Adult learners and their motivation : a comparison of the instrumentally driven with the personally motivated
The aim of this study is to investigate individuals' reasons for educational re-entry, by comparing the instrumentally driven with the personally motivated. This exploration of the relationship between motives and past and present educational participation is in the context of the current agenda for lifelong learning. This aim is pursued by examining the stated participation reasons, perceptions of educational experiences, and views, of mature students. Two student groups were selected from two city-based FE colleges. They were on a vocational and a non-vocational course, traditionally defined as oppositional strands in the educational discourse. The research strategy was grounded in the major implications arising from the literature review and especially a key influential work. This entailed an evolving consideration of the central issues surrounding the portrayal of participants and representation of voice. A multi-layered approach incorporated the essential element of biographical methods. The qualitative perspective, based on interview and observation, included some quantitative methods. A narrative form of questionnaire and use of visual imagery were introduced, to enable an exploration of subjective motives. The analysis of the emerging themes led to the development of a typology of the adult learner. The findings indicate no distinction between those with career and noninstrumental goals, but a uniform pattern of enrolment in pursuit of change. The subsidiary commitment to study was accompanied by enjoyment of new learning, although expecting work or domestic conflict, and significantly, all nonvocational participants anticipated alienation. The significantly intangible, though recognisable difference in self perceived as a result suggests learning to be more transformational than compensatory, particularly considering the non-vocational sample's previous high level of certification. This has implications for the compensatory model of lifelong learning, and suggests that further exploration of the perceptions of all adult learners, regardless of course destination, might be valuable for the promotion of lifelong learning.