning by adults. It is now compulsory that computer education is included in the adults’ program of learning, which is a new trend witnessed in adult learning (Pantzar, 2007, p. 167). The other trend in adult learning is the use of international comparison mechanisms to check on adult learning. An example is the International Adult Literacy Survey whose use is in most parts of the world. It creates a benchmark used in industrialized countries to trace developments in adult education over time while also assessing the results of the development in terms of social and economic outcomes (Merriam, 2001, p. 156).

Something else witnessed in adult learning is the increase in the number of female adult learners who have enrolled in technical courses. This indicates that even females are willing to change the face of adversity in the economy (Fellenz & ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, 1989, p. 68)

Full participation in adult learning has not yet been achieved as those are in most need have not participated yet. There needs to be formulation of new ways that can encourage, motivate, and involve those groups that seem excluded from adult education (Weert & IFIP Technical Committee on Education, 2004, p. 107).

In the United States, the adult education program mainly focuses on serving those adults who have no high school diploma. It has been successful as over the years the number of individuals who do not have a four-year high school certificate has gradually reduced. There are new modern approaches helpful for adult learners in acquiring literacy skills for their social and economic improvement (Merriam, 2001, p. 105). There is therefore the need to try new kinds of approaches that will be aimed at addressing education needs of all adults. The education program chosen by an instructor needs to be relevant to the situations faced by an adult learner. Education programs need designing in a way that they will contribute to social as well as economic wellbeing.

Psychological Motivation in Adult Learning

The concept of lifelong learning has emerged as a result of changing demographics, especially in developed countries. In this mode of learning, adult learners learn throughout their lives by the use of modern technology (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991 p. 34). To facilitate adult learning, there is a need to determine motivation, so that learning could be facilitated. Learning was defined as “A process leading to change in efficiency or the use of conscious and unconscious cognitive process that leads to a permanent capacity change not solely caused by biological maturation and ageing.”

Learning can be argued to be a complicated process while bearing in mind that adult learners are also complicated beings. An adult learner is a social being who are required to contend with the society environment while learning. The adult learner also has years of experience and was influenced by the environment in terms of priorities and preferences that he or she chooses to make. When adult learners get to understand the stage that they are in life, they get the motivation for learning.

The barriers and motivation for adult learning are created by the social environment and the adult learner. It is therefore worth understanding the barriers, intrinsic and, extrinsic motivations, so that focus could be channeled to the root cause of problems. It is particularly important for the facilitators of adult learning as it helps them understand adult learners, and it helps them find ways in which they motivate him or her in to break the barriers that may be present in learning (Fellenz & ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, 1989, p. 69).

There are those general assumptions used in drawing the characteristics of adult learners. It is argued that as a person matures, his or her concepts change from being dependent and become self-directing. As an adult, one also has a reservoir of knowledge and experience vital as it acts as learning resources. Also the willingness of an adult learner is usually closely related with the developmental task of his or her social roles. Internal motivation to learn among adult learners is usually more important as compared to the external motivation. Finally, it is a requirement that adults get to know the essence of their involvement in learning (Lifelong Learning Resources, 1980, p. 57).

The motivation to participate in adult learning was contained in the psychological context and social and demographic factors. The importance of lifelong learning can be to improve an occupational status of the learner or to meet other new people who are also involved in the process of creative learning (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991, p. 124).

There are two types of motivation in adult learning, which include extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is is the one associated with exploration, curiosity, and interest. In extrinsic motivation, the adult chooses to learn in the result of motivation by external factors such as better salaries, promotions, or pressure from friends or authorities (Adult Learning Knowledge Centre & Ontario Literacy Coalition, 2012, p. 49).

Internal motivation elements can help an individual solve problems in life such as self-actualization, job satisfaction, and self-esteem, which can help to improve the standard of living. There are two learning patterns and styles that adult learners can draw orientation from and these include learning goals and ego or the performance goals (Fellenz & ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, 1989, p. 125).

An adult learner develops skills and acquires knowledge in learning new tasks when the learner can undertake a new challenging task even if there is a possibility that an error will occur. In learning goals and tasks, adult learners learn from their mistakes to enrich their learning process.

In the performance of goals, focus on the performance of the adult learner was viewed in relation to the performance of others. It was mainly concerned with negative judgment received from others. In intrinsic motivation, there is the acquisition of knowledge in a more coherent and differentiated form. The content covered in the learning process is usually more compared to the one in extrinsic motivation. Adult learners in intrinsic motivation perceive themselves as more competent, having higher and, better academic performance, retaining the knowledge they have learnt and being able to apply the knowledge that they have learnt as compared to others.

Characteristics of Internally Motivated Learners

These adult learners mainly emphasize personal growth and development and are more task-oriented. They also appear to be more content with the course that they are undertaking. Strategies they use in learning are deeper, which enables them to understand learnt concepts. Adult learners who have internal motivation are also confident and show interest in learning activities (Adult Learning Knowledge Centre & Ontario Literacy Coalition, 2012, p. 78). With these attributes, internally motivated learners are likely to score better grades in their examination. The internalized values are internalized to become a part of the individual. It is obvious that one must have psychological needs met before the determination of self-motivation.

In intrinsic motivation, motivation itself was derived from interest, activity level, and curiosity. It was developed from the tendency of an individual to exercise his or her capabilities and pursue his or her interests. Intrinsic motivation does not require incentives as the process was inherently motivated (Pont & Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2003 p. 105). Adult learners here enjoy the learning process as they have already mastered the content.

Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, refers to characteristics that externally regulate the adult learner. They avoid the ego-oriented aspect were based on approaches (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991, p. 47). Adult learners in this case study less regularly and were less excited about the learning process. Students are less persistent and use shallow strategies of learning. These adult learners are less interested in whatever they are learning and, as a result, they register low grades in their exams.

Intrinsic motivation of an adult learner could be developed even if the adult learner was provided with external incentives to learn. It, can thus be said that when an adult learner focuses his/her attention on incentives that are external, the results translate to end themselves instead of serving the intended purpose of providing feedback information on the progress that has been made by the adult learner (Fellenz & ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, 1989, p. 126).

Barriers to Adult Learning

Adult learners have sets of habits and strong tastes that help him or her in making his or her decisions. As such, motivation in adult learning is different from that of children as they are required to attend to other roles like work and home responsibilities (Merriam, 2001, p. 156). Adult learners depend on their attitude, aptitude, and experiences. Potential of adult learners are determined by their characteristics, past experiences in relation to the topic, and the perceived value that they have in relation to the task of learning.

Situational barrier was created as a result of the place the individual is in at a given time. Institutional barriers include all practices that discourage the adult form engaging in learning. Dispositional barriers arise when the adult learner has negative attitudes toward learning while informational barriers arise when the adult learner is not aware of those learning activities present at the moment (Brocket & Hiemstra, 1991, p. 165). There are other barriers to adult learning, and they include demographic factors, cultural determinants, geographical conditions, and socio-economic determinants.

Geographical factors were determined by the setting either rural or urban and by available adult education opportunities (Pont & Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2003, p. 145). Demography includes age and, sex and this helps in the determination of those who will be involved in the learning activity. Socio-economic conditions refer to the individuals’ background whereas if they are poor, they will not be able to access adult education. Culture also dictates the number of adults involved in education while minority groups participate less compared to the majority.

The purpose and reasons adults are involved in learning vary depending on the stage of life. Reasons range from personal development to filling education gaps to improve job performance, enhance employment opportunities, and have a reason to join the job market (Adult Learning Knowledge Centre & Ontario Literacy Coalition, 2012, p. 78).

Factors that Promote Adult Learning

There are factors that promote the involvement of adults in learning.  Adults may were involved in learning for the purpose of building social relations when they meet new people and make friends (Merriam, 2001, p. 145). External expectations may be a reason for adults’ engagement in education when they seek to comply with other people who are in authority.

Social welfare may drive adults back to learning when they want to serve the community. An adult who seeks professional advancement has no other choice but to learn. This involves enhancements in their professionalism and their jobs. Learning among adults is important as it breaks the boredom of work routine and home. Adults engage in learning to alleviate and escape the boredom. Cognitive interests may push an adult into learning when he or she learn just for the sake of learning itself (Fellenz & ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, 1989, p. 116).

Principles of Lifelong Learning

There are various principles that are associated with adult learning. The instructor of adult learning needs to be aware of the wealth of knowledge possessed by the learner. The first principle is based on self-directed learning. Adult learners have a feeling that the learning process needs to allow them to have goals and objectives that they have set for themselves. Self-initiated learning is the time learners move at their own pace and are independent (Pont & Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2003, p. 167).

Adults also tend to be goal-oriented when they tend to analyze in an effort to determine how useful the education will be in the aim of achieving their goals. They prefer the course content to be more practical and relevant as compared to the one theoretically based. Also the content needs to be applicable in real-life situations (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991, p. 137).

In this paper, it was discussed that adult learners tend to be problem-centered and not subject-centered. As such, the instructor was required to design the content to cover the needs of learners.  Adult learners deserve respect, and this can be achieved by creating respectful learning environments which their opinions are valued (Merriam, 2001, p. 142).

Participation of adult learners needs to be voluntary. The instructor, and the adult should be sharing ideas and learning from each other. The learning process would made collaborative with use of personal interaction. Adult learners will respond positively when the learning environment is comfortable (Weert & IFIP Technical Committee on Education, 2004, p. 131).

Critical reflection is a major objective of adult learning while reflecting back on the prior learning to determine if what has been last could be justified under the current circumstances. Reflection is the presupposition and assumption that finally results in transformative learning (Pantzar, 2007, p. 114).

Conclusion

An adult’s motivation to participate in learning needs to exceed the barriers to non-participation. Both motivation and barriers present in learning act as opposing forces in the learning process (Merriam, 2001, p. 105). Motivation is what gives the learner the required energy toward the participation in the process of adult learning whereas barriers will drain away the energy to participate.

Experiences possessed by adult learners are the starting point in learning. The experience that the adult has could be based on value systems, social maturity, or cultural heritage. To facilitate learning among adults, there is the need to understand thoroughly how adult learners are motivated to learn and the barriers that are likely to bar them from participating in the learning process (Pont & Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2003, p. 154). Both external and internal influences of adult learners at the present moment and in the past are experiences that have helped in forming their views. This paper will allow the facilitator of learning in adult education to have a better understanding of how adult learners can be motivated and also how to break the barriers that are present in their learning.

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