An aspect of adult learning is motivation. At least six factors serve as sources of motivation for adult learning from social relationships, to making new friends, to cognitive interests.
- Social relationships – to make new friends, to meet a need for associations and friendships.
- External expectations – to comply with instructions from someone else; to fulfill the expectations or recommendations of someone with formal authority.
- Social welfare – to improve ability to serve mankind, prepare for service to the community, and improve ability to participate in community work.
- Personal advancement – to achieve higher status in a job, secure professional advancement, and stay abreast of competitors.
- Escape/Stimulation – to relieve boredom, provide a break in the routine of home or work, and provide a contrast to other exacting details of life.
- Cognitive interest – to learn for the sake of learning, seek knowledge for its own sake, and to satisfy an inquiring mind.
Barriers and Motivation
Unlike children and teenagers, adults have many responsibilities that they must balance against the demands of learning. Because of these responsibilities, adults have barriers against participating in learning. Some of these barriers include lack of time, money, confidence, or interest, lack of information about opportunities to learn, scheduling problems, “red tape,” and problems with child care and transportation.
Motivation factors can also be a barrier. What motivates adult learners? Typical motivations include a requirement for competence or licensing, an expected (or realized) promotion, job enrichment, a need to maintain old skills or learn new ones, a need to adapt to job changes, or the need to learn in order to comply with company directives.
The best way to motivate adult learners is simply to enhance their reasons for enrolling and decrease the barriers. Instructors must learn why their students are enrolled (the motivators); they have to discover what is keeping them from learning. Then the instructors must plan their motivating strategies. A successful strategy includes showing adult learners the relationship between training and an expected promotion.