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Motivation in Adults and Young Learners Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 30th, 2020

Adult Learners and Children When It Comes to Motivation

Motivation is one of the most important factors affecting academic performance. The learner has to want to acquire new skills to make this acquisition effective and long-term. Adult and young learners differ in many ways, and especially they differ when it comes to motivation. Educational theories can help educators understand these differences and foster motivation for both groups.

First, it is important to outline the major differences between motivation in adult and young learners. Adult learners are often motivated to achieve particular results, as they know perfectly well why they are trying to acquire this or that skill (Ormrod, 2008). For instance, in many cases, adult learners acquire some knowledge to pursue some goals in their careers or private life. However, children (especially young ones) often lack this kind of understanding and determination. They need additional motivation (Fischer & Immordino-Yang, 2008). Children need grades, appraisal, and candy to motivate them in some cases. Of course, this does not mean that adult learners do not need appraisal at all, as this can also help them cope with certain difficulties they may encounter. Likewise, children may be motivated without candy and grades.

To understand what approach to use in different settings with different groups of learners, it is possible to resort to educational theories. For instance, Weiner’s attribution theory focuses on the role “individual’s perceived causes of success and failure (attributions)” play on learner’s motivation and performance (Gredler, 2009, p. 17). Modern motivation theories are based on the attribution theory. Researchers identify different factors that enhance or deteriorate the motivation of different groups of learners. Importantly, they also describe particular socio-cognitive settings that may affect people’s motivation. Hence, educators can apply these theories to foster different groups’ motivation.

Bandura’s Self-Efficacy Theory

Bandura’s self-efficacy theory is based on the assumption that self-efficacy beliefs are an important factor affecting people’s behavior and learning. Self-efficacy beliefs are defined as “estimates that people make about their ability to perform specific actions” (Gredler, 2009, p. 174). Three factors affect self-efficacy. These factors are behaviors, environment, and personal/cognitive factors. Educators have to employ this knowledge to facilitate students’ learning.

Thus, instructors should create the necessary environment where learners are encouraged to participate in activities actively. Motivation can be different and depends on the age and interests of learners (Martinez, 2010). Of course, instructors have to make sure that behavioral patterns exhibited by learners are appropriate. If some learners behave inappropriately, it is essential to make them stop. It is also important to remember about individuals’ cognitive features. Instructors have to make sure that the tasks given are manageable by the learners. Tasks should be based on material learned as learners have to be able to apply certain knowledge and skills they acquired earlier to complete the task.

Group work can be one of the most effective forms of activity to make sure all the factors are met. When working in teams, learners are often focused on the successful completion of tasks as, in many cases, it can be a competition. They may often observe other learners to complete certain tasks and utilize these strategies in the future. Stronger learners may also help weaker ones to solve tasks (or rather parts of the task), which are too challenging for the latter. In that way, behaviors, environment, and personal/cognitive factors may positively affect the self-efficacy of students.

Reference List

Fischer, K. & Immordino-Yang, M. H. (2008). The Jossey-Bass reader on the brain and learning. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons Publishers.

Gredler, M.E. (2009). Learning and instruction: Theory into practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Martinez, M.E. (2010). Learning and cognition: The design of the mind. Boston, MA Allyn and Bacon.

Ormrod, J.E. (2008). Human Learning. Upper saddle river, NJ: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.

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