Adult learning and motivation Essay
Adult learning and motivation
An exploration in to the multi-dimensionality of participatory behaviour; and what motivates adults to return to education. The research question that was initially formulated aimed to inductively generate a theory (Rothchild 2006; Cohen et al., 2000). Unfortunately, the initial question became subject to ethical challenges; and within a framework that would demonstrate rigour, validity and reliability, unsurprisingly; it was far better too approach/explore the multi-dimensionality of participatory behaviour; and what motivates adults to return to education. An enquiry designed around this approach has a better fit to a pragmatic framework (Armitage and Keeble-Allen, 2007; Bryman, 2007) and the BERA ethical directives.
Furthermore, this should help bolster the totality of coherence; or as Moss et al., (2009) would suggest as; ‘a chain of reasoning and logic’. Similarly, individual agency and how the experiences of adult learners’ are co/re-constructed (Clark 2011; Flowers 2009; p. 3) needed a greater relationship to an interpretivist epistemology (E891 Part 2: Action 2.9; Gage 1989). As the researcher primarily overlooked these factors that, in turn, determine what is seen as valid and invalid knowledge; then [those] factors would have been overlooked when inferences were made during the research process reducing the quality and internal – and possibly external – validity. Obviously, this incommensurability will be addressed before the researcher analyses any data generated (Bryman, 2007; p. 19).
With these approaches better placed the researcher could demonstrate that – generally – social and cognitive phenomena are simultaneously quantitative and qualitative (Ercikan and Roth, 2006; p.16) and participatory behaviour is an outcome of the ‘meaning-made’ (Clark 2011) i.e. social-cognitive collocation. This would then show that cognition is co-constructed (Clark 2011) and re-constructed by experience resulting in the multiple interpretations that create the social realities in which people act (Flowers 2009; p. 3).
It could be suggested that the initial ‘meaning-made’ is a primary motivator which persists until the time the learner feels satisfied (Park and Choi 2009), or, has achieved ‘what they set out to achieve’ (Gustafsson & Mouwitz, 2008). This also implies that ‘meaning-made’ is mutable (Gibbons Bylsma 1984) and subject to further co/re-construction; adjustment; or complete abandonment.
After extensive ‘Adult learner’ research and talking with tutors that instruct adult learners’ highlighted a distinct difference in the approaches from which children (Pedagogy – teaching method) and adults (Andragogy – teach how to learn) are taught. The implementation of informal learning methods, however, appears to have dominance in the adult education field (Gibbons Bylsma 1984). Therefore, in order to shape and advance the theory, research design and instrument/s required conducting a focussed literature review of several learning theories (see fig 1); namely, Knowles’s Andragogy Theory (Houde 2006), Cross’s Characteristics of Adult Learners (CAL) (Kohl-Frey and Schmid-Ruhe 2007; Crittenton Women’s Union 2012), Margin (Gibbons Bylsma, 1984) and Proficiency Theory (Gustafsson & Mouwitz, 2008).
Fig. 1 is showing the associated theories that characterize adult learners’ What becomes problematic is; adult learning has not been researched as vigorously as others areas of education, so the real challenge will be – as Hodkinson and Macleod (2010) encountered – to anchor the line of enquiry in a combined paradigmatic harbor. In contrast to Hodkinson and Macleod (2010), the upcoming report will be combining the aforementioned theories with the following paradigms’ as they display a distinct homogeneity. Specifically, social (E891 Part 2: Action 2.5), and cognitive constructionism (De Abreu 2000), Interpretivism (E891 Part 2: Action 2.4; Gage 1989) with quantitative and qualitative data collection i.e. mixed methodology.
A critical review of the initial report by Street (2013) and Holmes (2013) exemplified the scarcity of knowledge and understanding some had on the associated theories. Both commented on differing aspects of the line of enquiry, but these were conceptual in nature. Street (2013) illustrated that the researcher must remain aware of the macro/micro societal effect that the learning environment has on the adult’s lived/shared experience and Holmes (2013) suggested that there needed to be a better fit to the realities of the adult learner. With this in mind I re-conceptualized the report and reflected more specifically on the feedback and guidance.
Therefore, in order to steer the paradigms so that they pull in the same direction, the aforementioned theories naturally occurring and overlapping dimensions will be grouped (i.e. constant comparison method; Cohen et al., 2000; p. 151) by their substantive statements (i.e. content analysis; Gillham, 2000; p. 137) and used to engender questions. This process generated four themes that naturally expanded upon their shared features. Social contact and Relationships
Goal and relevancy orientated
In order to check for consistencies/inconsistencies (Denscombe, 1999; p. 217-8) between the questionnaires i.e. Phase 1 and Phase 2 and interview responses both datasets will be triangulated to assess the overall motivation/s toward participatory behaviour i.e. cross-sectional design (Bryman, 2006; p. 104).
This ‘Mutual’ approach (Armitage and Keeble-Allen, 2007) will be implemented during the adult learners’ regular session/s, which should (1) reduce bias (Nederhof, 1985) and attrition (Torgerson 2009), (2) be more pragmatic than experimental research (Torgerson 2009), (3) increase internal validity, reliability and research quality, (4) support external validity and (5) decrease demand characteristics due to any researcher effects.
Research enquiries can be polarized into qualitative and quantitative classifications based on how phenomena are represented (Ercikan and Roth, 2006). But, the researcher firmly believes; if representative qualitative and quantitative data have shared aspects that are dependent on their counterpart for completeness (Ercikan and Roth, 2006; p.16; Bryman, 2006; Bryman, 2007), then the incorporation of cross-validation is warranted to best serve this enquiry.
This strategy should ensure internal validity; especially when considering using complementary methods (Armitage and Keeble-Allen, 2007). Moreover, as these quantitative and qualitative counterparts contain a fundamental element of the interactive dependency that is shared, and required, for individual understanding i.e. the connectivity of interactivity and the influence on representative individuality then the research must be aware to consider that both methods have shared and conflicting elements.
Consequently, when considering multidisciplinary approaches, mixed methods i.e. quantitative and qualitative and triangulation one must be aware that incommensurability can exist between them. Brannen (2005) suggests that some methods become more feasible than others and deemed a better ‘fit’ as [they] provide more sensitivity when investigating complex social phenomena.
Hence, certain methods, used in conjunction can become less than complimentary with the other. Additionally, Yin (2006) suggests that the ability to tighten the use of mixed methods so that they do in fact occur as part of a single study requires integration. The claim is that, the more that a single study integrates mixed methods, the more that mixed methods research, as opposed to multiple studies, is taking place (Yin, 2006). Furthermore, Houghton et al., (2010) highlight one of the ethical challenges, which have important implications for qualitative research, practical examples and solutions.
The unpredictability of qualitative research means that an a priori prescription for ethical conduct is not always possible. Therefore, the researcher must be constantly mindful of the on-going impact that the research might have on those involved, while simultaneously being ethically sensitive and morally competent Although, mixing methods does provide an inferential narrative to the statistical outputs from quantitative analysis, it might not sufficiently negate the qualitative and quantitative dichotomy (Yin, 2006), or, necessarily produce the expected scholarly standard for presenting credible evidence (Maclure, 2005).
These qualitative and quantitative complements are noticeably – even arguably – intrinsic facets of social/cognitive interaction/functioning; hence, the methods used to collect data in this enquiry will be trying to procure what happens when the internal interact/s with an external influence/s (Yin, 2006). This illustration provides a start for thinking about yet other types of mixed method research. The point is, if a relationship is completely absent— particularly where two or more methods address wholly different dependent, independent, or descriptive variables—the mixed methods are likely to form separate studies, not a single study (Yin, 2006).
All these influences are important and relevant, but they are only some of the processes that, together, comprise a complex social world and unfortunately; understanding that the relevance and value assigned to learning by adults’ highlights the importance induced, does not necessarily liberate them (Hacking 1999; p. 2) from any disenfranchisement they could feel. Likewise, the researcher understands that the aforementioned factors are not the only variables that are existent; however, the researcher is of the opinion that those factors (see fig. 3 + 4) are the most prominent from the observations made and literature review conducted. Research Design
Fig. 2 is illustrating the design and flow of data analysis that establishes the internal validity, reliability and quality of the research enquiry.
Considering participation in adult learning since 1996 we see it has remained around 40% for those of working age (16 – 69) for seventeen years. These were either currently participating, or had recently participated in the last three years. Of those that did participate, there is an equivalent amount that has not participated since leaving full time education. Although, 80% of students’ currently participating intend on continuing in further education after they have completed the present course (see Tab.1).
Whilst participating in Further Education and Lifelong Learning I observed a possible explanation for the existence of these variances (that being relevance and value). A possible explanation for the disordinal interaction (percentages decrease in the ‘Likely to learn in the future’ group whilst percentages for ‘Unlikely to learn in the future’ group increase) demonstrated in table 1 could be; the further in years an adult moves away from education the less relevance and value they attribute to returning to it. Or, is it as Siraj-Blatchford (2010) may suggest; that the adults are overscheduled and more committed to sustaining the home environment and maintaining a career with ‘on the job’ training.
Informal learning is seemingly multimodal i.e. being valuable and relevant to the matter at hand and socially constructed through long/short term interactions (GTC 2006). The informal learning mechanisms that mediate influence shapes learning environments’ (Evans, et al., 2010; p. 6), cognitive processes and our social interactions (Evans, et al., 2010; p. 6). ‘Meaning’ then, is co/re-constructed by experience resulting in the multiple interpretations that create the social reality in which people act (Flowers 2009; p. 3). And as Vygotsky would state; context affects cognitive – and by way of – behavioural activities (De Abreu, 2000; p. 3) Bruner’s suppositional framework suggests that learners form new ideas or theories based upon what they already know (GTC 2006).
His theory of learning, not only, related to the way children’s thinking developed, but it could also be applied to adults learning new and unfamiliar material (GTC 2006). Learners, as Bruner proposes, are creators and thinkers through the use of inquiry (GTC 2006). The process of which how learners dynamically construct knowledge is heavily in focus: implying the transformation of information, which suggests that Bruner’s theory of Constructivism falls into a cognitive domain (GTC 2006). Learners are provided with opportunities to construct new knowledge and new meaning from authentic experiences (Brockmann 2011). As a result, this exposes the pivotal role Multimodal Heuristics start to have when adults’ decide to return to education.
For instance, a parent can reassure a frightened child that ‘shadow monsters do not exist!’ Although, a sibling can suggest leaving the light on to scare the monsters’ away. This indicates that informal learning can alter our worldview (e.g. ‘When did you stop believing in Santa?’) if it is seen to offer a plausible solution. This supports the concept of how informal learning can contribute to our understanding, cognitive processes (De Abreu 2000), social interactions, and the associated behaviours (Schwartz 1995; p. 5). These multimodal components; not only determine the level of commitment and motivation (Park & Choi 2009) that is ascribed to the retention of relevant and valuable information (Gibbons Bylsma, 1984; p. 23), but also contributes to the ease of transfer and retrieval of that information (Ekey 2012).
The characteristically pragmatic nature of adult learners’ (Abdullah, et al., 2008; Kohl-Frey and Schmid-Ruhe 2007; Crittenton Women’s Union 2012) also demonstrates this need/requirement for information to have applicability to their life. This is determined by the perceived applicability it has to their future experiences and interaction. The internal dimensions of meaning-making are also multimodal (Clark 2011) and seemingly derived from the combination of the value and relevance (or Multimodal Heuristics – adults’ decide, through cognitive appraisal, their own level of involvement) assigned by the adult to measure applicability.
Consequently, we could suggest that this is an ad hoc contribution to our social cognition (Aronson et al., 2005; p.57 – 64; De Abreu 2000; p. 4), our availability heuristics (Rules of thumb; Aronson et al., 2005; p. 74 – 75) and the associated behavior and schemas (Aronson et al., 2005; p. 59 – 61), which then assist navigation of social environments’. Unfortunately, understanding that the relevance and value assigned to learning by adults’ highlights the importance induced, does not necessarily liberate adults’ (Hacking 1999; p. 2) from the disenfranchisement they could feel in institutions where learning is delivered primarily from a traditionally pedagogical approach. Similarly, these interactions are situational and experienced directly by participation, so it will be difficult to generalize the results further than adult learning.
Essentially, humans tend to seek out information that confirms what they think/believe to be most relevant or true to their experiences and/or future interactions; a relative cost-benefit/means-end (Evans, et al., 2010; p. 6) cognitive appraisal that enables Multimodal Heuristic co/re-construction (Clark 2011). This process begins to filter out information that is considered worthless. The cost-benefit (Primary appraisal) and means-end analyses (Secondary appraisal), along with the personal value and relevance adults’ assign to learning (‘rule of thumb’ Gustafsson, L., & Mouwitz, L. (2008); p. 5) appear to be hierarchical and Maslowian in nature. Additionally, an adult must consider, through means-end analysis, the benefit of actively participating and building upon their knowledge and experience, throughout their participation in learning.
Ultimately mediating their need for satisfaction i.e. Socio-emotional negotiation and selectivity (Houde 2006). As a result, for the adult to consider participation Multimodal Heuristics must negotiate support for expectation and assess the benefit knowledge, learning and education have in recompense for reorganizing multiple obligations, and competing priorities (Evans, et al., 2010; p. 12). Therefore, is socio-emotional negotiation and selectivity a process of fragmenting information so that it creates a heuristic commensurability with an individual’s normative social and cognitive functioning, which therefore, influences behaviour i.e. influential connectivity of socio-cognitive interactivity affecting the potentials for action?
Fig. 3 is showing the internal framework of the decision making, and meaning-making, mechanisms that help generate mental constructs of multimodal heuristics.
To some degree, we can compare the assessment of value and relevance to Gustafsson & Mouwitz (2008) description of Proficiency Theory, and, means-end and cost-benefit analyses to McClusky’s Margin Theory (1974, as quoted in Gibbons Bylsma 1984).
These theories emphasize a need to be competent at tasks’ whilst being realistic about certain physical, mental and social capabilities. If there is conflict between primary and secondary appraisals this could be seen as a violation of expectation (Deffenbacher 1993), which may account for drop-out rates, serial signers’, absenteeism, non-participation in task relevant activities, specific course popularity, the cost-benefit/means-end analysis (Evans, et al., 2010; p. 6; Geertz 1993; p. 4 – 5) for staying the course and societal perception of lifelong learning (Tab. 1).
For instance, after asking my students’ (12 in total) if they had any questions about what had been learnt, they responded with “what would I do if…?” and “When would I use…?” As there were only subtle variations in discourse, in regards to relevance and value, I feel this highlights (1) what comprises Multimodal Heuristic co-construction, and (2) what is required from information when it is presented outside of their interpretation of it.
Moreover, adults maintain autonomy (Gibbons Bylsma 1984) by performing a cost-benefit analysis to justify their participation; being that peripheral or full (Swan 2005; p. 5). Firstly this, amongst others mentioned, will form the basis of ‘what counts as value and relevance evidence’, and, from which, quantitative data will be collected (questionnaire). Lastly, the quantitative data will be qualitatively complemented with a semi-structured interview to produce a rich narrative and attain thick descriptions (Geertz 1993). The semi-structured interview will be conducted with a subset of the surveyed group and will represent a cross-section of the adult learners’ in that group i.e. single parent, co-parent and a single male/female with no dependants.
And as Denscombe (1999) and Brockmann (2011) found; interaction is situational and experienced directly by participation, making it essential to respect [their] views, with, further recognition given to the possibility that [their] priorities may not reflect the general consensus view or official theory. For example, Gustafsson & Mouwitz (2008) have reported; what is valued and encouraged in formal learning environments lacks to varying degrees explicit relevance in the workplace. Therefore, adults must demand a greater degree of relevance, value and satisfaction when deciding to return to, and participating in, education (Abdullah, et. al. 2008; Houde 2006).
Fig. 4 is showing the internal framework of secondary appraisal that aims to justify the decision made and validate the perception of learning by paralleling meaning-made with the realities of the study.
Illustrating, not only that the individual agency of these interpretations of relevance and value are co/re-constructed (Clark 2011) cognitively (GTC 2006) and socially (Hacking 1999), but also that adults’ apply this form of Heuristic Multimodality when seeking satisfaction from having their expectations fulfilled. Park & Choi (2009) have reported that relevance and satisfaction, being sub-dimensions of motivation, are known to be interrelated with various course-related issues. Even though the societal influences mentioned in this report can modify (1) the assessment of relevance and (2) affect the personal satisfaction adults cultivate (Park & Choi, 2009) they can also mediate and reinforce participatory behavior (Park & Choi, 2009) by enhancing the importance adults’ induce when deciding an academic and/or social level of involvement (Gibbons Bylsma 1984).
Furthermore, students’ have asserted that relevance is a significant mediator in their assignment of value. Many students’ have commented that relevance paralleled the value assigned to learning and their specific choice of subject(s). These statements were observed over time and place using a relative constant comparison method (Cohen et al., 2000; p. 151). Their comments demonstrated the application of a cost-benefit and means-end analysis e.g. “How relevant is…in the big scheme of things?”, “When would I use…?” and “I don’t see the relevance? Evidently, the use of Multimodal Heuristics acts as a mechanism that could also increase commitment, dedication and motivation (Park & Choi 2009).
In constant comparison data are compared across a range of situations, times, groups of people, and through a range of methods (Cohen et al., 2000; p. 151 – 2). The process resonates with the methodological notion of triangulation. The constant comparison method involves four stages:
Comparing incidents and data that are applicable to each category, comparing them with previous incidents in the same category and with other data that are in the same category Integrating these categories and their properties
Bounding the theory
Setting out the theory
The subjective ontological/epistemological view, research design and methodology exhibited in this report is sufficient and necessary to explore this direction of enquiry, if it were absent, it would prove problematic supporting a theory with an accompanying objective approach that advocates detachment (Flowers 2009; E891 Part 2: Action 2.2; Gage 1989; E891 Part 2: Action 2.5), when, in this case, it is more advantageous to explore the subjectivity of individual agency, participatory behaviour and situational experiences, motivation, and, the personal value and relevance assigned to learning, as these are closer to the truth.
There will be two distinct phases to data generation; firstly, questions will be formulated from each of the four themes that CAL, Andragogy and Margin and Proficiency theories appear to create and then randomly assigned (Nederhof, 1985) to a questionnaire. A descriptive analysis of each question will be conducted to address whether the aforementioned multi-dimensionalities of adult learners’ are being considered. The strength of the trend in the agreement/disagreement should build a picture of the shared experiences.
These questions will then be relocated back to the themes that created them, scored (Likert Scale; the higher the score the more relevance and value is attributed) and compared with the descriptive analysis to, not only generate a semi-structured small group interview schedule (Gillham, 2000), but also to get a sense of what is personally valuable and relevant about learning. This is an attempt to demonstrate; how meeting these multi-dimensionalities may be instrumental in maintaining learner participation (Park and Choi 2009). Furthermore, by mapping these realities, establish whether they support the general consensus view of these adult learning theories. An opportunity sampled group (16 – 35+) will be surveyed using this questionnaire (13 in total) with a small group interview being administered to a subset of the surveyed group (5 in total).
Ideally, this subset should be representative of the adult learners’ in that educational facility. Even though the whole group will be opportunistically surveyed; in phase 2 every effort will be made to be more purposive. In order to support internal validity and ensure the reduction of any bias the incorporation of a ‘social desirability’ measure (Nederhof, 1985; SDR) will be added to the questionnaire. Certain questions will be cross referenced with one another to assess whether the adult learners’ are responding in a socially desirable way. This local blocking technique should increase the internal validity of the questionnaire, enhance the internal consistency of the small group interview questions, reduce bias and maintain rigour when all the data is analysed. This should also allow individual agency (E891 Part 2: Action 2.4; Gage 1989; Denscombe 1999), shared experience and the personal value and relevance attributed to learning to be highlighted.
Due to the amount of data that could have been reported the evaluation will
be specifically limited to the triangulation narratives of the ‘Theme Summaries’, interview data i.e. content and descriptive analysis (Clark, 2011). The researcher firstly formulated questions from these naturally occurring themes and searched for consistencies and inconsistencies (Denscombe, 1999) between the summary narratives (Gillham, 2000) and statistical outputs from the descriptive analyses (Bryman, 2007). Phase 1
As there were 30 questions generated from the four themes the in-depth analysis of each question will be triangulated and presented in the theme summaries. In an attempt to expose any consistencies/inconsistencies (Denscombe, 1999; p. 217-8) in the responses the data will be compared against the learning theories that created them: ensuring validity. Consequently, due to the amount of quantitative data generated from the in-depth analysis of the individual questions, this report will only include the second stage of Phase 1 i.e. descriptive analysis and theme summary triangulation. The interview responses from Phase 2 will be further triangulated with these summaries and content analysed to highlight the adult learners’ realities and ascertain what influences their decisions and motivates them to return too education i.e. by constant comparison method. Theme Summaries
Social contact and Relationships – Q1, Q2, Q6, Q7, Q17 Q19 and Q30 The adult learners’ appear to value social interaction and feelings of reciprocal respect whilst participating in learning, which demonstrates that the adult learners’ value a sense of ‘belonging’ (16/21). However, there is a small percentage that does not see ‘belonging’ as being of value. Therefore, the feelings of reciprocal respect and support cannot be generalised as influencing their decision to continue in learning. Internal expectations – Q10, Q13, Q14, Q15, Q18, Q22, Q26, Q28 and Q29 This theme relates to the adult learners satisfaction. Satisfaction, being a sub-dimension of motivation, is something that must be regarded as paramount in the adult learning experience.
The consistent attendance of the adult learners’ at the session/s is testament to their satisfaction with the course and the delivery thereof (18/27). In essence, if the adult learner considers that the potential learning opportunity is not transferable to the workplace, is not satisfied, or perceives it as inadequate at providing improvement to their problem solving capabilities could ultimately diminish their motivation to participate. Goal and relevancy orientation – Q3, Q4, Q5, Q9, Q11, Q16, Q20, Q23, Q25 and Q27 External expectations – Q8, Q12, Q21 and Q24
As these last two dimensions, respectively and comparatively, share a greater degree of similarity they will be interpretatively combined and presented together. Looking at these from a political perspective; the demand for lifelong learning to have greater prevalence in society sets an industry standard that demands conformity to it. Subsequently, this appears to facilitate the re/co-construction of self-directedness and the personal interests of adult learners’ so that they begin to mirror ‘what is required of them’; which is indicative of a cost-benefit/mean-ends analysis. Therefore, some adult learners’ might be so focussed or motivated on getting the qualification that they adjust their sense of self-direction in order to reorganise their lives and satisfy what is required of them i.e.
Mutability for the betterment of self. It could also be suggested that the pressure too have certain qualifications encourages participatory behaviour in some adult learners’ and determines the relative conformity to industry demands and learning the required skills i.e. something they adapt to rather than adapted for them (Q8, Q9 and Q10). Conformity, in this sense, would then act as a pre-determinant to achievement; the perception of economic sustainability and upward mobility and what value, and relevance, learning has. Not surprisingly, this could be one reason why thousands of people leave their jobs: they only took the job because it is what was demanded of them, which is in direct conflict with their personal interests, self-directedness and life goals. Which also illustrates that cognition can be influenced by social interaction and be co/re-constructed by experience and meaning-made.
The questionnaire included items that let the participant assess the value and relevance they attribute to learning as an adult. The overall strength of this agreement was guided by their experiences as an adult learner. However, some of the diagnostic questions seemed to be complex and ask two things of the participant. As this is a major source of error (Hammersley et al., 2003) the validity of those questions will be scrutinised as the participants may have weighted one aspects of the complex question more important than the other aspect, hence, an adumbrated response i.e. a decrease in validity.
However, all of the responses were reduced to one mean average for that individual question, and as these were pooled from the four themes that characterise adult learners’ it reduced sampling error and bias. Furthermore, as there was a two stage analysis in phase one the validity of the research instrument is strengthened; especially when we factor in the use of the SDR measure to control for bias (Nederhof, 1985) and the encouragement of omission (Hammersley et al., 2003) when the participant had no opinion. What we cannot suggest at this stage of the analysis, however, is that the shared experience led to a shared meaning.
As Denscombe (1999) ascertained; the perceptions of the individual are not always consistent with the general consensus view (Brockmann, 2011) of the group as a whole. This extends to the meaning-made and the individual nature of the meaning-making process. The surveyed group cultivated differing levels of relevance and value from their shared experiences. But, this was seemingly determined by the level of relevance and value that was extrapolated from their continued participation. Hence, the individual agency of meaning-making is an outcome of the level of value and relevance attributed to the shared experiences of learning as an adult, the level of satisfaction and a sense of mutability for the betterment of self.
Phase 2: Narrative of Qualitative data Before the triangulation, constant comparison and content analysis the researcher must point out that (1) this was a small scale study, (2) the interviews was held in a small group so full disclosure by each participant was not always possible and (3) the results should not be over generalised to other adult learning situations. All that is being sought is an insight in to the connectivity of socio-cognitive interactivity and the subsequent influence on representative individuality; the multidimensionality of participatory behaviour and what the adults felt their motivations for returning to education were and still are. This should (1) map the external/internal influences on the adult learner; (2) expose the dimensions behind this seeming connectivity of socio-cognitive interactivity that create the potential/s for designated types of action i.e.
Multimodal Heuristics and (3) if the analysis supports the researcher’s theory and the adult learning theories that feature in this enquiry. Some of the interviewee’s shared a meaning to one degree, but had a different meaning-making process before reaching that decision; the salient feature was a shared-meaning in a shared-goal in reaching university or attending a higher level course from the successful completion of the current course of study. This gave them a common ground on which to build upon ‘what learning means’ to them on an individual basis whilst allowing the shared-meaning element distinguish and define their individual social relationships in the class; whom they sought clarification from; what level of involvement they chose and what comparative judgements they begin to make on others in the session/s. Walter: “Well I think if you do…
I think if you do…like, we are social people, things…we are social and that’s that, that’s what we are…we are designed to be social people, if we exclude ourselves we do not, you know, we lose all basic human function, it’s like the guy at the front, you know he doesn’t … he can exclude himself, he doesn’t do anything, he doesn’t enjoy being here, doesn’t have any excitement about coming and learning…if you exclude yourself from everyone else you’ll probably not learn!” Serena: “I like learning with a group but then it’s dependent on what I do with that information…but when it’s writing things down or posters and stuff I can’t have other people touching.”
This illustrates that the need to feel self-directed and sometimes being free from outside interference is just one of the commonalities we start to see in the participants responses. Although, some of the interviewee’s do highlight that; Sally: “I came because I needed to do it, but now I quite, I’ve more motivation to do it because I enjoy it.”
Therefore, the individual agency of meaning-making is, not only an outcome of the level of value and relevance attributed to the shared experiences of learning as an adult, the level of satisfaction and a sense of mutability for the betterment of self, but also the means/ends-cost/benefit interconnectivity seen in their decision-making process i.e. motivated to do it and their continued participation in the session/s that seemingly contributes further to the mutability for the betterment of self in these adult learners.
The individual meaning-made is a product of these connective interactivities varying – and individually decided – high/low levels of cost/benefit the course has and what perceived means/end reward the course provides for successful completion i.e. the multimodal heuristic factors that led to participatory behaviour and satisfaction. The shared-meaning is an accidental affinity that becomes synchronous with other people that are pursuing a similar goal as them. This suggests that they share similar educational values and relevancies due to their common or shared goals.
The shared-meaning dimensions presumably start to mediate the differing high/low connective interactivity level in the cost/benefit and means/end analyses. Furthermore, this also starts to define and distinguish individual social relationships; who we seek advice and clarification from; what level of involvement we chose and what comparative judgements we make on others i.e. asynchronous affinity with others. The comments from these interviewee’s also highlights the need to feel proficient and competent about the material in the course and where they culture this confidence. It seems the more confident the adult learner gets about understanding the material and being able to discuss, question and seek clarification on their understanding the more proficient and competent they feel.
This bolsters their feelings of satisfaction and adds to their motivation to continue through reducing the physical and mental sense of effort i.e. cost and/or means and increasing the perception of benefit cultured from continuation in the session/s. e.g. internal expectations and social relationships. This could be defined as a beneficial compromise for the betterment of self being the mediation of the perceived value social contact offers in raising confidence, increasing feelings of proficiency and reducing our fear of incompetency.
The commentaries also point toward Margin theory (Gibbons Bylsma, 1984) in the manner of how ‘power’ and ‘load’ i.e. the amount we can manage is balanced with the effort we can assign to it and ‘expansive’ and ‘restrictive’ perceptions of future time i.e. the older you are the more urgent something becomes also contributes to the motivations of the adult learner (Gibbons Bylsma, 1984). So, is motivation the product of a restrictive ‘future time’ perspective creating a behaviourally urgent response to the realisation of your current educational inequities; therefore, adding to the perception of the reduction in opportunities for sustaining economic upward mobility?
For example the following conversation illustrates the reasoning behind this question; Researcher: ‘so does anyone find, you know, that helps them decide to do a course, or, was it a combination of both things were like valuable and relevant to you as well?’ Walter: ‘Yeah, yeah…that’s the reason I’m here, you know you can’t get a well-paid job without English and Maths!’ Leroy: …’and without those I can’t precede on to university’ Researcher: ‘So you can see the as an industry standard kind of then?’ Walter: ‘Yeah, this is the industry standard’
Researcher: ‘So to actually progress you need these things to progress?’ Walter: ‘Yeah…yeah…’
Leroy: ‘Like to myself, like to have this qualification would make me feel better about it…but,’ Researcher: ‘Yeah…’
Leroy: ‘…it’s a requirement’
Researcher: ‘yeah like a stepping stone’
Therefore, these adult learners’ may just see the benefit of having the qualification to progress beyond where they are now. This could also suggest that these adults’ are fully aware that the ‘real world’ applicability of certain subjects are determined by the industry demand for that subject, making a qualification economically more relevant and valuable to these adult learners’.
We could theorise that society has a shared understanding about what industry requires of the workforce and how this requirement places a demand on the learner to rearrange their lives in order to participate in learning. Therefore, shared meaning in society could be facilitated by a shared understanding of what it demands of society, which supports the theory that adult learners’ must assign more personal relevance, value and expectations of satisfaction to learning before there is the motivation to return to education i.e. is there a beneficial compromise between what I want and what they require. And as can be seen in the descriptive analysis of Q20, Q21 and Q22.These questions relate to social influence and societies perception of value and relevance assigned to learning.
The adult learner agrees that the decision to attend a course of study was suggested to them (Q20) and that this social influence/encouragement essentially provides the persuasive reinforcement to their implicit understanding that; learning increases an adult’s chances of employment (Q21). The adult learners’ also feel that the support they receive from the different sources of this social influence/encouragement is at a level which permits their participation on the course of study. We could again theorise that an individual knows what is demanded of them in the employment market, but they seek confirmation on what they already know. This suggests that ‘meaning’ is socially co/re-constructed by the individual seeking confirmation on their present understanding in order to reinforce their decision, and by way of, increase motivation to return to learning.
Furthermore, the adult learners’ do not feel they have to make allowances to attend a course, as long as the scheduled session/s is at a convenient time for them to attend i.e. the conscious effort to avoid the conflicts between personal obligations and scheduled session/s. Moreover, showing that, for these adult learners’, the course of study has value and is personally and economically relevant to them. And as it was outlined in the ‘Theory Development’ section of this report; we can compare the assessment of value and relevance to Gustafsson & Mouwitz (2008) description of Proficiency Theory, and, means-end and cost-benefit analyses to McClusky’s Margin Theory (1974, as quoted in Gibbons Bylsma 1984). These theories emphasize a need to be competent at tasks’ whilst being realistic about certain physical, mental and social capabilities.
Moreover, because the theories that were used in this study have overlapping dimensions (e.g. Q3, Q4 and Q12 overlap Social contact and Relationships; Goal and Relevancy orientation and External Expectations) with each dimension seemingly providing a piece to the decisional mélange that affects the internal expectations i.e. individual agency of the adult learner.
We could therefore suggest that Multimodal Heuristics and co/re-constructive social influence, not only becomes more evident when motivation towards participation is being established and/or maintained, but may also be one of the key components in the processes that assist the transformation of identity. Hence, as a sense of belonging, competency, proficiency and satisfaction are valued and relevant to the adult learner and evolve as they evolve; as do their identities. Equally, in a sociocultural ontology progress in learning is viewed along trajectories of participation and growth of identity, so both competency and belonging matter in understanding learning. It is for these reasons that a sociocultural ontology describes learning as a transformation of identity.
And as the report is looking at the macro and micro-structural influences on the adult learner and how that comes to mediate and motivate them toward participation we can suggest quite firmly that identity transformation is closely tied to multimodal heuristics which is apparently mediated by a co/re-construction between the connectivity of social/cognitive interactivity thus having an impact on the identity formation of the adult learner. So the relevancy and value that is selected from external sources is fragmentally factored from differing micro and macro-structural influences and negotiated in to cognitive constructs i.e. internally mediated hence facilitating the decisional components that create the motivation for, and support continued participation towards, designated types of action.
Discussion, implications and conclusions So, are social contact and relationships the result of synchronous affinities? Is the use of multimodal heuristics an actual contributor to identity transformation? All that can be suggested is that the results support the theory of multimodal heuristics and the connectivity of interactivity and imply that motivation is established through the individual deliberately, and sometimes vicariously, extracting information from these proximal and distal influences.
Hence, social/cognitive collocation comes to, not only reinforce their decision to participate in designated types of action, but also – to a greater or lesser extent – impacts upon the transformation of identity. But, we must keep in mind that this is paralleled with a balance between the beneficial compromises for the betterment of self and the perceived value social contact i.e. belonging offers in raising confidence, increasing feelings of proficiency and reducing the fear of incompetency.
The real implication of these results is the noticeable benefit of informal conversations being used to reinforce learnt knowledge. The participants suggest that more time for reflection and confirmation would go some way to aiding the retention of new information, how the information actually relates to their personal circumstances and how this also contributes to feelings of belonging, proficiency, competency and feelings of increased confidence.
For example; Walter : “…if you have a conversation with someone, say after this class, you’ll remember that conversation better than you would, you know than someone standing at the front of the class going ‘this guy wrote this poem about this” And like the small child that is afraid of ‘shadow monsters’ and leaves the light on; the sessions could benefit from the incorporation of small group/whole class learning reinforcement dyads of informal conversations. This would then start to determine the level of commitment and motivation (Park & Choi 2009) that is ascribed to the retention of relevant and valuable information (Gibbons Bylsma, 1984; p. 23), and further contribute to the ease of transfer/retrieval of the current learning material/s and any new information (Ekey 2012).
In conclusion, if adults are autonomous, self-directed and pursue their personal interests and goals then; when an adult decides to return to education the course of study must display a greater degree of relevance to the adults. If the course of study is perceived as having relevance, it (1) fulfils their need for feeling autonomous, (2) allows the adult to make an informed decision as to the value it has, (3) contributes to the continuation of feelings of self-directedness and (4) also contributes to their perceptions of being closer to achieving their goals’; thus adding value.
Especially when we factor in that adult learners’ are complying with requirements’ laid down by someone else and may need to reorganise multiple obligations and competing priorities in order to participate. Another reason that these adult learners’ generally value the social interaction, support and reciprocal respect they receive whilst attending a course of study.
Hence, the sense of belonging would be enhanced if there were more opportunities for interaction. Therefore, creating more opportunities for reflection between learners’ could, not only, reinforce learning, but also support the feelings of belonging through increasing the opportunities for discussion on how the material covered in that session/s contextually relates to them. Moreover, focussing on enhancing feelings of proficiency by allowing the adult learner to co/re-construct their current understanding through reflecting upon it with learners’ that share the same learning experience and synchronous and asynchronous affinities.
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