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Motivating Learners to Become Lifelong Learners

Posted on the 01 August 2011 by Combi31 @combi31

What is motivation?

Motivationis a desire to achieve a goal or objective, combined with the energy to work towards that goal. Learners who are motivated have a desire to undertake learning, which we could call their motivation, which cannot be seen but only inferred by observing behavior.Motivation may be intrinsic, extrinsic, or both. Intrinsic motivation is the motivation to act for the sake of the activity alone, simply because they enjoy it.Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is the motivation to act for external rewards. For example, people have extrinsic motivation to do things for financial reward, fame or some form of kudos.There are also more basic forms of motivation described by Maslow, which we will not be looking at here.There are three basic principles involved in any form of motivation :

  • It is impossible to motivate others
  • Everyone is motivated by something
  • People do things for their reasons only, not for the reasons of others.

Once we understand these three simple laws, we can start looking at how to influence people, which is sometimes wrongly seen as motivating people, especially in a learning situation.It is impossible to motivate others by the simple fact that motivation comes from within a person, regardless of the effects of external motivation factors.However, one can generate the desire in someone if the goal is what they ultimately want, or at least if it represents something that they are willing to work towards for their own reasons.In short a person needs to fully agree with the intended outcomes or processes of any learning events in order to fully engage with the learning process.A desire cannot be generated for something that is not aligned with a person’s own desires, wants or needs. Furthermore, it is very difficult for a person to fulfill objectives by proxy in the long term. That is to say that a person may work ostensibly in the short-term towards  the aims, goals or objectives set by a third party, but the effect in the long term will clearly be lacking.Everyone has motivation to do, or to not do something and tapping into this is often very difficult and leads me, personally to believe that teaching for adults does not work.Learners are motivated, intrisically or extrinsically to achieve their objectives – teaching is of little use if both the wants and needs of learners are not addressed. If the wants are not addresses, then the needs will never be addressed and the only effective way to do this is by a process of facilitation that is adapted to the learner.Most learners know already what the need, although very few know how to achieve those needs.This is where facilitation skills are required to effectively accompany learners through a clear and structured process that includes solid pedagogical strategies.It is worth noting that influence plays a huge role in both the acquisition of knowledge and in the ability to effectively use what is learnt in the real world.Learners can be influenced by way of the facilitator :

  • Generating the desire to learn by the realisation of how learning will benefit the learner.
  • Creating and maintaining interest and enthusiasm regarding learning.
  • Giving recognition, support encouragement and help where needed.

This may sound like a watered-down version of manipulation. Perhaps it is, it’s all by degrees but any of the above without a clear conviction and authenticity will not generate learning in any case.All of us have memories of good and bad teachers from school, and we can surely recognize where teaching either succeeded or failed – we usually continue to live with the idea that we are good at certain subjects and weak at others.Often the teacher’s personality is cited as a winning or losing factor in these cases, an enthusiastic or world-weary teacher will have a good or bad influence on learners that can and does often last a lifetime.I wonder if you can recognize any of the traits that lead to learners being demotivated :

  • Having little personal contact with learners and creating a gulf by being aloof.
  • Maintain learners as being passive during lessons or training.
  • Assuming that by simply presenting a subject that people will learn.
  • Criticising learner’s behavior without showing recognition.
  • Making learners feel uncomfortable or embarassed to ask questions.
  • Favouring strong learners whilst ignoring those experiencing difficulties.
  • Working on content with little regard for the process of learning.
  • Presenting material in the same way without allowing for differing learning styles.

How can facilitation help ?

The basics of facilitation include the notion of empowering learners to be responsible for their own learning – that is shifting the power dynamics that are inherent in any learning event.Teaching entrenches the power firmly in the hands of the teacher who is responsible for the subject and the way it is delivered. Teaching is also a practice that has a place in an unchanging world, where things remain constant. Carl Rogers, uses the example of the Aboriginis of Australia who taught their children how to survive in the bush – and who’s methods of living, in some cases has remained unchanged for over 20,000 years in a relatively unchanged environment.Facilitation deals with choice and responsability, which does not mean that learning becomes a disorganised free-for-all, rather that the responsability for the outcomes is put more in the learner’s corner than being whollely owned by the teacher.Facilitation also deals with the ability to become lifelong learners.Carl Rogers argued that learners understand things much better if they have made an effort to find them for themselves, which underpins the cornerstone of lifelong learning for adults, suggested by Knapper and Cropley regarding Lifelong Learners, who :

  • Plan their own learning
  • Assess their own learning
  • Are active rather than passive learners
  • Learn in both formal and informal settings
  • Learn from their peers, facilitator, mentor, coach etc.
  • Integrate knowledge from different subject areas when required
  • Use different learning strategies for different situations.

What is Lifelong Learning ?

Lifelong learning is the way forward.Lifelong learning is defined by the word « lifelong » in as much as it is a deliberate, focused effort to learn throughout the lifetime of a person.lifelong learning is about equipping learners with the skills they will need throughout life to adapt to revolutionary changes intechnology that have completely reshaped the workplace.Gone are the days when people could leave school, enter into an apprentissage and live-out their careers for 40 years in the same jobs. Today’s workers have portfolio careers, changing jobs, direction and even trades several times during their lifetime – therein lies the importance of lifelong learning.The only commodity that will remain valuable, in human resource terms, in the 21st Century is the ability to learn, to adapt and to embrace change in order to keep up with workplace technology changes and to remain marketable in an ever more competetive employment market.Or as Rogers stated, “The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change”.©Active Consultants 2010. All rights reserved. Reproduction by permission only.

© 2011, ©Active Consultants 2011. All rights reserved. Copying in part or in entirety only permitted by written consent

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