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How to Foster Motivation in Adult Learners

As in children, motivation is one of the most important aspects of successful knowledge acquisition. High motivation leads to increased engagement, perseverance, improved learning outcomes, and personal fulfillment, so it is crucial for creating a positive learning environment.


Motivated adult students discussing ideas


Fostering motivation in adult learners requires a tailored approach that takes into account their unique needs and characteristics. There are several strategies that teachers can use to foster motivation in adult learners, and in this blog post we are going to talk about these:

  1. Make the learning relevant to the learners' lives and careers.

  2. Allow learners to take ownership of the learning process.

  3. Provide learners with regular feedback and support.

  4. Create a collaborative and supportive learning environment.

  5. Use a variety of teaching methods.



1. Make the learning relevant to the learners' lives and careers


Adults are self-directed and motivated to learn when the material is relevant to their own experiences and goals.


One way to make the learning relevant to the learners' lives and careers is to involve them in the planning and design of the learning experience. This can involve asking learners about their goals and interests, and incorporating these into the curriculum and learning activities. For example, you can ask learners to identify real-world problems or challenges that they would like to address through their learning, and then design activities and assignments that allow them to apply their knowledge and skills to these problems.


Another approach is to connect the learning to the learners' current or future work or career paths. This can involve providing learners with opportunities to learn about industry trends and developments and to develop skills that are relevant to their field. For example, you can invite guest speakers from the learners' field of interest, or provide learners with hands-on experiences that allow them to apply their knowledge in a real-world context.



2. Allow learners to take ownership of the learning process


Adults learn best when they have some control over their own learning, so providing them with opportunities to make choices and decisions can help to increase their motivation.


One approach is to provide learners with a range of learning options and choices. This can involve offering different learning paths or allowing learners to choose the order in which they complete certain tasks or assignments. For example, you can provide learners with a menu of different activities or projects from which they can choose, or allow them to create their own learning plan based on their interests and goals.



A safe learning environment for adult learners where they sit around, laugh and discuss ideas


3. Provide learners with regular feedback and support


Adults benefit from ongoing feedback and support from teachers and peers, which can help to keep them motivated and engaged in the learning process.


There are several strategies that you can use to provide learners with regular feedback and support, including the following:

  1. Use a variety of assessment methods. Providing learners with regular feedback on their progress can help them to identify areas where they are excelling and areas where they need to improve. Using a variety of assessment methods, such as quizzes, exams, projects, and presentations, can provide learners with a more comprehensive understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

  2. Provide individualized feedback. Providing learners with individualized feedback that is specific and actionable can help them to understand how to improve and can increase their motivation to do so. This can involve 1-to-1 meetings with specific suggestions for how to improve, or highlighting their strengths and successes along with a numerical grade.

  3. Offer regular opportunities for learners to ask questions and receive support. Providing learners with regular opportunities to ask questions and receive support can help to keep them engaged and motivated. This can involve providing learners with access to online forums or discussion groups where they can ask questions and receive feedback from teachers and peers.


4. Create a collaborative and supportive learning environment


Adults learn best when the learning environment is collaborative and supportive, so fostering a positive and inclusive atmosphere can help to increase motivation. This can involve encouraging learners to work together on projects or assignments or providing opportunities for learners to provide feedback and support to each other.


You should also encourage learners to share their experiences and knowledge. Adults have a wealth of prior experiences and knowledge that they can draw upon when learning new things, so encouraging learners to share their experiences and knowledge with each other can help to create a collaborative and supportive learning environment.


Make sure to address mistakes as a part of the learning process, not something to be ashamed of. Adults often have problems with self-esteem when it comes to mistakes, so creating an environment where mistakes are not frowned-upon or made fun of can be extremely motivational.



Teacher gives feedback to her adult student


5. Use a variety of teaching methods to foster motivation in adult learners


Adults, like kids, learn in different ways, so using a variety of teaching methods can help to engage and motivate them.


There are many different teaching methods that are good for adult learners, and the best approach will depend on the specific learning goals, the learners' needs and characteristics, and the content and context of the learning experience. Some teaching methods that are often effective for adult learners include the following:

  1. Problem-based learning. Problem-based learning involves providing learners with real-world problems or challenges to solve, and allowing them to apply their knowledge and skills to these problems in order to come up with solutions. This approach is often effective for adult learners because it allows them to apply their prior experiences and knowledge to relevant and meaningful problems.

  2. Experiential learning. Experiential learning involves providing learners with hands-on, real-world experiences that allow them to apply their knowledge and skills in a practical context. This approach is often effective for adult learners because it allows them to learn through experience, rather than through abstract theoretical concepts.

  3. Project-based learning. Project-based learning involves providing learners with a real-world project or challenge to work on, and allowing them to use their knowledge and skills to complete the project. This approach is often effective for adult learners because it allows them to apply their knowledge and skills to a meaningful and relevant task, and to see the real-world impact of their learning.

  4. Game-based learning. Game-based learning, which involves using games and game-like activities to facilitate learning, can be an effective approach for adult learners. This is because games can provide learners with an engaging and interactive learning experience, and provides learners with immediate feedback and rewards, which can help to keep them motivated and engaged in the learning process. Games can provide learners with a safe and low-risk environment for practicing and applying their knowledge and skills, which can help to build their confidence and competency.


When it comes to motivating adult learners, it's important to remember that the activities they do must be relevant for them and create a safe and collaborative learning environment, so that they can reach their full potential.

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