Self-Directed Learning A Paradigm Shift Essay

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The policy implications of adopting such a model are profound, given that they suggest that merely removing barriers such as childcare demands or providing transportation may not be enough to deter individuals from their psychological motivational obstacles to enhancing their learning, and that the decision to embark upon and continue an educational program is highly subjective. In the cost-benefit theory, variables that affect decisions and motivational levels are tuition, materials, transportation, value of time invested in learning, expected income, although it does take into consideration how age, race, school completed, reason for resuming school may create a perception of greater or less economic costs of the education. The utility model views educational activity as financial investment and looks at the expected rate of return in increased earnings vs. working during the hours one must spend studying and in the classroom (Stowe 1998, p. 16). Participation may be influenced by incomplete knowledge about the benefits of education, but once these barriers are overcome, motivation is assumed to be higher, even though in the case of the Cambodian women, such knowledge was not the major part of their decision-making process, and may have acted as a deterrent, as it may have affected their relationship with their husbands in a way that was culturally unacceptable to them as well as the male members of the society (Stowe 1998, p.16).

Online learning, for example, has been suggested as a convenient way to address logistical complaints. But by taking learners outside of a social learning community at all, motivation may decrease some learner's motivational levels even further, even without cultural barriers. The new paradigm acknowledges that motivations and obstacles to participation can be perceptual and situation-based, rather than something that can be measured in terms of general physical factors that can apply to all situations, or the irrelevance of the course to desired economic advancement. Motivation may seem high in the classroom, and decrease outside of the classroom, when homework is due and the individual is in a new cultural context outside of the classroom. Teachers and program designers must keep this in mind when relating to students, in terms of how they motivate student performance to strive to create a motivational carry-over effect.

The cultural and social influences that motivate an individual to return to school are not always negative, it should be added. For example, one small qualitative study by Jang and Merriman (2004) examined why it is so common for already well-educated Korean women to return to higher education, either to 4-year universities, graduate schools, or learning centers, after their children had left home. All cited the need to find their identity as independent individuals once again and the authors concluded that the Korean value placed upon education was a contributing cultural factor that facilitated their return to school. What is so interesting about this study was that there was no economic motivation or reason for these women to return to school, most did not perceive themselves as using their degree in the workforce, but the motivation of personal fulfillment drove them and disciplined them to embark upon a program of study.

All adult learners, research is beginning to suggest, are constantly torn between the competing demands of the worlds of work, family, self and community, and one sphere of the learner's life may take precedence during different parts of his or her education. Carl Karsworm (2003) from her interviews with adult learners have suggested that all learners carry within them a series of competing voices, what she calls the entry voice, the outside voice, the cynical voice, the straddling voice, and the inclusion voice. The 'entry voice' may urge the learner into a new program, but the cynical voice may doubt the value of adding to one's educational capabilities late in life, or the straddling voice may be more concerned with work or family life. This is not to say that logistical concerns should be ignored by school administrators and policy makers. Funding, childcare, and other issues still play a role in the decision-making process, to different degrees depending on the individual. But it does suggest that adult learner's motivations for embarking upon learning efforts are complex, and cannot be assumed to be corrected easily, with educational policy changes alone. The instructor and the individual must strive to have some psychological astuteness about how to address the student's ambiguities about roadblocks that may arise during the learning process, as such barriers inevitably will, given the multitasking demanded of the adult student learner in today's environment.

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