Principles of Adult Learning: the Motivation Principle

COOPERATIONArticle by Dr J.P. Nel, MD Mentornet

There are numerous theories about motivation and they are all partially true. People are motivated by motivators, but I don’t quite buy the story that hygiene factors (Herzberg) do not motivate people. Not long ago I offered our researchers R6,000.00 each to do a certain job. None of them was interested However, when I offered them R30,000.00 each for the same job, they all accepted. It is also true that there are different levels of motivation, or needs, as Maslov told us. It is also true that people sometimes deliberately sabotage their own performance just to please others, as Adams observed.

Then there were (past tense because it has been decades since I heard anybody claim this to be the case) academics who told us that you can’t motivate people – you can only create an atmosphere in which the person can motive him or herself. Who cares where it starts?

Very well, let’s accept that your job as an educator is to create an atmosphere that is conducive to good student performance. This, in my opinion, applies equally to children and adults. At school I performed much better for teachers who treated me with respect than with teachers who ruled by fear. I need to admit, though, that I performed better with teachers who ruled by fear that those who did not care – the ones who appeared not to notice that you actually exist.

Let’s finish this discussion by getting back to adult students, because they are the ones with whom we work. Adult students are motivated by empowering them. This means that you need to show that you trust and respect them; you need to allow them to make their own decisions; you need to show that you believe in them and you need to be there to help them when they make mistakes.

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