Tapping into Adult Motivation to Learn

Let’s chat a bit about factors for intrinsic adult motivation to learn.

Research points to at least four key factors that release inner adult motivation to learn. These four inspire adults to become lifelong life-learners. The dynamic interconnection of all four accelerates learning in adults (adapted from “Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn” by Wlodkoski, Chapter Three). This chapter alone is worth the price of the book for teachers.

RELEVANCE as a Motivation to Learn

Demonstrating value by relating learning to life

A desire to find meaning is fundamental to humanity. Adult learners in particular dislike busywork. Motivation to learn for adults soars when we know the reason for learning something. We must see change, either in lives or skills in doing what is before us.

A Christian, who is now a great friend, came to me in his late 50’s. He had known Jesus since his young adult years. This friend ministered effectively with the power of the Holy Spirit and had numerous God-experiences. He said, “Jim, I don’t know the Bible. Could you help me?” We spent weekly time for 8-12 months around God’s Love-Letter. Later he told me, “The greatest motivation for me to begin to love Scripture came when I saw how God’s truth in the Word as the foundation for my experience with God.”

When we major on doing God’s Word, relevance soars because we experience LifeChange.

Do all we can to relate learning to life. When I meet with people around God’s Word, I ask them each week. “What did you do this week based on the truth you saw in Scripture?” Incremental “ant-steps” are fine but do respond to God’s invitation for more life. Fifty-two very small steps in the right direction each year end up in large changes by year-end. God’s image-bearers are active beings who desire to shape the course of our lives in relevant ways.

First, create thoughtful and challenging learning experiences within the group. These tap into the rich perspectives, exquisite variety, and deep-seated values of adult learners.

Second, this fluid learning community stimulates personal, relevant responses. These propel learning out of the formal classroom into significant arenas of our real-life experiences. This experience then connects God’s truth to encounter our daily life. God’s people possess a strong need to apply what we have learned to our concrete and real-world situations. We cannot respond to life and remain unchanged. As we bring these experiences back to the group, this releases more life and learning in us and also in others.

Improve relevance learning into action by “doing” one thing based on what you learned.

COMPETENCE as a Motivation to Learn

Experiencing growing competence in skills, values, and/or character powerfully motivates learning

As image-bearers, God created us to rule. Therefore, we explore, perceive, evaluate, think about and change our surroundings to promote positive effects. We want to matter! Growing competence taps into our God-given yearning to count, to experience significance.

Many Christians have been encouraged by well-meaning pears to read through the whole Bible from cover to cover, like any other literature. In my experience, this leads to much of the failure felt by followers of Jesus in engaging God’s Word. There’s a crucial place for this, but not up front. Our minds hate bits and pieces without a framework. All sixty-nine books of the Bible are too large to gain an adequate framework.

Instead, “flip” engagement in learning so we prepare beforehand and engage in BIG-small-BIG learning that incorporates natural ways to learn.

Rapidly read one book of the Bible, say Philippians, several times (BIG). Then blend this with focusing on one chapter after another, reading it repeatedly each day for one week before the meeting to “flip” learning (small). Then put the book back together by reading it rapidly again (the second BIG). Blending rapid and repeated reading aligns with how God designed us to learn naturally.

Success begets more success. Success cultivates expectancy for continued success to improve skills, values and character. So, early-on in the process, encourage incremental, easy-to-learn, “quick-hits” success in crucial leverage points. Yes, success leads to more success, although remember that God defines “success” as faithfulness, not certain results compared to others (1 Corinthians 4:2).

When we discover a simple, yet powerful way to engage God’s Love-Letter, this growing competence makes the process pleasurable and desirable….and fun! Everyone is then inspired to learn when information is not just accumulated and hoarded by individuals. It’s willingly shared. Each one teach one as one learner in community shares a positive experience.

Improve competence in learning by “flipping” learning and engaging with a BG-small-BIG approach.

BELONGING as a Motivation to Learn

Connecting with each other accelerates growth

Create a learning community environment in which each feels respected and connected to one another. Develop a relaxed, stimulating place to learn. Regardless of what each might add as imperfect learners, every member in a learning community is vital. We function like a body with different members. Cooperation is the norm for learning since we are social beings. As a community of learners, we are mutually accepting, encircling partners. Each cares as much about the learning of our peers as we do about our own learning.

Perhaps on the horizontal plane, nothing is quite as powerful in community as a high-learning, no-shame, no-blame culture. Search out our full range of capacities as we respond with authenticity from the center of who we really are. This desire to make sense of things grows and frees us to tell our first-person story. Telling our story enhances retention, opens up rich possibilities for relevant action, and maximizes growth as we become influence-able influencers.

Improve belonging in learning by joining and interactive learning community, as small as 3-5.

POSITIVE ATTITUDES as a Motivation to Learn

Nurturing positive attitudes towards learning

Our attitude predisposes us in a certain direction, positively or negatively. This seems to be true in all of life. Particularly since many western Christians have negative past experiences with learning, positive and realistic expectations are essential at the beginning. Joy is the hallmark of God’s design for learning, so make room for joy and fun to naturally bubble up. Levity is part of learning.

Catch them doing something good, anything. then encourage it. Affirm in one another a favorable outlook towards learning. Provide a basis for hope. Laugh and enjoy ourselves as we would in any good friendship. The source of surprising new births is an environment where meaning-making roams about promiscuously.

What if your reading and learning experience has been a negative?

Change your attitude! God would not have given us this Bible if it were not crucial to nourishing spiritual growth and relationship with Him. As an example, I dislike exercise. I recently chose to change my attitude to focus on: “I like the results of exercise?” Can you do this with learning?

This fluid, playful, inclusive collaboration with one another develops a different relationship with discovery. Communicate unqualified acceptance and a strong belief in their capacity as lifelong life-learners. The relational Trinity designed each of us for this. Teachers release inward motivation to learn when learners begin to experience such freedom. This taps into the joy of our Creator. Without this expectation, their will to take ownership and to learn rusts shut. These indispensable choices release high-level motivation to learn and to put out full effort. This leads then to active buy-in and ownership. Adults need to take responsibility for their learning.

Improve positive attitudes in learning by changing your view of learning to: “I enjoy the results of learning.”

Drawing Motivations Together

Stop now, please. Ask yourself,…

“Why are these four key ingredients so important to recapture healthy learning?”

How do these four key motivational elements interact?

Solid learning theory is behind how Jesus taught and what we are attempting to reproduce in sowing a new culture like Jesus.

Where Do I Go from Here?

  1. Use what I’ve written as a trigger to release your own self-growth. If you want to spend more time on this key concept of intrinsic motivation to learn, click here.
  2. Since guiding questions are especially crucial for a vibrant, interactive group, go on to the next cascading webpage, The Art of Asking Empowering Questions. Learn the power for LifeChange in questions as we “draw out” of others what God has put in. Turn this modeling into formation as we make space for all in the group to learn to ask empowering questions, especially with discovery teaching.

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