Motivation and Needs
Adults who are traditionally underrepresented in educational institutions
- unskilled or semi-skilled manual workers, unemployed people, women
with or without children, older adults and ethnic minorities - constitute
the College's principal target groups. Deterring or inhibiting factors
to participation for these groups include:
lack of self confidence
inadequate or incomplete schooling
of shame at low levels of achievement
attitudes towards education
lack of day-time opportunities
It is not the case that the groups in question do not want to join
formal education provision; it is the case that educational institutions
do not always prioritise them in their recruitment strategies. The
College's mission implies that it reaches (to use an expression from
a popular advertisement) those parts other educational institutions
do not reach.
can new students be helped to recognise and address any actual
or potential barriers to learning? Here is what one College
tutor has to say
often arrive at the College with negative feelings about their
potential for learning due to past experiences. It is therefore
important to empower them to reassess their feelings so that
they can be more positively oriented towards their learning.
Students are asked to chat in pairs about some aspects of
their lives. Once they are at ease with one another they are
asked to identify at least three positive personal attributes.
After this they are asked to report to the whole class what
they have identified. The tutor records on a flipchart the
range of attributes existing in the group. This can be an
eye-opener for each individual as well as for the group as
Students are asked to reflect on their past learning experiences
within the context of the group so that group members and
the tutor can support them in reassessing in particular their
negative experiences and in realizing that these need not
reoccur in adult learning settings. This helps them to 'come
to terms' with their experiences and not feel that they are
alone in the world.
Students are asked to consider the disadvantages that they
might have suffered in their lives and how this might have
impacted on their learning. Just knowing that there was, perhaps,
potential in the past for them to have learnt differently
can help to promote a change of attitude to learning. Thus,
they may be able to set aside feelings of inadequacy, perhaps
even the guilt of not engaging in learning at school and to
cultivate an eagerness to develop further.
Students are asked to talk about their learning styles and
to feel entitled to be 'different' in their individual learning
approaches. It is of great benefit to them to identify what
works for them and to consider other learning styles with
which they have had little or no past experiences.
Those adults who do decide to participate in educational activity
at the College or elsewhere do so for a variety of motives rather
than a single motive. The motives to participate vary with the different
subjects studied and with the age, gender, ethnicity, physical or
mental health and socio-economic position of each adult. Below is
a typology of adults identifying some of their motives:
who want to know
who desire to be better informed
who want to take part in social activity
who desire to meet new people
who seek to obtain professional or career advancement
who hope to escape from daily routine
who plan to have a change in employment
who want to prepare for a new job
who desire to develop new skills and move ahead in life
who are committed to achieving change in their communities
who are interested to promote collective activity and social change
For any individual adult, most of the reasons for joining formal educational
provision lie in a cluster of motivations that are similar.
a tutor gives a brief account of the changing nature of a
student's motivation to study
student attended a range of Information Technology courses
in the years 1999 and 2000, initially in the College's community-based
centre in Doncaster and later in the College itself. When
she first attended a residential course at the College, it
was actually the first time in 10 years that she had been
away from home due to an ongoing illness. Returning to study
opened up a whole new world for her. As her repertoire of
IT skills grew, she became more and more confident and enthusiastic
not just to learn but to make contact with other people. She
built up a strong friendship with a student from another area
of Doncaster; prior to attending the College they did not
know each other. Between courses she worked at home to develop
her IT skills further. She is currently studying part-time
on the College's Diploma Programme. In spite of having several
family commitments, she is determined to carry on with her
Generally, motives for returning to education are usually mixed in
the adult population. It is nevertheless possible to identify four
broad categories of adults and their motives:
who want simply to have a break and enjoy the social life
who want to achieve something through a qualification, whether
this (something) is a better paid job or an interesting career
who want personal and intellectual development, whether this is
for realising their own potential, improving their skills or gaining
knowledge for its own sake
who have a collectivist orientation to life and want to study
to enhance their potential of working with others to bring about
The majority of the College's students fall into the second, third
and fourth categories.
The second category implies 'a means to an end' or instrumental approach.
Students motivated by this approach are concerned with the grades
achieved and the approval gained from others. They can be seen as
being extrinsically motivated; they study for external reasons.
The third category implies a 'learning for learning's sake' approach.
Students motivated by this approach are concerned with the real or
potential challenges offered by mastering a subject or acquiring new
skills. They can be seen as intrinsically motivated; they study for
The fourth category implies a political commitment to larger purposes
in life. Students motivated by this approach are often already involved
in local or national organisations (voluntary groups, political parties,
trade unions, etc.).
a College tutor describes how an adoptive mother was motivated
to come to the College and to thereafter work as a volunteer
in a community centre
woman came to the College first as part of a group from South
Yorkshire involved in a course exploring issues of being effective
parents. After this introduction to the College she returned
on an openly recruited course entitled 'Black Children, White
Mothers'. This was designed for white mothers bringing up
black children. The course explored black history, black children's
experiences, 'mixed race' relationships and ways in which
parents can support their children to feel positive about
their identity. Having been involved in a range of volunteering
opportunities in her hometown, she was appointed to a substantial
part-time post in a community centre, with particular responsibility
for supporting volunteers. This included responsibility for
undertaking training for volunteers. She enrolled on the College's
City and Guilds 7307 course, which leads to the Adult and
Further Education Teacher's Certificate. She used her work
at the Community Centre as her teaching practice experience
and ran a very effective series of sessions on the role of
It may be worthwhile for a tutor to find out from individual students
whether they are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated and to ascertain,
over time, whether there is any relationship between motivation and
The College's students are often intrinsically and also to some extent
extrinsically motivated. They come to the College to realise their
individual potential and to acquire skills, knowledge and understanding
that will help them to gain employment, go into further or higher
education, or apply what they learn in some other area such as voluntary
work or trade union activism. There are also students who come to
the College as part of a group (e.g. a tenant's group, a disabled
people's group, a women's group, etc.), and with the aim of using
what they learn to further the objectives of that group. (It is not
to deny that personal and intellectual development also takes place,
but this is not - at least, not at first - the primary aim of the
a tutor highlights how a student's involvement with the College
motivated not just her but also those who belonged to her
local community group - the Well Christian Fellowship
student first started Information Technology classes in the
community in late 1999, and later got members of her group
to attend a range of courses at the College, including a beginners
IT course as well as Deaf Awareness and Drug Awareness courses.
These courses helped the group to develop skills in handling
difficult situations in the community and to build their individual
confidence levels. Two members successfully managed to gain
part-time employment, one in a pharmacy and the other in a
junior school. This was partly due to the skills and confidence
that they had gained whilst studying at the College. The student
and the rest of her group remained strongly motivated to study,
and maintained contact with the College to find out how it
might continue to assist them again.
Student needs are defined mainly (but not exclusively) in terms of
learning needs. Participating in an educational activity is one of
a number of ways through which students satisfy their learning needs.
Students may, for example sample a range of short courses before establishing
what it is that they want to learn. Their motivation to participate
in formal educational provision thus reflects an interest in identifying
and satisfying their learning needs. Their learning needs express
their 'interests', 'desires', 'wants' or even 'demands' regarding
education, and the College helps them make sense of all this through
the guidance and support services that it provides.
is the first course that we've been on that has offered us
what we ourselves want rather than what others think what
the feeling that the tutors care about you that makes learning
different here. You feel that you're an individual - not just
an anonymous face in a class of other anonymous faces."
don't put us down or make us feel inadequate. Even when we
get things wrong, they don't blame us; instead, they help
us to see what our mistakes are and how to correct them. This
really helps us to understand the subject better and to move
make a real effort to find out what difficulties students
value everything that you produce, even when you know it is
not good enough. You get the feeling that you are valued for
what you are. This encourages you to study."
never made to feel small. Whatever you do is always valued
value our experiences. This makes us more inclined to talk
make time to give us extra help."
The College creates programmes of learning that are responsive to
the learning needs of individuals and groups. This is reflected in
how its tutorial and other staff members view and work with students.
accept students as they are and not as they should (ideally) be.
They view students as having different starting or entry points
into learning. They take the students' current needs, personal
or intellectual, as being paramount.
are pro-active in eliciting student needs. They ask students what
and how they want to learn. They discuss, elicit and negotiate
the content and process of learning to the extent to which this
can be done or is appropriate. They do this by 'going out' to
meet individuals and groups in their communities, and they do
this again in the classroom.
foster a sense of ownership amongst students for their intended
programmes of learning.
value students for what they really are, irrespective of what
they have achieved or not achieved academically. They value students
as persons with experiences that are both unique to themselves
and shared with others.
create a non-threatening learning environment so that students
can feel safe to explore and confront their anxieties, difficulties
and real or imagined barriers to learning.