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EDU 528, WEEK 2, PART 1: Understanding Motivation for Adult Learners

Slide # Topic Narration


Slide 1 Introduction Welcome to Methods of Teaching in Adult Education. In
this lesson, we will discuss Understanding Motivation for
Adult Learners.

Next slide.
Slide 2 Topics The following topics will be covered in this lesson:

Why motivation is important;

A neuroscientific understanding of motivation and
learning;

A neuroscientific perspective of motivation; and

The intersection of cultural relevance, intrinsic motivation,
and neuroscientific understanding;

Next slide.
Slide 3 Topics, continued We will also cover the following topics in this lesson:

Emotion, memory, and intrinsic motivation;

Underserved and diverse adult learners in postsecondary;
and

Instruction as a path to improving educational success
among all adults

Next slide.
Slide 4 Why Motivation is
Important
Before we discuss why motivation is important, let us first
of all look at the definition of motivation. Most social
scientists look at motivation as a concept that explains
why people think and behave as they do. From a
biological perspective, motivation is seen as a process that
determines how much energy and attention the body and
the brain assign to a given stimulus.

Motivation is important for a number of reasons. We will
discuss some of the reasons here:

Motivation is important for learning. It is a commonplace
to think that when there is very little motivation to learn,
the potential learning is reduced drastically. However, it is
important to mention here, that there has not been any
major study that has really examined the relationship
between adult motivation and learning. The only
substantial studies on motivation have been done in youth
education. Researchers have found that there is a positive
correlation between motivation and academic
achievement. The researchers have also found that the
relationship between motivation and learning increases
with age.

Another reason why motivation is important is that
motivation makes learning easy and is it a consequence of
learning. Among other things, when learners are motivated
during the learning process, the learning goes on
smoothly, the students are not as anxious. On the other
hand learners, who have just completed a learning
experience, may feel motivated and this increases their
interest to continue learning.

It is important to note here that though motivation is
important for learning, there are other factors that also
contribute to learning. Some of these factors include-
personal skilland- quality of instruction.

Next slide.
Slide 5 A Neuroscientific
Understanding of
Motivation and
Learning
From a biological standpoint, learning is a biological
function, and the brain is most responsible for this
process. It is worth noting here that the brain is a complex
object and is capable of doing many things
simultaneously.

Though the brain has a number of cells, neurons are the
basic functional cells that control learning. According to
research, most learning and development occurs in the
brain through the process of strengthening and weakening
synaptic connections. The junction where signals from one
neuron to another is called a synapse. When we learn
something, connections containing that information are
made between the neurons. It is through the process of
practice and repetition that these connections are
strengthened.

Educators also talk about prior knowledge, but how is
this related to the neurons we are discussing here? When
adults learn, the process involves building on or
modifying the neuronal networks that have been created
from previous learning experience. This is what is
generally referred to as prior knowledge. For all learning
the most practical approach to instruction to find ways to
connect and build on learners prior knowledge.

The existence of neuronal networks poses challenges to
instructors of adult learners. The instructor cannot remove
these networks by simply explaining something to the
learner to change their deeply held belief or attitude. A
breakthrough in altering the beliefs can only occur when
another neuronal network replaces the current belief or
attitude of the learner.

Neuroimaging research, neurosurgery, neurosciecientists
have categorized the areas of the brain and the nervous
system. In the process they have aligned each area with
particular aspects of human function and behavior. The
outermost layer of the brain is called the cerebral cortex-it
is responsible for conscious activity, such as solving
problems, making plans, enable us to hear and speak. The
middle part of the brain is known as the limbic system or
the limbic region-It helps us feel what we feel about the
world, it regulates our emotions, and the feelings that
indicate our motivation about anything.

Next slide.
Slide 6 A Neuroscientific
Perspective of
Motivation
Human beings by their nature always want to learn,
because learning is the means of survival. Naturally the
brain has an inclination for knowing what it wants. As
human beings we attend more to things that matter to us.
Ones cultural background determines what matters to a
person. Our senses are always in a competition to perceive
what matters most. Researchers have concluded that
events that are accompanied by feelings usually receive
preferential processing in the brain.

Another thing we need to discuss here is the body-mind
state. The body mind states include:-sensations such as
hanger- emotions such as joy - and thoughts such as
concentration. The body mind states are made up of
neurons that form complex web-like signaling systems
that represent our behavior. According to neuroscientists,
whenever we are doing something the body-mind states
represent our motivation.

Psychological research has shown us that it is human
nature to be curious, to be active or to be effective at what
we value. These are primary sources of motivation that are
found in all of us. These sources of motivation are found
in all different cultures.

Learning something that makes sense to an individual or
something one considers important, may trigger
motivation within that individual. This is called intrinsic
motivation. Intrinsic motivation is evoked by an
environment that connects with what is relevant to people
in cultural terms. Neuroscientific understanding of
intrinsic motivation helps us to create the environment
that brings about this intrinsic motivation in individuals.
Educators need to pay close attention to the emotions of
adult learners, and construct an environment that helps
them to express their emotions in the service of learning.

Next slide.
Slide 7 Cultural Relevance,
Intrinsic motivation,
and Neuroscientific
Understanding
Among other things that must be considered while
thinking about adult learning is the issue of culture.
Culture includes the learners perspective, language,
values, and ways of learning. These things are worth
understanding if we are to motivate adults to learn. When
adult learners care about what they are learning and know
that they are becoming effective at it , their intrinsic
motivation surfaces.

There is a connection between intrinsic motivation and
emotions. To a large extent, intrinsic motivation is
governed by emotions. Emotions are very important
because among other things they influence task
engagement. Task engagement is the visible outcome of
learners motivation. The way people respond to tasks
very much depends on their culture. In other words a
persons response to learning is a reflection of his or her
culture.

For educators to be effective with adult learners, they must
be aware of the importance of culture to learning.
Therefore, they must employ what is called culturally
responsive teaching. Teachers should work with these
students to bring about their intrinsic motivation. Good
teaching strategies and building relationships with
students can help to access students prior knowledge.

Next slide.
Slide 8 Emotion, Memory,
and Intrinsic
Motivation
There is a lot of evidence from research in the
neurosciences and field of intrinsic motivation that
indicates that emotions are critical to learning. Emotions
also determine what we pay attention to and help us to be
aware of our body-mind states. Emotions also affect what
we remember. We very much remember those things that
engage us emotionally.

Though, we cannot truly understand the biological
processes of how emotions affect memory, we can say
with certainty that what we retain after learning and what
we are able to recall later on depends on our emotions. For
example, moderate stress and positive emotions help us to
retain what we have learned. It is the responsibility of
instructors to create lessons that encourage positive
emotions which in turn leads to better memories of what is
being learned.

It is important to note that emotions are liable to change.
They change both chemically and biologically. Only when
one reaches flow-one of the most positive states of
intrinsic motivation, will a personal be emotionally
positive and become very focused. Otherwise in some
intrinsically motivating situations a person may be only
mildly interested, or less focused.

The degree of value that adults have for an activity affects
their perception of how motivating that activity is. The
way people get intrinsically motivated may vary from
mild, deep and then to flow. It is important to note that in
a learning activity the learners intrinsic motivation can
fluctuate.

Next slide.
Slide 9 Underserved and
diverse adult learners
in postsecondary
education
Though tremendous strides have been made in increasing
the number of adults who have earned professional
certification and degrees in two-year and four-year
colleges, there has not been a success for historically
underrepresented groups such as African Americans,
Latinos, and Native Americans and low-income adults.

Low-income adults face a number of challenges that make
it difficult for them to achieve any success in post-
secondary education such as demands of family and
work- insufficient academic preparation.

Historically, the students from the underrepresented
groups and the low-income groups have also been the
undeserved students. This is mainly due to the fact that
they have not been provided with access, financial and
academic support for them to be successful in post-
secondary education. This is an issue that confronts most
adult learners. Adult educators have a moral and
professional obligation to ensure that post-secondary
education is available to adults and give them support to
succeed.

Post-secondary education is beneficial to the countrys
citizenry as well as the individuals. For example, there is a
higher correlation between higher levels of education with
her levels income. Among other things education is also
associated with lower rates of crime, less dependency on
welfare benefits. Without good education and good jobs
most adults are excluded from the mainstream culture and
economy.

The inclusion of underserved and underrepresented
group adult students is beneficial to the majority groups.
The underrepresented groups may offer ideas, languages,
and frames of reference that may help the majority to
confront their own beliefs that may be stereotypical.
Diversity in education is a vital way to prepare students to
live and work within a global economy with different
people.

Next slide.
Slide 10 Instruction As a Path Among the efforts to increase the success of adult learners
the provision of financial assistance to mostly low-
income adults is probably the most important. But apart
from that, there are also some other things that can be
done. For example, students will also need strong
support services. These services may include- personal
counseling, academic advisement, tutoring, and remedial
classes. It is also important to ensure that efforts must be
geared towards the needs of the adult learners. All these
suggestions are a result of studies that have been
conducted in the field of adult education.

There is no single policy or program can address all the
needs of adult learners as far as degree completion is
concerned. However, it is important to ensure that a
number of factors that range from financial assistance to
instruction considered system wide.

Evidence from research shows that improvements in
instruction can contribute to increased students success
and persistence. Among the suggestions often cited are: -
the need to use active learning - ensure that the subject
matter is relevant to the students lives- making sure that
the students are engaged. Furthermore, for adult learners it
helps to create an inclusive environment, and also use the
language of the learners and their communities.

Next slide.
Slide 11 Check Your
Understanding

Slide 12 Summary We have now reached the end of this lesson. Lets take a
look at what weve covered.

We started our discussion by examining why motivation
is important. Here, we learned that motivation is
important for learning, motivation facilitates learning, and
it also increases the desire for students to continue to
learn.

Next, we discussed a nueroscientific understanding of
learning and motivation. Here we learned that learning is
a biological function, and the brain is most responsible for
this process. We looked at the overview of the brain. The
neurons are the basic functional cells that control learning.
When we learn something, connections containing that
information are made between the neurons. We also
learned about relation between prior knowledge and
neurons, and why it is important for instructors to connect
with learners prior knowledge.

We then discussed a neuroscientific perspective of
motivation. Here we learned that learning is the means
of survival. Human beings pay a great deal of attention to
things that matter to them. We also learned that the body
mind states are made up of neurons that form complex
web-like signaling systems that represent our behavior.
Neuroscientific understanding of intrinsic motivation
helps us to create the environment that brings about
intrinsic motivation.

Next, we discussed the intersection of cultural
relevance, intrinsic motivation, and neuroscientific
understanding. Here, we learned that when adult
learners care about what they are learning and know that
they are becoming effective at it , their intrinsic
motivation surfaces. We looked at the importance of
emotions. We learned that for educators to be effective
with adult learners, they must be aware of the importance
of culture to learning.

Next slide.
Slide 13 Summary, continued We then looked at emotion, memory, and intrinsic
motivation. Here we learned that evidence from research
in the neurosciences and field of intrinsic motivation
indicates that emotions are critical to learning. What we
are able to recall later on depends on our emotions. It is
the responsibility of instructors to create lessons that
encourage positive emotions which in turn lead to better
memories of what is being learned.

Next, we looked at underserved and diverse adult
learners in postsecondary education. Despite the gains
made in increasing the numbers of adults who have earned
professional certification and degrees, the education of
underrepresented groups and low-income adults is still a
concern. Low-income adults still face a number of
challenges that make it difficult for them to achieve any
success in post-secondary education. Post-secondary
education is beneficial to the country. We learned that the
inclusion of underserved and underrepresented groups of
adult students is beneficial to the majority.

Finally, we looked at Instruction as a path to improving
educational success among all adults. Here we learned a
number of things that can be done to improve adult
education- provision of financial assistance to mostly low-
income adults - students will also need strong support
services. We also learned that evidence from research
shows that improvements in instruction can contribute to
increased students success and persistence.

This completes this lesson.