Malcolm Knowles’ Adult Learning Theory – Principle 6 - Motivation to Learn

Malcolm Knowles’ Adult Learning Theory – Principle 6 – Motivation to Learn

In this post, you will read about the sixth of six adult learning principles proposed by Malcolm Knowles in his Adult Learning Theory.

Motivation to Learn.

Adults are motivated to learn by both extrinsic (external) and intrinsic (internal) motivators. Researchers have developed many theories of motivation over the last century to try to explain how to deal with such motivators. For example, Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, Frederick Herzberg’s Two-Factor theory, and Clayton Alderfer’s Existence Relatedness Growth theory, that you can apply to a learning environment.

By better understanding the premise behind motivation theories, you will better be able to create a learning environment that addresses both the intrinsic and extrinsic needs of your learners. For example, one simple way to reward learner behavior is to use small incentive prizes that relate to your session topic for people who volunteer, arrive, and return from breaks on time and those who accomplish certain tasks. Such rewards address extrinsic learner needs. You might also end the session early or recognize individual performance through applause or appointment to specific leadership roles in order to provide for intrinsic needs.

Even though rewards are often short-term motivators, if you use them in conjunction with other brain-based learning strategies, you can potentially create an environment that is more conducive to learning. Just do not try to rely solely on rewards, props and other “gimmicks” to support a lack of knowledge or poor delivery style on your part. It will not. You still have to excel in your role facilitator and/or subject matter expert (SME).

Malcolm Knowles’ Adult Learning Theory – Principle 6 – Motivation to Learn by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Author, and Blogger

The key to selecting appropriate motivational strategies is to realize that what motivates one person does not motivate all. Use a variety of techniques and if you realize that something is not working, switch to an alternate strategy immediately. Also, consider who is in your audience and the topic of your workshop when deciding on what incentives you might use. For example, while smile face toys and funny props would work well for a group of front-line employees in a workshop on customer service, it is not a good idea to use them in a session on handling grief to friends and family of deceased people.

For more information about the Adult Learning Theory, brain-based learning strategies and other important research and strategies for helping propel adult learners to more fruitful learning experiences, get copies of Training Workshop Essentials: Designing, Developing and Delivering Learning Events That Get Results, Creative Learning: Activities and Games That Really Engage People, and The Creative Training Idea Books: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning.

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