*Measuring Adult Motivation for Learning.

Since the early nineteen hundreds there have been many studies on human motivation resulting in many interesting theories. From what I can tell, these theories originated from fields such as psychology, economics, sociology, anthropology and possibly many other fields of study, but applied widely in the education or learning fields as well. Take for example the Economic Motivation Theory made popular through Frederick Taylor’s (1911) Principles of Scientific Management during the industrial revolution. This theory emphasises the maximization of productivity through specialization and piecemeal work. Merrriam & Sharan explain the application of this theory in education in this way:

Educationally, economic motivation might mean that you select a college major that promises a good income (business) rather than something that are more interested and passionate about(art). Merriam, Sharan B (2014). Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice

Since then, social and human motivation theory, behaviouristic motivation theory, needs driven motivational theory and cognitive motivation theory emerged and expanded our understanding of adult motivation to learn and how that affects adults’ access to and participation in learning activities. These motivational theories influenced the development of later studies in adult education. During the PIDP 3200 course, I also reflected heavily on these theories to understand my own student achievements and later went forward to tweak my lesson plan to help motivate my students.

adult learnersWhile theories help explain motivation to learn, some studies have gone one step further to develop ways to measure this motivation. The Education Participation Scale (EPS) developed by Boshier for example measures factors related to adult engagement in learning. I haven’t explored this scale in detail but fascinated by the idea. I think it is very useful to be able to measure one’s motivation, because then, we can take the conversation to the next level, to explore the factors that affects motivation and adjust those factors to maximize the outcome.

When it comes to measuring one’s motivation to learn, the Theory of Margin by McClusky (1963) is another formula for addressing motivation as a measure for how many resources (power) the learner has, to offset the demands (load) that potentially diminish motivation for learning. This theory is also known as the power load margin (PLM). McClusky defined the theory in this way;  “Margin is a function of the relationship of load to power”. McClusky posited that adults need enough margin to handle life’s load of challenges, changes and crises.

Stevenson’s, (1982) “Construction of a scale to measure load, power, and margin in life” expanded McClusky’s theory to identify six key areas for measuring margin; self, family, religiosity, body, extra familial relationships and environment.

Main,(1979) also worked on McClusky’s theory and offered an interesting illustration of this theory. Some examples of his work are:

2(Power)  = 0.5(Margin)                               Deficit of Power to Handle Load
4(Load)                                                           Crisis of Excess Load Pressures

7(Load) = 1.0(Margin)                                    Breaking Even
7(Power)                                                           Barely Holding On

4 (Power) = 2.0(Margin)                                Surplus of Power to Handle Load
2(Load)                                                             Space to Manuever

Merriam, Sharan B (2014). Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice, pg 154

Based on all these analysis, we can conclude that the possibility for adults to do well in their studies will be increased when learning activities is not a heavy load for them. As such instructors have the responsibility to fashion lesson plans and student feedback in such as a way that it is clear and don’t add any unnecessary load to the student. That means careful planning of lesson plans and precise feedback is essential to ensure student success.

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