This outline was written in January 2009 for a group project in CCE 577 (Learning in Adulthood) that sought to collect data related to inclusion, attitude, meaning, and competence, which are described by Wlodkowski, R.J. (1999) as “motivational conditions that substantially enhance adult motivation to learn.”

What Motivates Adults to Learn

socioconstructivism:  “Incorporating views from sociology and anthropology, this perspective acknowledges the impact of collaboration, social context, and negotiation on learning.  Critical to this view is the understanding that people learn through their interaction with and support from other people and objects in the world.” (at 67-68)

Wlodkowsi believes that “both an individualistic worldview and a socioconstructivist worldview can inform educational practice.” (at 68) and “both of these views can embrace intrinsic motivation.” (at 68).

intrinsic motivation:  “human beings are curious and active, make meaning from experience, and desire to be effective at what they value (McCombs and Whisler, 1997).”

Wlodkowsi believes that “promoting learning among all adults is most possible through culturally responsive teaching based on instrinsic motivation” (at 68) and that both views offer useful motivational strategies. (at 68)

motivational strategies: “deliberate instructor actions that enhance a person’s motivation to learn.  The strategy contributes to stimulating or creating a motivational condition” (at 69).  e.g. ” an intriguing question (strategy) might provoke curiousity (motivational condition)” (at 69)

a motivational condition: “a mental/emotional state of being in which the learner is desirous of information, knowledge, insight and skill.” (at 69)

Wlodkowsi believes that “[i]t is the interest and curiosity – the motivational conditions – that energize the individual’s learning and foster engagement in such learning processes as reflection and dialogue.” (at 69)

Motivational conditions that substantially enhance adult motivation to learn:

1. Inclusion: “the awareness of learner that they are part of an environment in which they and their instructor are respected by and connected to one another.” (at 69)

“Ideally, learners realize that they can consider different, possibly opposing, perspectives as part of their learning experience.  At the same time, there is a mutually accepted, common culture within the learning group and some degree of harmony or community.” (at 69-70)

respect:  “to be free of undue threat and to have their perspective matter in issues of social exchange are critical to our well-being and learning. Unless learners know that they can express their true selves without fear of threat or humiliation, they will not be forthcoming with their preceptions of their own reality.” (at 70)

connectedness: “perceived as a sense of belonging for each individual and an awareness that each one cares for others and is cared for.” (at 70)

connectedness + respect = a climate that enhances motivation to learn

– because it “invites adults to access experience, to reflect, to engage in dialogue, … allow their histories to give meaning to particular academic or professional knowledge – all of which enhance motivation to learn.” (at 70)

– this allows adults to “be involved knowledge builders rather than alienated knowledge resisters.” (at 70-71).  It allows learners to “construct the cognitive connections that make knowledge relevant and under their personal control (Vygotsky, 1978).” (at 71)

2. Attitude: “an attitude is a combination of concepts, information and emotions that results in a predisposition to respond favorably or unfavorably toward particular people, groups, ideas, events, or objects (Johnson, 1980).” (at 71)

“Attitudes help us feel safe around things that are initially unknown to us.” (at 72).  “Needs influence attitudes because they make certain goals more or less desirable.” (at 72).  Attitudes are “for the most part, learned” (at 72) and therefore can be “modified and changed.” (at 73).

“two of the most important criteria for for developing a positive attitude among all learners are relevance and choice.” (at 74)

personal relevance:  “the learning is connected to who they are, what they care about, and how they perceive and know.” (at 74).  This creates a “genuine dialogue, with each standpoint having its own integrity (Clifford, 1986)” , which creates curiosity and interest. (at 74)

interest: “the emotional nutrient for a continuing positive attitude toward learning.” (at 74-75).

choice: “When we feel interested, we have to make choices about what to do to follow that interest.”   “For the process of learning … to be desirable and genuinely enjoyable, adults must see themselves as personally endorsing their own learning.” (at 75)

3. Meaning: “Adults can feel included and have a positive attitude toward learning, but their involvement will diminish if they do not find learning meaningful. By making their goals, interests, and perspectives the context of learning, we create a system that evokes meaning and involvement in learning” (at 76).

4. Competence: “Competence theory (White, 1959) assumes people naturally strive for effective interactions with their world.” (at 77)

feelings of efficacy: “positive emotions” from “[p]racticing newly developing skills and mastering challenging tasks.” (at 77)

– adults “are more motivated when the circumstances under which they assess their competence are authentic to their actual lives.” (at 78)

– “adults who are learning and can feel an actual sense of progress are usually well-motivated to continue their efforts in a similar direction.” (at 78)

– “… adults experience feelings of efficacy because they are competently performing an activity that leads to a valued goal.” (at 78)  “… the progress itself, will increase the value of the goal…” (at 79)

– “The relationship between competence and self-confidence is mutually enhancing.” (at 79)

The Motivational Framework for Culturally Responsive Teaching

is “respectful of different cultures and capable of creating a common culture that all learners in the learning situation can accept” (at 80-81)

“four intersecting motivational conditions that teachers and learners can create or enhance” (at 81):

1. Establishing inclusion:  creating a learning atmosphere in which learners and teachers feel respected and connected to one another

2. Developing attitude: creating a favorable disposition toward the learning experience through personal relevance and choice

3. Enhancing meaning: creating challenging, thoughtful learning experiences that include learners’ perspectives and values

4. Engendering competence: creating an understanding that learners are effective in learning something they value

“we can plan ways to evoke [motivation] throughout a learning sequence.” (at 83)

“the most basic way to begin is to transform the four motivational conditions from the framework into questions to use as guidelines for selecting motivational strategies and related learning activities” (at 83)

at page 85, Exhibit 3.1 shows an instructional plan made by using the questions of how the motivational conditions can be created or enhanced.

e.g. to establish inclusion, “collaborative learning” is used as a motivational strategy, and the learning activity is to randomly assign students into small groups, where they share and list their concerns, experiences, and expectations about the research assignment. (at 85)

e.g. to develop attitude, the motivational strategy is to use “relevant learning goals,” and the learning activity is to “ask learners to choose something they want to research among themselves” (at 85)

e.g. to enhance meaning, “critical questioning and predicting” is the motivational strategy, and the learning activity is to have the groups “devise a set of questions to ask in order to make predictions” (at 85)

e.g. to engender competence,  the “self-assessment” motivational strategy can “ask learners to create their own statements about what they learned” (at 85)

“Overall, the total learning experience encourages equitable participation, provides the beginning of an inclusive history for the students, and enhances the learning…” (at 86)

“By continually attending to the four motivational conditions and their related questions, the instructor can select motivational strategies from a wide array of theories and literature to apply throughout the learning unit.” (at 87)

“It is the mutual influence of a combination of strategies based on the motivational conditions that elicits intrinsic motivation.” (at 87)

“For projects and extended learning sessions, such as problem solving or self-directed learning, the sequence of strategies may not include all four motivational conditions.” (at 87)


Wlodkowski, R.J. (1999) Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn: A Comprehensive Guide for Teaching All Adults.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


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