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Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn Essay

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Updated: Jul 18th, 2021

Overview of Learning Theories

Andragogy and Self-Directed Learning

The debate concerning how people, especially adults, acquire knowledge has been ongoing for several decades. The discussion centers on whether individuals become more knowledgeable as they grow, or are smart learners when they are young. To address the contention, various scholars have advanced useful theories that comprise andragogy, self-directed learning, and behaviorism. Other models include constructivism, learning style, social learning, and cognitive.

In her theory of andragogy, Merriam (2001) alludes that adults have higher motivation and zeal to acquire knowledge as compared to young students. Furthermore, she argues that since mature individuals have other obligations and a wealth of experiences, they are more likely to become successful. The assertion coincides with the tenets envisioned in the self-directed theory as illuminated by Merriam in 2001.

Behaviorist Learning, Constructivism, and Learning Style Theories

On the other hand, Munoz (2011) asserts that education is a process that relies heavily on reinforcement and instincts. According to the parameters enshrined in Munoz’s behaviorist learning premise, individuals often practice reinforced initiatives repeatedly and avoid those that yield punishment. In explicating the constructivism theory, Applefield, Huber, and Moallem (2000) elucidate that people relate to present and future events with past information to ascertain whether they are authentic. Constructivism is almost similar to the learning style model presented by David Kolb in his reflective cycle (Yoders, 2014).

McLeod (2017) claims that when people come across new ideas, they analyze and check if they are in line with their preexisting views. Afterward, these individuals implement the latest information and conclude whether incorporation of these ideas is worthwhile.

Social Learning and Cognitive Theories

Consequently, the social learning theory is instrumental in the process of knowledge acquisition. Notably, provisions of the social learning model revolve around observation, modeling, and reinforcement. David (2015) explains that through observation, people acquire new styles of executing their activities. Significantly, the explanation outlined above emanates from Bandura’s arguments on observation and modeling.

Besides addressing the issue of imitation from a classroom perspective, Bandura introduces the concept of televised modeling as clarified in his video and examines how it affects the learning process. In his presentation of cognitive theory, Grider (1993) explains that information goes through various stages in the human mind that comprise perception, organization, storage, and retrieval. These stages enable a person to preserve relevant data and utilize them in the future.

Application of the Theories

Reinforcement and Punishment in Organizations

Learning theories discussed above are integral in addressing daily events that people encounter in workplaces or educational centers. Each day, individuals study through observation, reinforcement, or punishment. Wei and Yazdanifard (2014) as well as Malik, Butt, and Choi (2015) note that organizations practice acts of support and reward as outlined in learning theories. Leaders in medical facilities, for instance, reprimand staff members who engage in unethical behaviors with a view of discouraging them from practicing such acts in the future. Furthermore, when the leadership in a particular firm promotes an employee, others strive to behave like the respective staff so that they also get the same reward.

Maturity and Successful Learning

Therefore, it is evident that the cornerstones of learning theories are practical and affect all facets of life. In the context of maturity and wisdom, it is paramount to state that while many young individuals are fast learners their willingness to acquire information is low because they may not realize the essence of what their trainers instill in them. However, since adults have a clear purpose, the likelihood of having effective training is high (Chen, 2014; Wlodkowski & Ginsberg, 2017). As such, it is apparent that adult learners are equally capable of acquiring knowledge even during advanced stages of humanity.


Applefield, J., Huber, R., & Moallem, M. (2000). Constructivism in theory and practice: Toward a better understanding. The High School Journal, 84(2), 35-53.

Chen, J. (2014). Teaching nontraditional adult students: Adult learning theories in practice. Teaching in Higher Education, 19(4), 406-418.

David, L. (2015). Social learning theory. Web.

Grider, C. (1993). . Web.

Malik, M., Butt, A., & Choi, J. (2015). Rewards and employee creative performance: Moderating effects of creative self‐efficacy, reward importance, and locus of control. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36(1), 59-74.

McLeod, S. (2017). . Web.

Merriam, S. (2001). Andragogy and self‐directed learning: Pillars of adult learning theory. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 2001(89), 3-14.

Munoz, L. (2011). . Web.

Wei, L., & Yazdanifard, R. (2014). The impact of positive reinforcement on employees’ performance in organizations. American Journal of Industrial and Business Management, 4(1), 9-12.

Wlodkowski, R., & Ginsberg, M. (2017). Enhancing adult motivation to learn: A comprehensive guide for teaching all adults. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Yoders, S. (2014). Constructivism theory and use from 21st century perspective. Journal of Applied Learning Technology, 4(3), 12-20.

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