Motivation from the Inside-Out!
What motivates you to learn? My initial response to this question was, “To further develop my skills in order to attain a job promotion, make more money, and/or because of others’ expectations.” However, I quickly came to realize that these external reasons aren’t the most important factors. As I continued to ponder my individual learning motivators (as a adult learner), one thing was clear: I am very focused on changing myself from the inside-out, not nearly as much from the outside-in.
Congruent with my own realization, Malcolm Knowles points out that the most potent motivators that make adults respond come from “internal pressures” (Knowles 2010, 68). Internal pressures include, but are not limited to, improved quality of life, enhanced self-confidence, increase in self-esteem, and higher job satisfaction. Knowles challenges us to consider the intrinsic value and the personal payoff. My personal internal motivators include: personal happiness, sense of accomplishment, recognition, increased awareness, and expanded perspective.
Motivation is not simply an on/off switch- there are many layers to motivating adult learners. Last year, at the University of Denver, I met a (surprisingly) non-traditional professor named Greg Giesen. “Geese” was my instructor for a graduate course entitled, “Leading High-Performance Teams.” My personal motivation for taking this course included personal interest and experience, plus it was a requirement for my Masters program (external driver). The classroom learning activities were structured in a way that they fostered a highly interactive environment. This made the course fun and somewhat competitive as well! I believe being able to experience a sense of accomplishment and reinforce internal intuition on various projects led to a higher degree of personal learning and real-life implementation than had the course been structured in the more traditional sense (lecturing).
When teaching adults, I believe setting the tone through personal connection and helping training participants feel important can be effective methods in addressing the principle of motivation. At the very start of a training session, it is wise to welcome the group, introduce yourself, explain why you are training the course, and reveal what your personal payoff will be. By asking the participants to do the same, you communicate that you are interested in them and can learn more about what motivated each of the participants to sign up. Once you more about why each individual is attending, you may be able to leverage this information during the training to more effectively connect the learning to the participants.
From the Inside-Out,