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Motivating Adult Learners

Adults return to school for various reasons. Some return to school because they need specific skills for vocational positions. Other adults seek education for professional advancement purposes. Still many adults want to stay abreast and ahead of information in their jobs in order to meet the demanding needs. Adult learners looking to move into or to stay in the workforce must have many skills, be mobile and technologically savvy. Knowing your motivation style may help to keep you focused, to problem solve, to gather information needed and to complete the task and move forward. What motivates you to learn?

Adults return to school for various reasons.  Adult Learning Motivators.
Yancey Media Consultants
Adults return to school for various reasons.
Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images
  1. Goal Oriented Learners will return to education to accomplish a clear cut goal. That might be to learn a specific skill to continue in the position or to get a specific job. They have definite objectives and are only interested in a particular goal.
  2. Activity Oriented Learners are social learners. They take part in the learning simply for the social contact. They will seek the classes or activities based on the kind and the amount of human relationships involved. This student would enjoy being in a physical face-to-face classroom. An online class may not benefit this type of learner.
  3. Learning Oriented Learners will take part in learning simply for the love of learning. These learners are avid readers. They attend lectures and often visit the library or museums. They will choose professions that will have them researching and developing intellectually.

Adults are essentially motivated by relevancy and immediacy. Depending on the motivation learning style the adult will learn if the information is relevant to current wants and immediate needs. Many adult learners may not see the need to learn research or writing skills if they plan on working in the manual labor field. Other adult learners do not see the need to learn another language if they do not plan on moving to the place where the language is spoken. Still other adult learners want to learn everything no matter the topic or field.

Learning is personal, what motivates some discourages others. According to Jane Villa adult learners want to spend time learning what is important now. In essence, some adults return to school for prestige, some to impress others and some for satisfaction in accomplishing a goal. Yet still other adults go back to school just because they wanted to finish something they started a long time ago.

Motivating Adult LearnersMotivating Adult Learners

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