Sei sulla pagina 1di 162

1

A QUALITATIVE ANALYSIS OF ADULT LEARNERS

by

BRIAN J. KEINTZ

A dissertation submitted to the Department of Adult Learning and Technology and

The Graduate School of The University of Wyoming in partial fulfillment of the

requirements for the degree of

DOCTOR OF EDUCATION

in

EDUCATION

Laramie, Wyoming

May, 2004
2
3

Table of Contents

Table of Contents 1

Appendix 4

List of Tables 5

Acknowledgements 6

Chapter I: Introduction 7

Purpose of the Study 7

Background of the Problem 7

Defining the Problem 17

The Inquiring Mind 18

The Research Question 19

Definitions 20

Limitations of the Study 22

Significance of the Study 24

Chapter II: Literature Review 29

Who are Active Adult Learners? 29

Motivation and Learning 36

Barriers 37

Relational Models of Development 39

Participation Models and Theories 41

Self Directed Learning 45

Moral and Intellectual Development 49


4

Reflective Judgment and Adults 50

Chapter III: Methodology 65

Considerations in Participant Selection 67

Survey and Instrumentation 68

Data Collection Process 72

Data Organization 79

Data Analysis 79

RJI Analysis 81

Coding System

82

Chapter IV: Results 85

Participants 85

Family Members 96

Themes 99

Family Support Results 103

Reflective Judgment Results 107

Chapter V: Conclusions 119

Defining Active Adult Learners 119

Suggested Criteria of an Active Adult Learner

120

Conclusions Related to Motivation 123

Tools for Identifying Active Adult Learners 124


5

Lessons about Learning Environments

125

Researcher Reflexivity

126

Implications for the Research Community 127

Appendix

Appendix A: Learner Questionnaire 148

Appendix B: Reflective Judgment Inventory Dilemmas 152

Appendix C: Consent Form 153

Appendix D: Semi Structured Question List

154

Appendix E: Reflective Judgment Inventory Questions 156

Appendix F: Transcript Master 157


6

List of Tables

Table 1 Reflective Judgment Model 52

Table 2 Average Reflective Judgment Scores by Education Level 55

Table 3 Reflective Judgment Scores by Age 59

Table 4 Selection Criteria for Participants 75

Table 5 Initial Categories of Data 80

Table 6 Descriptive Characteristics of Participants 85

Table 7 Participant Learning Activites

87

Table 8 Parental Messaging and Active Adult Learners 103

Table 9 Reflective Judgment Scores 109

Table 10 Active Learner Criteria 120


7

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank many individuals who have worked with me to make this study
possible. In the years it took to complete the study, several faculty and staff have
been a part of my committee. First, Dr. Burt Sisco deserves recognition as he was
my first advisor and continued to serve on my committee after leaving the University
of Wyoming. Also, Dr. Donna Whitson, and Dr. John Cochenour, served as my
official advisors during periods of this study. Others who served on my committee
and offered assistance include Dr. James C. Hurst, Dr. Brenda Freeman, Dr. Michael
Day, Dr. Suzanne Young, and Dr. Guy Westhoff. Several individuals offered
support and encouragement during my time at the University of Arizona. Dr. Dan
Adams, Bill Shiba, and my staff at the Arizona Student Unions were supportive and
encouraging of my efforts to finish while I was also working a full time job. My good
friends, Charlie and Karen Francis offered lodging, friendship, and encouragement
during several trips to Laramie to complete several of the final steps. Jeanette
Skinner, with the Adult Learning and Technology Department at the University of
Wyoming was invaluable in getting the signatures, copies, and program of study
processed as I was not on campus at the time.
My family has been very important in this endeavor. My parents, Cornelius and
Dorothy Keintz have championed my educational goals and my grandparents, John
and Suzie Keintz, provide some of the funding for the study. The person who has
done the most to encouragement, motivate, and assist me is my wife, Connie. She
was my inspiration for this study as she struggled to identify her own path of
learning. Also, my sons, Alexander and Cameron, deserve thanks for being
understanding and supportive when I was studying or writing.
8

Chapter I

Introduction

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to examine the attitudes, motivations, preferred

resources, desired settings, and reflective thinking of active adult learners. Active adult

learners can be found in every educational setting. Some adults possess a drive to learn

and the ability to put knowledge to use in their lives. They seek to improve their careers,

families, communities, and/or themselves through the process of learning. Active learning

is a common quality of adult learners, but not every adult has the same drive, capacity,

opportunity, or condition for learning. This examination of adult learners provides

guidance for adult educators in understanding what opportunities, goals, and motivational

factors affected these adult learners. This study may assist adult educators in better

understanding the adults with whom they interact.

Background of the Problem

Adults are very busy people. Some of their activities include joining clubs,

participating in politics, traveling, raising families, serving their community, maintaining a

career or job, attending church, and seeking as much time as possible for relaxation, sleep,

and leisure. It seems improbable, when examining the life of one adult, that time could be

found for learning activities. However, there are millions of adult learners who will make

time for learning. (Belanger & Valdivielso, 1997; Courtney, 1991) In fact, it would seem
9

that many adults who are successful in their personal lives, careers, and community have

done so as a result of being oriented toward learning throughout their adult lives. (Houle,

1992).

Understanding adult learning is challenging and complex. Participation, self-

directed learning, and reflective judgment are three literature areas in adult education.

These literature areas provide a basis for framing this study.

Participation in Adult Education (PAE)

Participation studies have dominated the literature but have netted few

explanations for why some adults are active learners and others are not. There have been

a number of well-documented studies (Belanger & Valdivielso, 1997; Charnley, 1974;

Courtney, 1991; Gray & Munroe, 1929; Newman, 1979; Williams & Heath, 1936) to

determine which factors, motivations, or goals predict the activity and involvement of an

adult learner. Several researchers and writers have developed models of participation

(Miller, 1967; Boshier, 1973; Ruberson, 1977; Cross, 1981; Darkenwald & Merriam,

1982; Crookson, 1987). These models consider a multitude of factors related to the

experiences of adults in learning situations including class, gender, race, socioeconomic

status, psychological conditions, socialization, life transitions, goals, and learning press.

Where this approach to theory development falls short is that it seeks to simplify what is

complex and attempts to generalize simple constructs to an entire population. The

results of studying these physiological, psychological, societal, or socioeconomic factors,

which define active adult learners, cannot be easily explained.


10

Suttle (1982) observed that practice is concerned with describing what exists and

how to manipulate it. Theory attempts to explain why a phenomenon exists. The

question of "why" adults participate has generated a number of theories that have served

to explain some of the participation phenomenon. Cross (1981) provided a very

comprehensive analysis of theory and research on who participates in adult learning; why

they participate; what they learn; and how they learn. Cross concluded there are no

satisfactory theories that explain why adults are motivated to learn or how participation

can be improved. Cross stated, "If adult educators wish to understand why some adults

fail to participate in learning opportunities, they need to begin at the beginning of the

COR (Chain of Response) Model - with an understanding of attitudes toward self and

education." (p. 130). These comments are congruent with the purpose of this study.

Understanding active adult learners begins with asking questions that address how they

perceive learning, what educational opportunities they select, and how education affects

their attitude toward themselves and others.

Self Directed Learning

Learning in a formal setting, where there can be structure and control, is often

treated as the dominant mode for facilitating learning. Adult education, historically, has

addressed learning needs regardless of the setting and at times of crisis. The study of

learning outside a formal setting has also generated substantial attention in the literature.

Since the ground breaking work on self directed learning by Alan Tough (1967, 1978,

1979), Cyril Houle (1984), and Malcolm Knowles (1975, 1980), the movement to
11

embrace what adult educators have always believed to be true has taken place. The

notion that adults are self directed, goal oriented, and want responsibility for their own

learning has become a foundation of the field. Tough's original research (1967) was

motivated by the desire to disprove the contention of Coolie Verner (1964) that self-

directed learning should not be considered adult education. (Merriam & Caffarella, 1991)

Tough (1967) argued that all adults are motivated to learn through the interpersonal desire

to gain and retain certain knowledge and skill. Tough's (1967) optimistic view was

welcomed, but not completely supported in the sense that it does not explain the

motivational differences that have always existed among adults. Are there differences

among adult learners? Is the self-directed nature of adult learners absolute and universal?

The lack of definition of adult learner participation is not the case in the study of

self directed learning, which has been systematically studies and defined for the past three

decades. Tough (1979) proposed a popular operational definition of self directed learning.

He defined a learning project as "a series of related episodes, adding up to at least seven

hours. In each episode, more than half of the person's total motivation is to gain and

retain certain fairly clear knowledge and skills, or to produce some other lasting change in

himself" (p. 7). This definition motivated a number of dissertations and research studies.

(Bejot, 1981; Brookfield, 1984; Caffarella & Caffarella, 1986; Geisler, 1984; Kratz, 1978)

They differed in the quantity of self directed learning that occurs in the adult population

and in the number of hours which constitute a learning episode, but they did agree that

self directed learning is a form of study for the adult education field.
12

Criticism of self directed learning research routinely appears in the literature.

Brookfield (1988) describes self-directed learning as a "danger to the field" of adult

education because of ambiguities and contradictions in the literature (p. 12). The use of

middle-class, educationally advantaged, females as the primary population for studies has

also been criticized (McDune, 1988). Merriam and Caffarella (1991) challenged

researchers of self directed learning to include subjects with lower levels of formal

education and different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. The recognition of this

weakness in the research of self directed learning resulted in a number of new studies in

the past decade that take the social context into consideration (Brookfield, 1985). The

adult learners in this study are neither educationally nor economically advantaged, in

recognition of this challenge. Brockett and Hiemstra (1991) developed the Personal

Responsibility Orientation (PRO) model which utilizes self directed learning as the

umbrella concept. PRO emphasizes the process of teaching and learning while giving

consideration to learner characteristics and the social context where learning takes place.

Self directed learning is one of the few concepts in adult education that has

undergone systematic development over the past three decades (Merriam & Brockett,

1997). The research can be divided into three different categories, including 1) learning

projects research which are descriptive surveys of Tough's methodology for self

directedness; 2) quantitative measures of self direction, or the development of instruments

of measure adult self directed learning; 3) and qualitative studies involving observations

and interviews of adult learners in the interest of creating models and categories (Brockett
13

& Hiemstra, 1991). This study will contribute to the literature in the third category - a

qualitative study that examines active adult learner from many perspectives.

Epistemic Assumptions in Learning

The epistemic assumptions of adults affect the choices adults make about learning

activities as well as their ability to make sense of a learning activity once they have begun.

These epistemic assumptions could be held in the socioeconomic context of the learner, in

the psychological support for learning that is role modeled or applied, or in the view of

one's learning abilities which related to self-esteem. All of these assumptions and factors

may play a role in the learning opportunities recognized, created, or facilitated by adults.

In effect, the level of learning activity is either increased or decreased by the learners

recognition that an opportunity exists for them and that they have the abilities to succeed

in this activity.

Epistemic assumptions have the same affect as paradigms, which have moved

from the realm of the scientific community to broader application in society. Thomas

Kuhn introduced the idea of paradigms in 1962. His dissertation, on the history of

science, discussed cases when the scientific community withheld truth and misled the

research community due in part to subtle scientific paradigms that maintain the balance of

power. Kuhn provides several examples of how phenomenal scientific discoveries

throughout the history of science have been resisted, covered-up, or ignored because they

altered well entrenched assumptions or unseated ideas of more powerful and well-known
14

researchers. These very paradigmatic ideas govern the daily routines of all human beings

and the decisions made both individually or collectively (Kuhn, 1962).

Individual decision-making can have a cumulative effect on society. Consider the

staggering number of American citizens who choose not to vote in elections. The decision

to not vote impacts the direction of an entire community or nation. Many difficult ethical

decisions may never achieved consensus in American society. Abortion, capital

punishment, national security, and even the legal or illegal uses of drugs and alcohol are all

individual and societal issues requiring complex thinking skills. John Gardner (1990)

argues that society is in a state of perpetual rebuilding. "Each generation must rediscover

the living elements in its own tradition and adapt them to present reality. To assist in

that rediscovery is one of the tasks of leadership." (p. 13-14) Gardner’s (1990) words

speak to the need for individual leadership and collective dialogue in advancing society,

but leadership and dialogue are the result of competent decision-making skills.

Adult educators have responsibility for recognizing the assumptions made by

adult learners about themselves; their learning environment; and the opportunities that

exist for them to understand and facilitate a productive and enjoyable life. The

understanding of these assumptions may provide insight into those factors which

motivate an adult to learn. Many educational and sociological theorists (Brookfield, 1987,

1995; Gramsci, 1985; Habermas, 1984, 1987; Mezirow, 1990, 1991) argue that

"paradigmatic assumptions" (Brookfield, 1995, p. 2) perpetuate the idea that society is

good and right limiting the decisions for individuals. This tendency to make decisions to

legitimize societal paradigms is what Gramsci (1985) first called hegemonic. In Gramsci's
15

view, hegemonic assumptions explicitly advance the community, the institution, or

society in general, while implicitly valuing prejudiced, racist, or sexist ideals that restrict

those who are less powerful. Gramsci (1985), and other critical theorists (Habermas,

1984, 1987; Mezirow, 1990, 1991), propose theories and educational programs that

promote critical reflection by learners or the learners ability to challenge the hegemonic

assumptions which limit opportunities, and affect motivation. King and Kitchener

(1994), whose work is utilized in this study, support education as a means for learners to

address assumption about what is the truth. The very nature of the cognitive

development of adolescents makes them subject to the directive of authority figures.

Adults, however, are capable of recognizing epistemic assumptions and engaging in

reflective thinking.

Reflective Thinking vs. Critical Thinking

Multiple studies have been conducted to examine how formal education affects the

development of critical thinking in learners and how various educational designs can

enhance these skills (Dressel & Mayhew, 1954; Lehmann, 1963, 1968; Mentkowski &

Strait, 1983; Pascarella, 1989; Steele, 1986). Critical thinking is involved in solving

problems, formulating inferences, calculating likelihoods, and making decisions. It is

described as purposeful, reasoned, and goal directed. Often critical thinking is associated

with a process of inquiry that includes identifying issues, recognizing relationships,

making inferences, deducing conclusions, and evaluating these conclusions (Furedy &

Furedy, 1985; Halpern, 1989).


16

Critical thinking can be traced to the theories of formal operations popularized by

Piaget (1952, 1966, 1972). It is appropriate as an educational outcome when the focus is

the evaluation of a learners' inductive and deductive logic or the process of postulating

possible solutions and eliminating those which are not the correct answer. However,

inductive and deductive reasoning are related to problems where the correct answer is

available and the challenge is arriving at that right answer, much like in a mathematical

equation. The types of problems faced routinely by all human beings are not well

structured problems with correct answers to be discovered. The type of thinking that is

applied to complex problems, where the right answer is not at hand, requires reflective

thinking (Wood, 1983, King & Kitchener, 1994).

Reflective thinking must be equally valued as an educational outcome because it

addresses the epistematic assumptions which force us to see things in a certain way and

because reflective thinking is a necessity for dealing with complex, ill-structured

problems. It is very important that educational experiences assist learners in seeing their

environment in new ways as they replace previous assumptions with new assumptions.

Learners who employ critical thinking skills in addressing complex problems may be

frustrated, or worse may assume answers to ill-structured problems are correct, and

effectively ignoring other more appropriate approaches. More important is the

recognition that reflective thinking is an extremely powerful measure of learning. The

Reflective Judgment Inventory (King & Kitchener, 1994) is a measure of the reflective

thinking abilities of learners, as it related to the linear scale of the Reflective Judgment

Model. This instrument and model will provide a measurement of the problem solving
17

ability of adult learners in this study giving us another view of their educational

orientation.

Defining Active Adult Learners

The purpose of this study is to examine the attitudes, motivations, preferred

resources, desired settings, and reflective thinking of active adult learners. Houle (1992)

describes active adult learners as adults who are successful in their personal lives, careers,

and community as a result of being oriented toward learning throughout their adult lives.

This definition is used in the literature, but it is very broad as criteria for identification of

adult learners for this study. Therefore, an operational definition of active adult learners

will be used in this study. This operational definition is as follows: Active adult learner -

An adult, 35 to 55 years of age; who is an active participant in formal, non-formal, and

informal learning activities; can articulate the value of learning in his/her life; and is capable

of defining his/her learning goals. Throughout this study, the use of the term active adult

learner is defined by the operational definition. If a reference is to the definition offered

by Houle (1992), it will be cited as such.

Defining the Problem

The literature on participation has a great deal to offer toward the understanding

of factors that affect adult attitudes and motivation. A number of possible motivational

factors are presented in which to explore with adult learners through interviews and

individual assessment. However, there are currently no models that are reasonably
18

predictive of who will participate in adult education, and thus may provide a foundation

for predicting active adult learners.

According to Cross (1981), countless surveys of adults have asked the same

question in one form or another - what are your reasons for seeking learning opportunities

and what barriers do you experience? The problem with surveys is that they

underestimate the amount of "dispositional barrier" involved in a survey. In other words,

it is more likely that an adult will identify cost as the problem because they cannot or will

not admit to their own disinterest in adult education (p. 108). This limitation is a

consideration in this study as well because there is no way to completely control for this

condition.

The breadth and depth of the literature on self directed learning is valuable in

understanding how adults are self-motivated. The research on self-esteem, social context,

and models for applying self directed learning will support this study. Unfortunately,

self directed learning does not explain lack of motivation by some learners. A great deal

of research has been dedicated to the study of the quantity and types of self directed

learning. The development of guides and strategies for facilitating self directed learning in

a number of settings has been a productive venture for adult educators. However, the

question remains: what makes an active adult learner? This study will not answer this

question because it is not generalizable to any other group. This study will tell a story

about the adult learners selected which may help others to understand adult learning from

the perspective of the learner.

The Inquiring Mind


19

The initial examination of the literature for this study focused on three areas

described previously – participation, self-directed learning, and reflective judgment. This

extensive literature review led to a thorough examination of Cyril Houle’s 1961 study

resulting in his book, The Inquiring Mind. Houle (1961) modeled a simple but powerful

approach to understanding adult learners. He talked to them. The effort to conduct the

study was substantial requiring many hours of traveling, interviewing, organizing data,

and analyzing. However, the idea of focusing on individual experience, rather than

institutional or organizational intervention, is inspirational and courageous, and provided

an effective model for the design of this study.

Houle (1961) was the first adult educator to try this approach knowing well that

his work would be criticized. It was not generalizable to the general population, or rich

with recommendation for changes to institutions, nor did he attempt present complex

models for participation or adult development. Houle (1961) inspired many (Sheffield,

1964; Burgess, 1971; Boshier, 1971) to investigate his findings further in an attempt to

broaden the application. However, as is the case with any qualitative study, the

discussion tells the story of this relatively small convenience sample so that others may

have a context to make sense of their own experiences.

The Research Question

The study of specific adult learner cases conducted with qualitative methodology

means that outcomes are determined once data has been collected and assessed. This does

not restrict the researcher from outlining general a priori questions that are to be
20

answered. The development of this study resulted in many questions, and may generate

many new questions. However, the primary research questions of this study are as

follows:

What are the common factors in the lives of adult learners in this study which

enhance motivation and opportunity for learning?

There are many other aspects of the lives of these adult learners that will be

examined. Their backgrounds, learning preferences, family experiences, and decision-

making will be probed. Their ability to think reflectively about complex problems, and to

formulate and defend their positions will be challenged. All of these inquires will provide

insight into the adult learners in this study, and thus will generate data to be evaluated.

This data will provide grounded theory and questions for further discussion and research.

Definitions

• Active adult learner - An adult, 35 to 55 years of age, who is an active participant

in formal, non-formal, and informal learning activities, can articulate the value of

learning in his/her life; and is capable of defining his/her learning goals.

• Critical thinking - thinking that is involved in solving problems, formulating

inferences, calculating likelihoods, and making decisions. It is described as

purposeful, reasoned, and goal directed. Often Critical thinking is associated with

a process of inquiry that includes identifying issues, recognizing relationships,


21

making inferences, deducing conclusions, and evaluating these conclusions (Furedy

& Furedy, 1985; Halpern, 1989).

• Epistemic - "of or related to knowledge. Knowing." (Mish, 1996)

• Epistemic assumptions - assumptions about what knowledge is and how it can be

known (King & Kitchener, 1994).

• Epistemic cognition - "the process an individual invokes to monitor the epistemic

nature of problems and the truth value of alternative solutions." (Kitchener, 1983,

p. 225)

• Formal education - education where a facilitator or instructor designs and directs

an educational experience in a systematic and planned program that awards

learners with formal recognition of educational achievement such as a credit,

certificate, diploma, license, or a degree.

• Ill-structure problem - problems that cannot be described with a high degree of

completeness nor solved with a high degree of certainty. (Churchman, 1971).

• Informal education - education that is devoid of organizational or institutional

involvement where the learner interacts with human and nonhuman resources in a

deliberate or fortuitous manner in fulfillment of personal, self-directed learning

goals.

• Non-formal education - education that is organized outside the established formal

educational system that does not offer credit, diplomas, license, or a degree for

completion of courses or a program of study. The learning experience may be

structured or unstructured and participation is voluntary.


22

• Non-student adults - adults who were not enrolled in formal education (King &

Kitchener, 1994).

• Reflective judgment - the process of making decisions about ill-structured

problems through the examination and evaluation of relevant information, opinion,

available explanations, in construction of a plausible solution, while acknowledging

that the solution itself is open to further evaluation and scrutiny and consideration

of individual epistemic assumptions (King & Kitchener, 1994).

• Socioeconomic status - the status of an individual obtained within a community or

society based on a combination of social and economic factors.

• Well-structured problems - problems with a single correct answer that is

ultimately available. (Churchman, 1971).

Limitations of the Study

There are several limitation of this study. The literature on participation and self

directed learning is used as the framework for this study. Adult learner participation has

been studied extensively and there has been a great deal learned from this research. It is

widely believed that the increasing sophistication of research methodology and data

analysis techniques will lead to greater understanding in the future. (Merriam & Caffarella,

1999) In spite of this optimism, current and past research reflects that participation still

has a lot of unresolved questions - primarily in understanding the interaction of a

multitude of variables that may have an impact on learner choices. The complexity of
23

accounting for all the possible variables that affect participation is a limitation. This

problem has affected most studies of participation and will likely affect this study.

This study has reference the work of Cyril Houle (1961, 1992) and his

examinations of what he calls active adult learners. He defines active adult learners as

adults who are successful in their personal lives, careers, and community as a result of

being oriented toward learning throughout their adult lives. (Houle, 1992) This study is

limited by Houle’s (1992) definition because what is commonly considered successful in

adult’s lives, careers, and community cannot be clearly outlined. Therefore, the definition

for this study has been operationalized in order for effective selection of participants.

This fact means that the definition by Houle (1992) that is used in the literature will not

directly guide this study.

This study focuses on a small group of adult learners who are associated in some

manner with a large southwestern university. They are employees, family members of

employees, part-time students, or involved in extended learning of some kind through the

institution. This choice of population allows for efficient screening and will add to the

convenience of participants. The limitation is that this association with an educational

institution, no matter how subtle, has likely added opportunities that may not be

available to the average adult learner.

The data collected is qualitative. Obvious emerging themes and categories will be

evaluated and comprehensively reported. There is a narrowing, focusing and summarizing

of results that has happened throughout Chapters IV and V. This leaves some data

underutilized.
24

Finally, a significant limitation is imposed by the qualitative paradigm. The

quantitative researcher prefers data, which is a sample of a broader population. This may

be the expectation of some individuals reading and reviewing this research, but it is not the

design of this study. This study tells the story of five active adult learners selected as

participants. Their responses to questions and an analysis of their performance on the

Reflective Judgment Inventory is reported. Categories of their responses have been

developed and reported. These reports have resulted in the development of "grounded

theory", which may define or explain the actions of active adult learners in other select

settings, but realistically, these theories can not be expected to apply to all active adult

learners. It is up to the reader to draw their own conclusions on how it relates to their

situation or the population as a whole. Is this a limitation? The answer to this question

may be up to the reader. It is expected that this will be seen as a limitation to a large

contingency of the research community that expects research to be widely generalizable.

This seems to be the case with much of the research conducted on participation since the

goal is to discover a method or model for predicting participation, and this area of inquiry

has utilized survey research extensively.

Significance of the Study

Significance, as it is understood from a statistical perspective, does not apply to

this study. This study is significant in that is contributes to adult educators a view of a

small group of adult learners selected for this study. The methodology is unique and

modeled after a widely examined study by Cyril Houle (1961). The study of these
25

frequent consumers of education is important for adult education because, as organizers

and facilitators of educational resources, adult educators are interested in those who

respond to their product. This benefit - better understanding of frequent learners -

appeals to a large segment of adult educators who are pragmatic. They are most

interested in knowing how research can help them improve upon what they are doing as

educators. Information gained from this study will appeal to this "consumer oriented"

element of the profession (Cross, 1981, p. 110).

The attempt to identify grounded theory for active adult learners addresses the

need for "small scale, experimental studies" and "psychological treatments of

participation in adult education", as called for by Courtney (1991, p. 12). This study

looks at a specific group of active adult learners and develops grounded theory about the

preferences, challenges, and needs of that small group of learners. Telling the story of this

group of learners may help others to research or define other groups of learners with

whom they participate or serve. Considering the pragmatic orientation of the adult

education field, there are practical recommendations that will enhance the educational

facilitation. As discussed in the previous sections, active adult learners are the population

primarily served by adult education. There is value in better understanding this

population.

Finally, the evaluation of reflective judgment of adult learners has not been done as

part of a qualitative study. The reflective judgment inventory (RJI), used in this study,

has been a part of six quantitative studies involving adult learners who are not enrolled in

formal education (Glatfelter, 1982; Glenn, 1992; Josephson, 1988; Kelton & Griffith,
26

1986; King, 1986; Lawson, 1980). These six studies did not utilize non-student adults as

the primary population but collected data from these subjects as a method of comparing

performance of formally enrolled adult college students. One would expect active adult

learners to effectively resolve ill-structured problems. However, this is not a relationship

that has been explored, and this study is significant in that it attends to filling this gap in

the literature.

Overview of the Chapters

This paper is organized into five chapters in the traditional structure. These

chapters include the Introduction, Review of Literature, Methodology, Results, and

Conclusions. The chapter that follows, Review of Literature, moves from general related

literature to the more specific. The chapter begins with analysis of the literature on

participation in adult education (PAE) and self directed learning. Also, the review of

literature looks at research on barriers to adult learning.

The third chapter, Methodology, is organized in a qualitative research format. It

defines the intended participants, reviews the instrumentation, overviews interview

process and structure, and provides a detailed description of the data collection

procedures. This study uses different types of data collected from a learner

questionnaire, the Reflective Judgment Inventory, field notes of the researcher, transcripts

of interviews, and interviews with family members. The data analysis process is also

discussed in detail along with the manner in which data was organized.
27

The chapters of Results and Conclusions open with a report on exactly how data

was collected and what are the descriptive characteristics of the adult learners in the

study. An overview of the participants and the descriptive information of their

backgrounds as learners are included. Results from the extensive data collection taken

from participants, their families, and their personal histories are organized and reported

here. The use of a number of examples from transcripts will be used to tell the story of

these exceptional learners and to profile what makes them unique. Conclusions are

outlined in the final chapter from the perspective of the researcher. Questions for

additional research are identified and explained as well as final thoughts.

This paper is wrapped up with an extensive reference list. This study required

looking at the literature of several areas including development psychology, adult

development theory, self-directed learning, critical theory, reflective practice, teacher

education, as well as the international and historical foundations of adult education in

order to define educational type. The use of headings and a table of content will help the

reader to scan for the literature that is of greatest interest to them.

Summary

This study is designed to examine adult learners utilizing a qualitative case-study

format. Active adult learners are defined as adults who are successful in their personal

lives, careers, and community as a result of being oriented toward learning throughout

their adult lives. (Houle, 1992) An operational definition is offered for the purpose of

this study. An active adult learner is operationally defined as 35 to 55 years of age; is an


28

active participant in formal, non-formal, and informal learning activities; can articulate the

value of learning in his/her life; and is capable of defining his/her learning goals. This

study focuses on the following question: What are the common factors in the lives of

adult learners in this study which enhance motivation and opportunity for learning?

A study conducted by Cyril Houle, in 1961, examined 22 adult learners in the

Chicago area. Houle’s (1961) study, reported in his book, The Inquiring Mind, provides

a model for the implementation of this study. This study utilizes the literature of adult

education related to participation and self-directed learning as a primary source, along

with reflective judgment literature. The literature on participation has not resulted in

reliable models which are predictive of who will participate in adult education

opportunities. The literature on self-directed learning does present a great deal of

information that is helpful in this study, since motivation, self-esteem, and barriers are

very much a part of the body of knowledge. Self-directed learning instruments have been

developed which measure the degree in which an adult is a self-directed learner. A

limitation is that self-directed learning has been defined in a number of ways and many

studies fail to examine the self directed learner within the social context. Insights into the

reflective judgment of active adult learners are a contribution of this study. The reflective

judgment model (King & Kitchener, 1994) has not been utilized extensively as an

indicator of adult learning activity.

There are limitations associated with this study. First, the lack of identifiable

factors that suggest who will participate in adult education means some arguments and

conclusions of this study may not have solid support in the participation literature.
29

Literature on self directed learning and reflective judgment have also been utilized.

Second, adult learners in the study may have been inclined to respond in a manner that

presents them in a favorable light, thus self reporting a result that is not accurate. Finally,

this study is limited by qualitative principles in that it cannot be generalized to the general

adult population. This limitation was understood in advance. It may, however, be

treated critically by pragmatic adult educators who are accustomed to results that can be

generalized to a larger group.

The significance of this study is that it examines adult learning through

observations and interviews of active adult learners themselves. It utilizes an analysis of

reflective judgment to examine the relationship between adult learning activity and

reflective thinking.
30

Literature Review

This study is about active adult learners or learners who have a passion for

learning demonstrated by active engagement in multiple learning activities. Adult learning

is a continuous and personal process. The learning of adolescences is stimulated in a

formal learning environment - in elementary, middle, or high school - where attendance is

required and performance expected. Adult learning, on the other hand, is less structured

and more dynamic. There is an incredible amount of freedom and choice involved with

this educational enterprise, (Courntney, 1991) although "what one wants to learn, what is

offered, and the ways in which one learns are determined to a large extent by the nature of

the society at any particular point in time." (Merriam & Carrarella, 1991, p. 5). This

study is concerned with the needs and motives of active adult learners and the conditions

or factors - both environmental and psychological - that lead them to become engaged in

learning activities in such an intensive manner.

Who is the Active Adult Learner?

The active adult learner has been studied and classified often in the literature. A

number of studies have been conducted from surveys of active adult learners, in the hope

of discovering a connection between descriptive variables and active participation in adult

learning activities. These studies have provided information on adult learning activities in
31

the United States, the characteristics of active adult learners, and the influence of previous

education on learning.

Participation Surveys - Participation surveys represent the response of early

researchers who wanted to know how many adults are involved in educational activities

and the characteristics of these learners. Morse Cartwright (1924), who was an officer of

the Carnegie Corporation, first published a study of adult learner participation. He

estimated that there were 15 million adult learners, or 18 percent of the adult population

at the time. Adult learners in this study were those over 14 years of age. Since

Cartwright's first attempt at estimating adult learning activities, there has been a

refinement of the questions asked, and an increase in the sophistication of research

techniques for data collection and estimation.

Cartwright, in a 1935 study, redefined adult learners and their learning activities

from his earlier work. This study included thirty different categories of learning sites

which were not previously considered. Some of these sites included extension, radio and

television, clubs, libraries, religious programs, business activities, labor unions, the armed

forces, lyceums, recreation, and immigrant education. The broadening of the definition of

what is an adult learner by Cartwright was the first of many definitions presented in the

literature. This variability exists because adult education has evolved and changed over

time responding to the educational needs of society. The manner in which adult learners

were viewed changed rapidly along with the view of what constitutes a learning activity

(Merriam & Caffarella, 1999).


32

Several surveys were conducted in the 1950's (Essert, 1950; Knowles, 1955) to

answer the question of how active are adult learners in the United States. Essert (1950)

estimated 20% of adults were active learners in 1924. Knowles estimated this rate to be

33% in 1955; and predicted that by 1975, 50% of the adult population of the United

States would be active adult learners. These figures may be compelling, but they are often

criticized because the research methodology was not systematic. (Courtney, 1991)

Johnstone and Rivera (1965) conducted what is considered the first systematic,

national survey of active adult learners in the United States. Their study, based on a

survey carried out by the National Opinion Research Center in Chicago, was also

significant in the fact that it was the first study to go outside the institution looking at

learning from a holistic perspective. Their estimates included activities of churches and

synagogues, the military, community and volunteer organizations, museums, radio and

television programs, on-the-job training, and independent study. Johnstone and Rivera

(1965) estimated 20% of the adult population to be active adult learners.

More studies of active adult learners (Aslanian & Brickell, 1980; Carp, Peterson,

& Roelfs, 1974) vary widely on their estimates of learning activities. These estimates

range from 31% to 50%. It would be impossible to ascertain with any degree of

confidence that this increase of activity from the Johnstone and Rivera (1965) study has

any statistical significance because of variability of definition. The differences in these

estimates does indicate that a count of active adult learners is highly dependent on how

the survey is conducted, and is related to the definition of adult learning to be utilized.
33

The definition directs the determination of what activities are considered adult learning

activities.

Courtney (1991) reviewed a number of studies of active adult learners. He chose

to highlighting a study by Moses (1971) who defined active adult learning as "the total

number of people developing their capacities through systematic education" whether their

choice of educational methodology was formal or non-formal. Moses (1971) did not

include informal learning (self directed learning) since this type of learning was very

difficult to identify consistently. Based on the work of Moses (1971) who estimated the

number of active adult learners to be 44 million in the United States; Courtney (1991)

extrapolated that there would be 88 million active adult learners in the United States in

1991.

Annual surveys of participation rates by active adult learners (Kim, Collins,

Stowe, & Chandler, 1995; Kopka & Peng, 1993; Merriam & Caffarella, 1999) show that

rates of involvement in learning activities have been steadily growing since 1969. These

surveys report that in 1969 participation was 10%; 14% in 1984; 32% in 1991; and 40%

in 1995. Kopka and Peng (1993) attribute the increase to the extraordinary growth in the

use of technology and to the increasing frequency of job changes. Kim, Collins, Stowe,

and Chandler (1995) argue that a portion of the increase is due to better research design

and more accurate statistical methods. Again, these studies differ somewhat in their

definition of an educational activity, which also brings smaller differences into question.

However, in spite of these various limitations, the growth in the number of active adult

learners is consistent and significant.


34

The first survey of adult learning activities across several nations was conducted

by Belanger and Valdivielso ( 1997). This comprehensive survey examine participation

activities, motivation, barriers, and learning context of adult learners from Canada, The

Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, The United States, Switzerland, and the Canary Islands.

The most important finding of this comprehensive study is that the amount of knowledge

required for meeting economic needs of employers and employees has increased

tremendously. Adult learning is moving further from the fringe of society to being central

in the education of adults for business and industry. This very comprehensive study

suggests that the discussion of adults whom are active learners is not relevant because

there are so many economic factors driving all adult’s motivation to learn. (Belanger &

Valdivielso, 1997)

Active Adult Learner Characteristics - Active adult learners are a complex and

diverse group of people. There have been a number of attempts at describing this

population according to some common qualities, and using these qualities as a predictor of

who will be active learners. Lorimer (1931) sampled 1166 adult learners in Brooklyn,

New York. His primary question was to determine if the adult motivation toward

learning was caused by a disability or barrier that did not allow them to complete their

formal education as adolescents. He was surprised to find that this assumption was false.

His results documented that 75% of those not completing high school did not enroll in

adult education; while 45% of those completing high school did not participate in adult

education. Lorimer (1931) put together, for the first time, a relationship that we take for
35

granted today. Adults who are active learners seek education along with pursuing other

interests.

Lorimer (1931) observed what he called a "general participation syndrome" which

is the responsibility active adult learners share for making contributions to their

community (p. 50). Several studies conducted later (Kaplan, 1945; McGrath, 1938)

confirmed the connection between previous education and active adult learning with an

emphasis on the fact that those who have excelled professionally as a result of their

education, would most likely look to education as a means for changing or advancing their

careers.

National surveys (Arbeiter, 1977; Cross, 1978, 1979) have historically been

helpful in identifying the characteristics of active adult learners. These early surveys

found that active adult learners tend to be young, female, and looking for career

advancements. More recent surveys (Kim, et al, 1995; Kopka & Peng, 1993) point to

shifts in these early characteristics. Men have equaled women with regard to the level of

participation. These surveys also point out the observation that adult learners with

children under 6 years of age are much more likely to drop out than their child-less

classmates.

Age seems to be a factor in educational activity (Digest of Educational

statistics, 1985 & 1986). The most active group of adult learners is 25-34 years of age

and are equally balanced between men and women. This group of people is engaged in

careers objectives utilizing learning opportunities as a means for advancement.

"Organized adult learning is still very much a young person's game", noted Courtney
36

(1991, p. 35). He found that over half of all participants in organized adult education

were 35 years of age or younger.

Anderson and Darkenwald (1979) attempted to analyze the relationship between

eleven variables using the 1975 NCES survey data in an attempt to identify a combination

that is predictive of participation in adult learning activities. They found that age, sex,

race, income, and education correlate with participation, but are not predictive of an active

adult learner. Dimmock (1985) utilized a more focused approach with analyzing a

national sample of adult learners. She found age, education, and an interest in science and

technology were predictive of an adult choosing certain science-related learning activities.

Among the conclusions drawn from Dimmock's study is the realization that how a

learning activity is defined has a lot to do with the connection of certain variables to

participation in that activity.

The characteristics of the active adult learner have not changed much since

Johnstone and Rivera (1965) conducted their landmark study. The typical active adult

learner is better educated (formally), younger, has a higher level of income, Caucasian, and

likely to be employed full-time. This information must be viewed cautiously since it is a

compilation of many different studies and hides, through generalization, very rich and

substantive variations that are important. (Merriam & Caffarella, 1999). For example,

adult learners in literacy programs and those taking music lessons may be very different.

Previous Education - The most significant factor in the history of the study of

participation is the relationship between previous education and continued adult learning.
37

This relationship, identified in early studies (Kaplan, 1945; Lorimer, 1931; McGrath,

1938) has been traced consistently in those studies that follow. Adults who have not

completed a high school degree are much less likely to seek continuing education. Cervero

and Kirkpatrick (1989) challenged the often-cited relationship between previous

education and adult continuing education speculating that there were other intermediary

variables that explained education activity. Their study of 18,000 high school seniors

resulted in the determination that the father's educational level combined with the

student’s attitude toward education, type of high school, and the student’s class ranking

were predictive of adult educational activity at 32 years of age.

Kopka & Peng (1993) confirmed the correlation between active adult learners and

previous formal education reporting participation rates as low as 16% with high school

graduates ranging as high as 58% for those who graduated with an undergraduate degree.

In other word, the higher the level of formal degree attainment, the greater the

participation rate in adult learning activities.

Motivation and Learning

The theory that there are types or categories of learners has been around since the

early 1960's. This line of research is based on the assumption that there are certain innate

qualities that distinguish the active learner from the inactive learner. These characteristics,

which are defined mostly by a certain proactive attitude about learning, may be the result

of social context, family support structure, or an inherent desire for understanding.

Cyril Houle (1961) conducted the first substantive study of this kind. Houle

selected a sample of 22 adult learners who he subjected to a barrage of learning activities.


38

He used interviews as a means to explore the deep-seeded attitudes they had about

learning, and the origins of their perspective. Houle (1961) introduced typologies that

categorize adult learners into three groups. These include 1) goal oriented learners who

utilize education as a means to achieve their goals; 2) activity oriented learners who

participate in learning experiences for the activity itself or the social interaction they gain

from the activity; 3) and the learning oriented learner who seeks knowledge for their own

sake. Houle did not see these categories as pure types in any learner, but active learners

did have a dominant typology. Houle (1961) seemed to favor the goal-oriented learner in

his writings. "The need or interest appeared and they satisfied it by taking a course,

joining a group, reading a book, or going on a trip." (p. 18).

Houle (1961) made note of the direct influences that family and specifically

spouses had on the learning of those adults in his study. More than half of the adults he

studied were married. Houle’s (1996) discussed the relationships between the spouses of

his subjects in a positive light. Those adult learners who were sharing a continuing

education experience with their spouse gain momentum and support from their partner

going through the same learning process. When a spouse did not share the continuing

education experience, the non-participant was supportive, or at least did not object. The

discussion of a learner’s childhood, or of the learner’s interaction with adolescent or adult

children was not a part of Houle’s summary.

Several attempts were made by researchers to evaluate and enhance Houle's (1961)

typology (Boshier, 1971; Burgess, 1971; Sheffield, 1964). Boshier developed the

Education Participation Scale (EPS), based on the Houle typology, which was used by
39

Morstain and Smart (1974) for their study of 611 adults in evening coursed at a college in

New Jersey. They extended the Houle typology to include social awareness, external

expectations, social welfare, professional advancement, escape/simulation, and cognitive

interests as the primary motivational types.

Boshier and Collins (1985) did the most extensive test of the Houle typologies

using data from learners in Africa, Asia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States.

Cluster analysis of data on learning interest areas resulted in a three-cluster solution that

included items of cognitive interest, social interest, and professional interest. Boshier and

Collins (1985) identified significant agreements with Houle's (1961) typology of the

learner, activity, and goal orientations.

There have been several criticisms of typology research (Courtney, 1991; Long,

1983). These criticisms are centered along the practical application of typologies and the

generalizations they represent of a very complex population. Courtney (1991) noted,

"even if dominant orientations emerged, it is not certain what implications this piece of

knowledge might have for the conduct of a class." (p. 150) The knowledge that a learner is

of one orientation or another does not change how business is conducted by adult

educators. The development of variable levels of structure for learning should be a basic

practice for adult educators today. While typologies present a general tool for gathering

descriptive information, it does not allow for enhanced application.

Barriers to Learning
40

Barrier research has been another avenue for inquiry in the literature, inspired by

Houle (1961). The literature base is related to this study because barriers to learning

affect all learners, however, active adult learners may have the physical or psychological

resources to overcome these barriers. Basically, barrier research attempts to approach the

question from the standpoint of identifying the reasons adults do not participate. In fact,

the question has been refined to identify the reason those adults who can benefit the most

from education choose not to participate the most. This question has been one of the

field's critical questions.

Lack of time and lack of money are often cited as the reasons adults to do not

participate (Carp, Peterson & Roelfs, 1974; Cross, 1981; Scanlan & Darkenwald, 1984).

While these seem to be legitimate reasons for not participating, they are also the most

socially acceptable. (Merrium & Caffarella, 1999) It makes sense that an adult, lacking

the motivation for less socially accepted reasons, would cite time and money as a

rationale for not participating when in reality, the reason may be a simple lack of desire or

motivation.

Johnstone and Rivera (1965) found in their national survey of adult learners that

43% found cost to be a deterrent, while 39% felt they did not have time. These figures

rose to 53% and 46% respectively by the 1972 Commission for Nontraditional Study.

(Carp, Peterson, and Roelfs, 1972). Cross, using this same data, identified three major

barrier categories: 1) situational barriers, involving common factor of life circumstances

with the most common of these being time, money, home, or job responsibilities; 2)

institutional barriers, or institutional practices, procedures, and policies that place a


41

burden on the learner (i.e. residence requirements, course scheduling, etc.); 3) dispositional

barriers, or the personal attitudes and perceptions of oneself as a learner. (Cross, 1981, p.

98)

Valentine and Darkenwald (1990) developed a profile of non-active adult learners.

They summarized the primary deterrents to adult learning activity as lack of confidence,

educational cost, lack of interest in courses available or organized education in general;

lack of confidence; and personal problems. These conclusions were the result of analysis

of data gathered from the Deterrents to Participation Scale (DPS), which was developed

by Darkenwald and Valentine (1985, 1986) as a means to measure those factors, which

can limit adult education.

Relational Models of Development

The influence of relationships and learning is a factor that has been discussed in

the literature of adult development. More specifically, research has explored the synergy

of people experiencing a similar learning activity in an authentic and mutually beneficial

manner. (Jordan, 1997) Stereotypically, Western women have been described as more

oriented to relationships, but the importance of connectedness has also been linked to the

development of women of color and men. (Jones, 1995; Levinson and Levinson, 1996;

Merriam and Caffarella, 1999; Turner, 1997)

Knowledge of the relationships and connectedness has influenced theory on the

design of learning environments. (Belenky Clinchy, Goldberger, and Tarule, 1986;

Caffarella, 1992, 1996; Maher and Tetreault, 1994) Caffarella (1996) promotes the
42

development of learning strategies that incorporates the sharing of ideas and feelings of

adults with one another. Further, Caffarella (1996) recommends using collaborative

interactions as a means for planning learning experiences, supporting an climate where

learner and instructors are supportive of one another, using communication styles that are

cooperative, and recognizing the power of feelings in fostering relationships with others in

the classroom.

Recent research has suggested developmental differences between men and women

that influence selection of potential adults in this study. According to Belenky, Clinchy,

Goldberger, and Tarule (1986), women’s perspectives of knowing differ from men as

described in their five stage model. These stages including, 1) silence – women perceive

themselves as voiceless/mindless and subject to the whims of authorities; 2) received

knowledge – women see themselves as capable of receiving knowledge from others but

not capable of creating their own knowledge; 3) subjective knowledge – perspectives of

truth/knowledge are personal, private, and subjectively known or intuited; 4) procedural

knowledge – women are invested in learning and applying objective procedures for

obtaining and communicating knowledge; and 5.) constructed knowledge – women view all

knowledge as contextual, themselves as creators of knowledge, and value all means for

knowing. (p. 15) While their theory has been criticized and celebrated (Goldberger,

Tarule, Clinchy, and Belenchy, 1996), the contribution of this relatively new theory is

suggests that differences in the way men and women learn and experience educational

opportunities are worthy of evaluation.


43

Participation Models and Theory

Participation models and theories have been developed with the intention of

attempting to predict whether an adult learner will participate in adult education. These

models have incorporated a multitude of factors that include personal qualities, family

structure, socioeconomic status, and availability of resources.

Early models (Boshier, 1973; Miller, 1967; Rubenson, 1977) were linear

representation of the interactions between internal psychological factors and external

environmental variables as interpreted by the learner. Boshier (1973), who developed his

model based on the study of adults in non-credit courses in New Zealand, determined that

adults who dropped out of adult education experiences did so largely as a function of their

own self-esteem, and their interactions with the facilitator, or other participants. Boshier

(1973) also determined that non-participants simply could not come to terms with what

they saw as incongruence with the institution, facilitator, the educational environment,

etc. and therefore did not enroll. Self-esteem, as a factor in whether an adult learner is

active or not, presents an interesting factor to explore in this study.

Cross (1981) presented the common themes of participation models including

Miller (1967), Boshier (1973), and Rubenson (1977). These themes are summarized as

follows:

1. Participation is a function of the interaction of the person and environment.

2. The perception by the adult learner of positive and negative forces in the educational

environment have an influence on the decision to participate.

3. Adult learners are thought to have control over their educational destiny.
44

4. Self-esteem is directly related to choices of education and the success one experiences.

5. Group identity has a powerful influence on participation. Identifying peer groups is a

successful strategy for recruitment and retention of adult learners.

6. The sense of congruence between the learner and the learning situation or the outcomes

of the learning situation is a common theme.

7. The notion that basic needs must be met before higher order needs for achievement or

self-actualization is maintained.

8. The expectation of reward is a motivating factor for adult learners.

The early models were descriptive of the learning activities of adult learners, but

they were linear and static in orientation. Cross (1981) attempted to move toward a more

fluid and interactive model with her Chain-of-Response (COR) Model. The COR Model

describes participation as a stream of action that moves from the individual learners

attitudes and perceptions (self evaluation, attitudes toward education, life transitions) and

moves toward environmental factors (availability of information, barriers, family

support). The proper combination of these factors results in participation, which

changes attitudes about education and self-perception. The net result is a sense of

momentum that the learner develops for learning activities. According to Merrium &

Caffarella (1999), the COR Model "seems capable of explaining self directed learning".

(p. 243)

Darkenwald & Merriam (1982) expanded upon the idea that predicting educational

participation must be considered in the context of social-economic status (SES). Their

Psychosocial Interaction Model begins with evaluation of the learners family and personal
45

characteristics (sex, IQ). The level of preparatory education is also evaluated along with

SES and learning press, which is defined as the extent, that the learner's environment

encourages learning.

The Interdisciplinary, Sequential Specificity, Time Allocation, Life Span

(ISSTAL) Model (Crookson, 1987) draws heavily on the theory that social participation

is part of a life long pattern and is influenced by the family cohort. In other words,

participation in adult education results from a pattern of social participation, and not an

individual and independent behavior as assumed in previous works. The ISSTAL Model

utilizes data on learner family structure and evaluates the learner's current level of

participation assuming that the current level of a thirty-year-old adult learner is predictive

of how active a learner will be at forty and fifty. Crookson (1987) has developed a

continuum of variables polarizing general, transsituational variables (climate, topography,

culture, and social structure) to more individual variables (attitudes, expectations, retained

learning). Crookson (1987) borrows from Cross (1981) in terms of the information

variable but has increased the complexity to include awareness of educational

opportunities, beliefs about the value of participation, and plans - "cognitions about

decisions to respond" (p. 138).

Crookson (1987) presented the concept of "attitudinal dispositions" which

include general and specific attitudes of interest in learning (p. 73). These dispositions are

closely tied to Houle's (1961) typology and reflect the individual’s motivation to pursue

learning. Among attitudinal dispositions are also retained information, which reflects the
46

learner’s knowledge of available resources, and situational variables, which are those

learning opportunities the learner find in their immediate surroundings.

Crookson tested his own model in a study of male heads-of-households (1987).

His found only three of the forty-eight variables in his model were significant, or

predictive of participation. In his conclusions, Crookson reflected that the difficulties in

studying this model may be related the many variables being confounded statistically.

More careful examination of a small number of variables may result in greater agreement.

Participation models do not provide a clear method for predicting participation in

adult education. They are, however, valuable contributions to the literature and are

beneficial to this study. These models individually and combined represent a multitude of

variables which can be explored through the interviews with the learners in this study.

Houle (1961) presented the learner typologies as a means to predict the motivation and

involvement of adult learners. These models represent a similar pursuit by examining

which patterns of variables predict a learner who is ready to learn. In this study, that

learner is described as the active adult learner.

Self-Directed Learning

"Every man who rises above the common level has received two educations: the

first from his teachers; the second, more personal and important, from himself." (Gibbon,

1907, p. 65) Edward Gibbon, renowned writer and historian, recognized the value of self

directed learning in his time. However, he also made an important distinction between
47

education by the teacher; and education by the learner. Education by the learner is

important in this study because active adult learners are self-directed.

Self directed learning is an often-used term in Adult Education. A content analysis

of self directed learning literature identified 247 different terms were uses in describing

self directed learning or self directed learners (Heimstra, 1996). Candy (1991) identifies

many of the visions conjured up by self directed learning, including learning as a solitary

activity in a library, someone's own home, or office. There are also definitions that

include students in a formal course of study working independently on learning projects

with the objective of presenting evidence of their learning. (Heimstra & Sisco,1990) For

many, the process of self directed learning can take place through the use of a television,

radio, reading materials, or a computer. Self directed learning is considered by some to be

"an expression of or the route to realize and attain the inner-most personhood of the

learner, while others do not attribute to it such importance, and use the term to refer

simply to independent academic or intellectual pursuits." (Courtney, 1991, p. 6)

The foundations of self directed learning are well documented (Hiemstra, 1994).

A large portion of the literature can be traced to the work of Allen Tough (1979), who

was influenced by the "learning oriented" participants in Houle's, The Inquiring Mind.

Tough found that over two-thirds (68%) of all learning activities were planned,

implemented, and evaluated by the learners themselves. Knowles (1975) also had a hand

in popularizing self-directed learning by providing foundational definitions and

introducing the term androgogy as an instructional process. Guglielmino (1977)


48

introduced the Self Directed Learning Scale, and subsequently developed an instrument to

measure self-directed learning readiness.

Candy (1991) provides an excellent means for defining self directed learning as

either a process or an outcome. The process of self directed learning includes simply self

direction as a means for organizing instruction. Self directed learning as an outcome means

the learner has moved from requiring instruction to being self directed or independently

pursuing knowledge. Self direction is further subdivided into two domains, including 1)

learner controlled, where the learner takes primary responsibility for the learning while

the teacher maintains a very small degree of control; and 2) autodidaxy, where there is no

teacher present and the learner may not even be aware of the fact that he or she is

learning. The active adult learners in this study are self-directed. The predominant

approach to learning may vary depending upon learning style and preference, but the

active adult learner is capable of taking advantage of multiple learning activities organized

in many or all of the ways as described previously by Candy (1991).

The process of self directed learning, or the systematic process of designing

activities, as outlined by Knowles (1975), includes the learner taking a lead in diagnosing

their individual needs, formulating goals, accumulating required learning materials,

participating in the learning activity, and evaluating outcomes of their learning. This

classic process of organizing instruction has been used as a basis for the work of many in

designing self directed learning experiences (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991; Brookfield, 1985;

Hiemstra, 1996; Hiemstra & Sisco, 1990; Kasworm, 1983).


49

Self directed learning is a popular topic in the literature whether it is supported or

criticized. Two predominant criticisms are that it ignores both the internal factors of the

learner (Kasworm, 1983) and the social context in which the learning takes place

(Brookfield, 1985, 1988).

Criticism, and the need to better understand self directed learner has led to

literature that is "outcome oriented", as described by Candy (1991, p. 7). Outcome

oriented literature attempts to answer the question of what characteristics or factors

describe the self directed learner. Who are these learners? What personal characteristics

do they have in common? How do they differ from other learners? How has their

educational background influenced them?

Current outcome oriented research deals with the idea that self directed learning

varies along a continuum. Hiemstra & Burns (1997) conducted a study of adult learner

preferences in a work setting. Their research resulted in a linear model where learners

indicated preferences for either learning independently or learning through the direction of

others. These finding were congruent with Kerka (1994) who reported similar findings.

She noted "it is apparent a continuum exists. Adults have varying degrees of willingness

or ability to assume personal responsibility for learning. Elements of this continuum may

include the degree of choice over goals, objectives, type of participation, content,

methods, and assessment." (p. 1)

Two concepts - readiness and autonomy - have been studied the most in the

literature. Readiness is a concept developed initially by Guglielmino (1977) implies that

the self directed learner has an internal stated of psychological readiness for learning. The
50

readiness concept is defined by the learner possessing eight factors including openness to

learning, self-concept as an effective learner, initiative and independence in learning,

informed acceptance of responsibility, love of learning, creativity, future orientation, and

the ability to use basic study and problem-solving skills. Guglielmino (1977) developed

the Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale as an instrument to measure readiness of

learners. There have been numerous studies using this instrument that have successfully

argued that readiness is an indicator of a self directed learner (Caffarella and Caffarella,

1986; Guglielmino and Guglielmino, 1988; Guglielmino, Guglielmino & Sarojni Choy,

2001). There have been revisions of the instrument, in the face of criticism of the

instruments reliability and validity (Brockett, 1985; Field, 1989, 1991). In spite of these

concerns, readiness remains one common factor that is used to identify the self-directed

learner.

Autonomy is much less defined as a descriptive quality of the self directed learner

because it remains primarily conceptual. Autonomy is defined as independence and the

will to learn. These qualities of a learner must be combined with an understanding of the

learning process, knowledge of what is considered competence in the subject matter, and

an ability to make critical judgments (Chene, 1983). Desire, capacity, and readiness are

considerations, along with the situational context, in whether a learner is autonomous

(Pratt, 1988).

Brocket and Hiemstra (1991) developed the Personal Responsibility Orientation

(PRO) Model, redefining self direction into two related dimensions. These dimensions

include "self directed learning", which emphasizes the classic teaching and learning
51

process; and "learner self direction" which focuses on characteristics internal to the

individual which predisposes that person toward taking primary responsibility for their

learning. (p. 29) The PRO Model recognizes the social context in which learning takes

place.

Moral and Intellectual Development

William Perry developed the Theory of Moral and Intellectual Development with

nine positions broken down into three definitive parts. This theory is important to this

study because it provides the basis for many adult learning theories from which this

study will draw. Perry (1970) observed a condition called dualism in freshman students

he interviewed at Harvard University. A student who is dualistic assumes there is only

one right answer to complex, ethical problems and that an authority figure, their

professor, could teach them the right answer. Dualism is identified in positions 1-3 of

Perry's Schema. Upper class students were found to develop a different view of the

world called relativism, found in positions 4-6 of Perry's Schema. Relativism is

characterized by the idea that all knowledge bases are contextual and subjective therefore

all answers to complex problems could be justified by individual needs. Perry (1970) also

found that students often achieved a level of development where they became committed

to a certain set of beliefs or contexts which allow them to present and argue a position on

difficult, ill-structured problems, giving plenty of justification for their position. This

manner of thinking is termed, "multiplistic" or the ability to choose for your self, based

on individual and community beliefs. The learner at this stage, identified as positions 7-9
52

in Perry's schema, has established their own ideas about the values, behaviors, and other

people and have a sense of their responsibilities in a pluralistic world.

Perry was a critical colleague of Kohlberg (1976) who borrowed some ideas from

Perry in developing his own theory of adult morality. A major criticism of Perry and

Kohlberg is that their seminal research was conducted on young males only. This

limitation provided a degree of challenge to others to determine the existence of their very

patterns of thought in other groups of people. Perry was a major influence on the

research of Gilligan (1982), who studied moral reasoning in young women; and Sinnott

(1981, 1994), who built upon Perry's themes to develop theories related to adults.

Perry's schema has been commonly applied to traditional college students; however,

Sinnott (1981, 1994) studied adults ranging in age from 26-89 years. She tested them on a

number of characteristics and skills including the degree in which their cognitive functions

draw from formal and post-formal operations. Sinnott (1994) found that adults are much

more likely to utilize post-formal thinking (or reflective thinking) to address real life

problems.

Reflective Judgment and Adults

The Reflective Judgment Model (Kitchener and King, 1994) borrows from the

work of Perry (1970). The model addresses the issues of epistemology and justification.

In other words, how a person thinks about a complex problem and how they justify their

perspective were not novel concepts at the time the Reflective Judgment Model was
53

developed. These concepts of epistemology and justification were originated by Perry

(1970) and used as a backdrop for developing the model.

There are seven stages, broken down into three categories within the Reflective

Judgment Model. There is a linear relationship between these stages as epistemology and

justification criteria become more challenging to the learner. The categories, defined as

pre-reflective, quasi-reflective, and reflective characterize the degree of post-formal

thinking displayed by the learner. More specifically, these categories can be used to

understand the moral reasoning used by a respondent to the Reflective Judgment

Interview. Pre-reflective thinking (Stages 1, 2, and 3) involves reasoning that does not

acknowledge or even perceive that knowledge is uncertain. Therefore, there is a no

understanding that some problems exist that do not have an absolutely correct answer.

Quasi-reflective thinking (Stages 4 and 5) involves reasoning by a individual that there is

uncertainty associated with knowledge claims. They may draw from evidence that is

known on a particular topic, but will have difficulty drawing a conclusion or justifying a

conclusion if one is drawn. Finally, reflective thinking (Stages 6 and 7), is the reasoning

associated with the understanding that knowledge is not absolute and is often constructed

through claims of knowledge within a certain context. This reasoning also acknowledges

that conclusions depend on sound justification and can always be subject to reevaluation.

See Table 1 for more detailed descriptions of each stage of the reflective judgment model.

(King & Kitchener, 1994)


54

Table 1

Summary of Reflective Judgment Stages


_____________________________________________________________________

Pre-Reflective Thinking - Stages 1, 2, and 3


Stage 1 - Knowledge is assumed to exist absolutely and concretely. Abstractions
are not understood. Knowledge limited to and justified by what is observed
directly.

Stage 2 - Knowledge is assumed to be certain, but not immediately available.


Knowledge is obtained through direct observations or through an authority figure.
Beliefs are either unexamined, or confirmed by an authority figure.

Stage 3 - Knowledge is absolutely certain, or temporarily uncertain. Personal


beliefs replace temporary uncertainty, until an authority figure provides the truth
with absolute certainty, providing a means for justification.

Quasi-Reflective Thinking - Stages 4 and 5


Stage 4 - Knowledge is uncertain and there is always an element of ambiguity in
knowledge. Knowledge claims are idiosyncratic to the individual since situational
variables always skew the correct answer. Beliefs are justified by giving biased
and questionable reasons.

Stage 5 - Knowledge is contextual and subjective as it is a product of someone's


perceptions and judgment. Interpretation defines what is known and reported.
Beliefs are justified within a certain reference context and are treated as context
specific interpretations.

Reflective Thinking - Stages 6 and 7


Stage 6 - Knowledge is constructed into individual conclusions of ill-structured
problems. Interpretations based on evaluations of contextual evidence and the
opinions of others in authority can be known. Beliefs are justified with evidence
from a variety of sources.

Stage 7 - Knowledge is the outcome of a process of reasonable inquiry. The


evaluation of solutions is done with understanding of ill-structured problems in
terms of what is most reasonable or probable according to current evidence. New
evidence, perspectives, or tools lead to reevaluation of one's beliefs, perspective,
or actions.
______________________________________________________________________
Kitchener & King, 1994
55

A primary different between Perry's Schema of Moral and Intellectual

Development and the Reflective Judgment Model is the relationship between

epistemology and judgment becomes more unclear as Perry's Schema progresses to higher

developmental levels. Perry utilizes metaphors of existential responsibility and identity

development in the later levels. The Reflective Judgment Model is clear in articulating the

relationship between judgment and epistemology at all levels of the model (Kitchener &

King, 1994).

Another characteristic that distinguishes the Reflective Judgment Model from

Perry's Schema (1970) is the belief that a judgment on authority-based epistemology is

primarily a view held by children and early adolescents and not young adults. Young

adults may carry some of these views from childhood to adulthood, but they are not a

predominant view for people in their late teens and early twenties (Kitchener and King,

1994).

Reflective Judgment Literature

Reflective judgment is analyzed using the Reflective Judgment Inventory (RJI),

which will be discussed extensively in the next chapter. The use of this interview

protocol, involving subjects responding to ill-structured problems through a series of

semi-structured questions, is the only instrument used by researchers, with a few

exceptions. The Reflective Thinking Appraisal and the Reasoning About Current Issues

(RCI) test are being developed as more efficient paper and pencil instruments.
56

Unfortunately these instruments have been used only sparingly and are still going through

the process of validity testing.

The Reflective Judgment Model has been used in studying a variety of

populations; however it has been applied in a limited number of studies to adult

populations, which are outside what is considered traditional-aged, formally educated

learners. Kitchener and King (1994) reviewed research in response to the question, "Does

reflective judgment develop between late adolescence and middle adulthood?" (p. 179)

To answer this question, a review of longitudinal data from 241 individuals in nine studies

(Brabeck & Wood, 1990; Polkosnik & Winston, 1989; Sakalys, 1984; Schmidt, 1985; Van

Tine, 1990; Welfel & Davison, 1986) was conducted including the results of a ten-year

longitudinal study (King and others, 1983; King, Kitchener, Wood, & Davidson, 1989) to

examine the epistemic patterns of development over time. These studies represented 12

different samplings at intervals from three months to four years.

The results of these longitudinal studies led Kitchener and King (1994) to

conclude that they offer "additional evidence that development in reflective judgment

occurs slowly and steadily over time and that the increases in scores are not an artifact of

selective participation or practice." (p. 159). The results also suggest that the growth of

reflective judgment is slow and steady rather than sporadic or situational. Again, subjects

in these studies of reflective judgment were in the early stages of adulthood. The age

range of subjects was 14-30 years of age. They were all enrolled in formal education at

the time of testing. These educational environments included high school, college

undergraduate degree programs, and advanced doctoral degree programs.


57

Cross-Sectional Studies

Results by class-standing. Cross-sectional studies of reflective judgment

represent a larger overall sample size and range of subject ages. There have been over

twenty-five cross-sectional studies involving more than fifteen hundred subjects ranging

in age from early teens to over 60 years of age. A collective review of these results

provides a view of RJI scores by educational level. While caution is suggested in making

broad generalizations due to the variability of methods and numbers of subjects in each

study, King & Kitchener (1994) conclude that there is a steady increase in scores from

high school to graduate school. They analyzed the RJI results of multiple studies and

reported the mean scores by level of education reported in Table 2. The scores in Table 2

refer to the average score of students in each group.

Ranges of RJI scores have not been presented for adult learners, however Glenn

(1992) studied 20 adults over 60 years of age with one group having doctorates and the

other group having high school or bachelors degrees. This study established a range of

responses for highly educated adults to be 3.22-6.56 for men and 3.67-6.11 for women.

The group of adults with lesser formal education ranged from 2.33-5.78 for men and 2.56-

5.11 for women.

Table 2

Reflective Judgment Inventory Scores by Formal Education Level


______________________________________________________________________

Educational Level Mean RJI Score


high school students 3.2
58

college students 3.8


graduate students 4.8
______________________________________________________________________
King and Kitchener, 1994

Studies of non-traditional students. King and Kitchener (1994) repeatedly

note that age alone is not an accurate predictor of reflective judgment since it is often

confounded with other factors. This statement must be understood in an examination of

research of non-traditional aged students. There have been five studies (Glatfelter, 1982;

King, J. W., 1986; Schmidt, 1985; Shoff, 1979; Strange and King, 1981) examining

reflective judgment in non-traditional student, or students enrolled in undergraduate higher

education that are over 25 years of age. These studies involve a total of 137 adult

learners. Scores on the RJI varied for these combined samples. For example, a scored of

3.8 was earned by a group of college freshman whose average age was 23 years (Shoff,

1979), while the score for a group of college seniors was 4.4 with an average age of 26

years of age (Strange & King, 1981). These results show no significant different between

the reflective judgment of traditional aged college students and non-traditional aged college

students, however the difference in age of the students in these studies and traditional

aged college students was not that great. The age range of subjects in these studies is 23 -

37 years of age. All of the students in these studies were enrolled in formal education.

The conclusions drawn from the study of reflective judgment in adult learners

enrolled in formal education is that age may only be related to readiness for learning or

maturity, but it does not predict reflective judgment since these adult learners did not

score higher than younger counterparts. King and Kitchener (1994) infer that these
59

results provide further support for their theory that reflective judgment is enhanced by

college education.

Studies of non-student adults. Several studies have involved adult learners who

are not enrolled in formal education. (Glatfelter, 1982; Glenn, 1992; Josephson, 1988;

Kelton & Griffith, 1986; Kajanne, A., 2003; King, J. W., 1986; Lawson, 1980; Pirttila-

Backman, 1993; Pirttila-Backman and Kajanne, 2001) These studies did not, for the

most part, use non-student adults as the primary population but collected data from

adults as a method of comparing performance of formally enrolled college students.

Pirttila-Backman (1993) and Pirttila-Backman & Kajanne (2001) were the

exception as these two studies examined the same group of non-student adults as their

only subjects. These studies examined the structure and content in thinking by these

adults specifically evaluating one of the Kitchener and King dilemmas. The comparison

of scores of these studies showed that adults performed better on the dilemmas in the

second study, supporting the claim that age has a strong relationship to the development

of reflective judgment. Kajanne (2003) investigated this same relationship between form

and content of thinking in non-student adults. This study found in a content analysis of

adult responses a relationship between the developmental stage of the Reflective

Judgment Model and the content of the justification. Specifically, adults at higher stages

chose moderate positions and were able to express broad arguments on the subject of the

dilemma. Those adults at lower stages had clear-cut opinions that centered on their own

experiences and what they have seen.


60

King (1986) was the only study to describe methods of selection that matched the

non-student adults scholastically with their graduate school enrolled counterparts. The

primary purpose of this study was to compare graduate enrolled men and women to non-

student adults who were not enrolled in graduate school. The subjects were further

delineated between younger and older adult students within these groups. The average

age of graduate students was 30.3 years for older graduate students and 23.9 years for

younger graduate students. Non-students in this study averaged 30.0 years of age for the

older non-student group and 25.1 years of age for the younger non-student group. This

study found that students enrolled in graduate school scored significantly higher than the

non-students group; older adults scored higher than younger adults; and men scored higher

than women as the groups were evenly distributed by gender.

Glenn studied 40 subjects who were all over 65 years of age. These subjects were

selected based on academic background. Half of the subjects were retired professors with

PhD's, and the other half were adults whom had completed formal education ranging from

an eighth grade level to a high school degree. The group of retired professors scored

significantly higher on the RJI that the non-student group providing greater evidence for

King and Kitchener's theory that formal education has a positive effect on reflective

judgment.

Lawson (1980) conducted a study involving 80 subjects comparing the reflective

judgment of graduate students and non-student adults. Lawson (1980) also divided these

primary groups into sub-groups delineated by age with older subjects in one group and

younger subjects in another group. The subjects in the study were all graduate students
61

in liberal arts majors including: American Studies, Science, Sociology, and Speech

Communications. Non-students in the study were all college graduates who had not

enrolled in a graduate program during or just prior to the study. The age breakdown by

group in this study is shown in Table 3.

Lawson (1980) controlled for verbal ability by administering the Concept

Mastery Test (CMT) and ran an analysis of variance to consider the effects of selection,

age, and gender. All the main effects were significant with graduate students scoring

higher than non-student adults, the older group scoring higher than younger group, and

men scoring higher than women. The most interesting result of Lawson (1980) was that

"there were no significant interaction effects which would have suggested that education

was a primary factor accounting for development of reflective judgment." (p. 82) These

findings were reported from an analysis of variance where verbal ability was controlled.

Lawson (1980) goes on to suggest that earlier works (King, 1977; Kitchener, 1977)

reporting higher reflective judgment scores for graduate students may have been due to

selection and age, and not educational effects.

Table 3

Age Breakdown by Group - Lawson (1980)


______________________________________________________________________

Group Graduate Student Groups Non-Student Adult Groups


62

Range Mean Range Mean

Older Group 25-45 years 30.3 years 26-34 years 30.0 years

Younger Group 21-29 years 23.9 years 22-30 years 25.1 years
______________________________________________________________________
King & Kitchener, 1994

Summary

The desire to identify active adult learners has been address through surveys of

adult learners. Early participation studies provided counts of the number of adult learners

in the United States (Essert, 1950; Knowles, 1955). In 1965, Johnstone & Rivera

contributed the most comprehensive and sophisticated adult learner study of that time.

This study looked at learning from a holistic perspective and provided definition as to the

characteristics of active learners and the locations in which learning is taking place. Since

Johnstone & Rivera (1965), surveys have been conducted on a more consistence basis

showing that participation in adult learning in the United States is gradually growing.

(Aslanian & Brickell, 1980; Carp, Peterson, & Roelfs, 1974; Courtney, 1991)

National surveys (Arbeiter, 1977; Cross, 1978, 1979) have found that the

characteristics as active adult learners tend to include young, females who are looking for

career advancement. More recent surveys (Belanger and Valdivielso, 1997; Kim, et al,

1995; Kopka & Peng, 1993) point to shifts from these early characteristics with men

being equal to women in the level of participation. These same studies point to the

tendency for learners with children under the age of six were found to be more likely to

drop out than those without children.


63

The most active group of adult learners is 25-34 years of age and is equally

balanced between men and women. This group of people is engaged in careers objectives

utilizing learning opportunities as a means for advancement. (Courtney, 1991) He found

that over half of all participants in organized adult education were 35 years of age or

younger.

Anderson and Darkenwald (1979) found that age, sex, race, income, and education

correlate with participation, but are not predictive of an active adult learner. The typical

active adult learner is better educated (formally), younger, has a higher level of income,

Caucasian, and likely to be employed full-time. This information must be view

cautiously since it is a compilation of many different studies and hides through the

generalization, very rich and substantive variations that are important. (Merriam &

Caffarella, 1999).

The most significant factor in the history of the study of participation is the

positive correlation between previous education and continued adult learning. (Kaplan,

1945; Kopka & Peng, 1993; Lorimer, 1931; McGrath, 1938) In essence, these studies

suggest the higher the level of formal degree attainment, the greater the participation rate

in adult learning activities.

Participation models and theories have been developed with the intention of

attempting to predict whether an adult learner will participate in adult education. These

models have incorporated a multitude of factors that include personal qualities, family

structure, socioeconomic status, and availability of resources. (Boshier, 1973; Crookson,

1987; Cross, 1981; Darkenwald & Merriam, 1982; Miller, 1967; Rubenson, 1977) The
64

theoretical framework provided by participation models is helpful in understanding the

complex factors that influence adult learning, but do not provide a clear method for

predicting participation in adult education.

The term, self directed learning is used often in adult education literature. A

content analysis of self directed learning literature identified 247 different terms were uses

in describing self directed learning or self directed learners (Heimstra, 1996). Candy

(1991) identifies many of the visions conjured up by self directed learning, including

learning as a solitary activity in a library, someone's own home, or office. There are also

definitions that include students in a formal course of study working independently on

learning projects with the objective of presenting evidence of their learning (Heimstra &

Sisco,1990). For many, the process of self directed learning can take place through the

use of a television, radio, reading materials, or a computer.

Allen Tough (1979) was influenced by the "learning oriented" participants in

Houle's (1961) The Inquiring Mind. Tough found that over two-thirds (68%) of all

learning activities were planned, implemented, and evaluated by the learners themselves.

Knowles (1975) also had a hand in popularizing self-directed learning by providing

foundational definitions and introducing the term androgogy as an instructional process.

Guglielmino (1977) introduced the Self Directed Learning Scale, and subsequently

developed an instrument to measure self-directed learning readiness.

Candy (1991) describes self directed learning as the learner moving from requiring

instruction to being self directed or independently pursuing knowledge. Self direction is

further subdivided into two domains, including 1) learner controlled, where the learner
65

takes primary responsibility for the learning while the teacher maintains a very small

degree of control; and 2) autodidaxy, where there is no teacher present and the learner

may not even be aware of the fact that he or she is learning.

Self directed learning has been applied in classroom setting where the learner

taking a lead in diagnosing their individual needs, formulating goals, accumulating required

learning materials, participating in the learning activity, and evaluating outcomes of their

learning. (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991; Brookfield, 1985; Hiemstra & Sisco, 1990;

Kasworm, 1983).

Self directed learning is a popular topic in the literature whether it is supported or

criticized. Two predominant criticisms are that it ignores both the internal factors of the

learner (Kasworm, 1983) and the social context in which the learning takes place

(Brookfield, 1985, 1988). These criticisms and the need to better understand self directed

learner has led to literature that is "outcome oriented", as described by Candy (1991, p.

7). Current outcome oriented research deals with the idea that self directed learning varies

along a continuum. Studies have been conducted on adult learner preferences in a work

setting. (Hiemstra & Burns, 1997; Kerka ,1994) This research resulted in a linear model

where learners indicated preferences for either learning independently or learning through

the direction of others. These models show that adults vary in the degree of willingness

or ability to assume personal responsibility for learning.

Readiness in self directed learning is a concept developed initially by Guglielmino

(1977) that implies the self directed learner has an internal stated of psychological

readiness for learning. The readiness concept is defined by the learner possessing eight
66

factors including openness to learning, self-concept as an effective learner, initiative and

independence in learning, informed acceptance of responsibility, love of learning,

creativity, future orientation, and the ability to use basic study and problem-solving

skills.

Autonomy in self directed learning is much less clear as a descriptive quality of

the self directed learner because it remains primarily conceptual. Autonomy is defined as

independence and the will to learn. These qualities of a learner must be combined with an

understanding of the learning process, knowledge of what is considered competence in the

subject matter, and an ability to make critical judgments (Chene, 1983). Desire, capacity,

and readiness are considerations, along with the situational context, in whether a learner is

autonomous. (Pratt, 1988)


67

Chapter III

Methodology

A multi-case design was employed in this study, meaning more than one

participant was studied in more than one setting (Bogden & Biklen, 1998). A learner

questionnaire was developed for this study solely for the purpose of identification of the

five participants in the study. The Reflective Judgment Inventory (RJI) was used in a

descriptive manner and not as a means to compare the reflective judgment of participants

to one another or to other adult learners. This approach agrees with the values of

qualitative research.

What is qualitative research? According to Bogdan & Biklen (1998), qualitative

research describes a group of techniques that share common qualities. Qualitative

research is considered naturalistic (researcher observes the subject in its natural setting);

derived from descriptive data; concerned with the process and outcomes; inductive,

meaning abstractions are developed during or after data collection; and focused on the

meaning a person makes of their experiences. The question of whether findings from a

particular group can be generalized beyond the specific research subjects and the setting

involved, is often a concern with qualitative research. It is a concern in this study,

because this study will not generalize the findings to any other group of adult learners.

This study is a careful documentation of the experiences of a small group of adult

learners, in the tradition of Cyril Houle’s, The Inquiring Mind (1961). It will provide

insight into the lives of five adults who are active in their learning activities. The job of
68

generalizing is up to the reader as they consider how this documentation helps explain

their own experiences or those of other adult learners with whom they are familiar.

Considerations in participant selection

Adult learners are very diverse. It was challenging to select adult learners for this

study since educational experiences, motivations, and personal philosophies vary so

dramatically. Following approval of the research plan by the Institutional Review Board,

a screening process was implemented using a descriptive questionnaire or learner

questionnaire with the goal of identifying five participants. The purpose of this

questionnaire was only to identify potential participants, and not for measuring

involvement or learning of adults. This questionnaire asks adult learners a series of

questions as a survey of their educational background and experience. Those invited to

participate in the study were selected from the group completing the questionnaire.

While the collective qualities of adult learners for this study are not intended to be

representative of any particular group (as in quantitative methodology), the following

qualities were considered in the selection of participants.

Educational type. In order to evaluate the full scope of learning types,

participants were expected to be active formal, non-formal, and informal learners. There

is speculation about the factors which lead to the choices an adult learner makes. If the

type of education (formal, non-formal, and informal) an adult learner has received has any

bearing on their choices in life, decision-making skills, and there ability to be reflective;

then more than one learning type must be represented in the study.
69

As a review, Chapter One offered the definition of formal education as an

"educational experience where a facilitator or instructor designs and directs an educational

experience in a systematic and planned program that awards learners with formal

recognition of educational achievement such as a credit, certificate, diploma, license, or a

degree." (p. 10). Non-formal learning is defined as "education that is organized outside

the established formal educational system that does not offer credit, diplomas, license, or

a degree for completion of courses or a program of study. The learning experience may be

structured or unstructured and participation is voluntary." (p. 10). The third type of

learning, informal, is what is often referred to as "self-directed" (Knowles, 1975) and

defined as "devoid of organizational or institutional involvement". (p. 10) Informal

learning is evaluated in all adult learners participating in the study, but it is assumed that

active formal and non-formal learners are also active informal learners agreeing with

Knowles (1975, 1980) that adults are self-directed (informal) learners by nature. In

principle, it is reasonable to project that an active learner of any type is an active informal

learner.

Balanced numbers of men and women. The number of men and women is

only a consideration from the standpoint that men and women have been studied with

regard to participation and that perspectives from both genders may result in some

differences. However, gender difference is not a research focus in this study.

Participant Age. Research suggests that adult learners are most active between

the ages of 25-34 years of age. Additionally, learning activities peak at approximately 35

years of age. (Courtney, 1991) Houle (1961) selected adults for his qualitative study
70

who ranged between 30 and 65 years of age, with the largest number of adults selected

being between 35 and 55 years of age at the time of the study. (p. 84) The design of this

study was done with consideration of Houle’s (1961) methodology. It was critical in this

study to examine learners at an age older than the peak age of 35 years, but younger than

age 55 so they could reflect with some degree of accuracy on the learning experiences in

their lives. For this reason, adult learners were screened for age with participants being

selected who are between 38 and 51 years of age.

Survey and Instrumentation

A learner questionnaire and the Reflective Judgment Inventory (RJI) were used in

this study. The learner questionnaire was completed by all potential participants in a

screening process with the five selected adult learners responding to the protocol of the

RJI.

The Learner Questionnaire. The learner questionnaire required the participant

to provide personal and occupational information including contact information; age in

years; primary, secondary, and previous occupation; and information on occupational

requirements for certification or licenser. A copy of the learner questionnaire can be

found in Appendix A. The purpose of the learner questionnaire was to identify potential

participants. Adults provided information on this form related to their past and present

educational experiences as adult learners. Adults who completed the survey identified

numerous learning activities in which they have been, or are currently engaged. The

researcher used this descriptive information as a starting point for selecting potential adult
71

for the study, and it was not intended to be predictive of adult learner characteristics or

actions.

The learner questionnaire was organized by education types including formal,

informal, and non-formal learner experiences. Formal education was reported in the

learning questionnaire by asking potential participants to list the number of years of

formal education and degrees sought or completed. Non-formal and informal education

was reported in the form of a check-list. The survey bias, over demanding recall, is

assumed in the learner questionnaire due to the fact that an active learner can have

numerous learning experiences in any given period of time. Recalling these experiences

may be too challenging leading to inaccurate reporting. (Alreck & Settle, 1995) Over

demanding recall bias cannot be eliminated due to the quantity of information requested,

however accommodations were instituted within the learner questionnaire. These

accommodations include providing choices of educational experiences, definitions of

educational type to help potential participants categorize information, and space for

potential participants to add additional experiences not listed as choices on the

questionnaire. Additionally, the age range for participants (35-55 years of age) increased

the chances that learning activities were recent enough in the past to be recalled.

The design of the learner questionnaire was evaluated and improved through a

number of methods. The questionnaire was reviewed by two survey design experts and

their comments were incorporated into the design. Also, the survey was piloted by 15

adult learners not involved with the study. These learners were asked to complete the

learner questionnaire and were interviewed to collect their impressions of the questions.
72

The questions were refined based on responses of adult learners to the survey. A

majority of the revisions suggested by pilot subjects included the addition of new options

of learning opportunities or the places where learning opportunities could take place.

Reflective Judgment Inventory (RJI). The Reflective Judgment Inventory (RJI)

was used in this study for the purpose of providing an objective assessment of adult

learner reflective problem solving abilities. A copy of the RJI dilemmas is available in

Appendix B. Since RJI scores are directly related to a description of the adult learner's

process of reasoning and epistemic assumptions as defined in the Reflective Judgment

Model, the assessment has value as a descriptive tool. Additionally, the research on

Reflective Judgment, outlined in Chapter II, has not focused on the reflective judgment of

adults. The construct that is being measured by the RJI is the ability of an individual to

consider multiple perspectives and evaluate the value of each perspective on a complex

issue. This is a skill not solely reserved for traditional college-aged undergraduate and

graduate students. This is a life-long skill that is developed through all manners of

educational and life experience at any point in a person’s life.

The RJI is administered through an interview process. The interview consists of

four dilemmas with each presenting two conflicting points of view that are supported by

experts in an identified field. The topics of the dilemmas used in this study include: 1)

The Origins of the Egyptian Pyramids; 2) The Objectivity of New Reporting; 3) Creation

vs. Evolution; and 4) the Cause of Alcoholism.

The typical Reflective Judgment Interview begins with the subject being presented

with the reflective judgment dilemmas in random order with all responses tape recorded
73

for analysis and rating. A standard statement of instructions for the RJI is read out loud

by the researcher while the subject follows along on a written copy. When the researcher

completes reading the dilemma, standard questions are asked of the subject. Depending

on the response by the subject, additional probe questions are asked. The focus of these

probes is to attempt to engage the subject in a manner that their fundamental beliefs and

approaches to complex problems are revealed. The subject is asked if they have any

questions after all dilemmas are presented and discussed.

The rating process for the RJI involves two raters working with three dilemmas

for each subject. Each of the raters conducts an independent, blind review of the

transcripts and assigns a rating which corresponds to the scale of the Reflective Judgment

Model. The composite score for a particular transcript is assigned based on the average

responses of the subject to the specific questions of the interview. The scores of the

raters are compared to assess inter rater reliability. King and Kitchener (1994) have

defined the criteria for agreement between raters as being three points or less between the

sums of the total ratings of the two judges for each subject. Scores for reflective judgment

dilemmas are reported by three numbers. A subject could be rated 4-4-5 by one rater, and

4-5-4 by another rater. These three numbers would be each of the raters score for the

same three dilemmas by a interviewee. The two raters on this dilemma would be

considered in agreement since there is a difference of two points between the scores. The

three point standard was established because a difference of more than three points would

represent a stage difference between ratings which constitutes a lack of agreement. When

there is a disagreement between rater scores, the dilemma is rated again by both raters and
74

if the differences persist, the raters are brought together to discuss the transcript and

come to consensus. An overall score is arrived at through averaging the scores of the two

raters across the three dilemmas.

The reliability of the RJI has been measure by a number of methods including inter

rater, test-retest, and internal consistency. King and Kitchener (1994) evaluated inter

rater reliability by reviewing 32 different studies using the RJI involving a total of 2090

subjects. As a standard procedure for rating RJI responses, the transcripts of one

dilemma are rated initially by a team of two raters. A comparison of the initial scores

assigned by the two raters was compared and the coefficients were calculated using the

Pearson product-moment correlation. This procedure provides a conservative index of the

reliability of the instrument. The results of their review showed inter rater coefficients

that ranged from .34 to .97 with an overall coefficient of .78 (p. 110).

Inter rater agreement was also assessed on 29 of the same studies cited above

(1886 subjects). Inter rater agreement is a more stringent measure since it is a calculation

of how often the two initial raters agree within the standard of one stage on the Reflective

Judgment Model. The range of agreement in these studies was 53% to 100%. The

median agreement level was 77%. According to King and Kitchener (1994), "almost 40%

of the studies reported an agreement level of at least 87 percent, and one-quarter reported

an agreement level of at least 90 percent." (p. 111)

Data Collection Process


75

Data collection was organized around five steps including, 1) identification of

target audiences, 2) promotion of the study, 3) completion of the learner questionnaires,

4) selection of active learners for the study, and 5) interviews. These five steps were

followed as each participant moved through the process of providing data

Promotion of the study began with the identification of target audience’s in the

community of Tucson, AZ, where this data collection would take place. There were

several audiences that would be likely to have adult learners who fit the parameters of the

study. These parameters that were considered in the selection process included that

participants must be 35 to 55 years of age, may not have been formally educated at

beyond a college bachelors degree, must have active involvement in a diverse number of

learning activities, must represent cultural and gender diversity, and must live in the

Tucson community because interviews would not be conducted over the telephone or

computer.

Several target groups were approached. First, a presentation on the study was

made to the staff and faculty of Extended University at the University of Arizona. This

department provides credit bearing and non-credit enrichment courses for diverse

populations of adult learners in the Tucson area. Second, several meetings were held with

staff and instructors at Pima County Community College. This community college in

Tucson provides adult education programs, which include associates degrees, certification

programs, General Education Degrees (GED), and English as a Second Language (ESL)

programs for adults that may qualify for this study. Finally, colleagues in the Division of
76

Campus Life were asked to assist in identifying potential subjects with whom they were

acquainted through work or person relationships.

Sixteen learner questionnaires were completed by potential participants as a result

of the promotion and networking effort. These sixteen were simply those who were

willing to be considered for the study from over 100 potential adults contacted. There

was no screening or selection process that identified these sixteen, except for the targeted

promotion outlined above. If there was missing or unclear information submitted in the

learner questionnaire, the potential participant was contacted by telephone or emailed to

ask for clarification.

Selection and screening of potential participants for the study involved reviewing

the learner questionnaire and the operational definition of an active adult learner. Criteria

were identified for selecting adult learners for this study. The criteria used to screen

participants are outlined in Table 4. As explained at the beginning of this chapter, age,

educational type, amount of formal education, and gender were all initial considerations.

Additional criteria included communication skills and the ability of the learner to

effectively recall learning experiences. While these criteria were followed closely in

choosing the final group, potential participants were not eliminated from the group before

the initial screening interview even if they did not meet one or more of these criteria. For

example, adults who indicated they were over 55 years of age on the learner questionnaire

were given a screening interview even though they were likely to be screened out.

A series of questions were developed for the screening interview to assure those

adult learners were select who best fit the criteria. Interviews were conducted over the
77

telephone. Questions were not standardized or weighted, but were developed to address

the selection criteria. The following list includes some of the questions used in the

interviews of potential participants.

1. Please describe a recent learning experience that has had an impact on your

learning.

2. How do you select or identify a learning activity?

3. What are your personal goals with regard to education or learning?

4. In what settings do you do your best thinking?

5. Tell me about one of the community organizations in which you are involved.

What do you gain from your involvement in this group?

These interviews were not tape-recorded however written notes were taken during

each interview. The researcher sorted potential participant’s questionnaires into two

groups as they were interviewed. One group was those eliminate immediately following

the interview, and one group was those who would be considered finalists. Upon

completion of all screening interviews, there were five finalists, all of whom were selected

for the study. The five adults included - three women and two men

Table 4

Selection Criteria for Participants


______________________________________________________________________
Criteria Parameter Description
______________________________________________________________________
Age 35-55 years Adults within this range are likely to have
experienced the most active learning period.

Type Formal, Non-formal, Informal All types identified.


78

Degrees Bachelors Degree Bachelors degree or less formal education.

Gender Male & Females Males/females have different opportunities.

Communication Open/Clear Adults communicate learning goals


and the value of learning.

Time # hours/days spent Active learners spend more time learning.

Quantity # different activities Active learners involved in many activities.


______________________________________________________________________

Eleven of the sixteen adult learners completing learner questionnaires were not

selected for the study. The most common reasons for not choosing these adults included

1) the adult did not disclose in the learning questionnaire or interview a high quantity or

variety of learning activities compared to those selected; 2) the adult could not clearly

communicate or fluidly reflect on their goals or experiences as a learner; and/or 3) the adult

fell too far outside the age or education parameter as compared to those adult selected for

the study.

There are many approaches to structuring the interviews. Rubin and Rubin

(1995) describe question structure as a continuum in qualitative research. In the

structured interview, at one end of the continuum, the researcher controls the content of

the discussion through a predetermined set of questions not allowing the participant to

wonder too far from the focus of the conversation. The other end of the continuum is the

unstructured interview, which is a very open-ended conversation between the researcher

and the participant. The participant is encouraged to talk about whatever is of interest,

and the researcher probes more deeply into topics that relate to the research area as they
79

arise. The degree of structure to apply may vary depending on the relationship of the

researcher and participant, the research goal, and the time allotted. The protocol for the

RJI is an example of a semi-structured interview that falls more closely on the structured

side of the continuum described by Rubin and Rubin (1995).

The question structure for this study is best described as semi structured. A

standard set of questions was used to guide the researcher through the process of data

collection allowing for the comparison of data from one participant to another. However,

probes were not standardized and the standard questions were adjusted as the situation

required. The rationale for this approach is that there was a finite amount of time for

interviews. Entering interviews with a set of intended questions provided a measure of

how the interviews were progressing while assuring that participants address all required

areas of inquiry. However, the ability to adjust questioning as needed was valuable for

exploring other elements of the learner’s experience.

Data collection was conducted in several ways. The sources of data included the

learner questionnaire, transcripts of interviews with participants, transcripts from

interviews with family members, field notes on observations by the researcher, and data

from analysis of the RJI.

The initial interviews were conducted at the adult learner’s home, the researcher’s

office, or at a neutral site. Interviews lasted an hour or less with most of the adult

learners completing all the interviews in three or four sessions. Adult learners selected

their pseudonym and completed the consent form at the initial interview. A copy of the

consent form is available in Appendix C. Sessions were tape recorded as the researcher
80

took field notes and asked questions. Questions were semi structured following a planned

question list. Appendix D contains a list of the questions. Follow-up and prompting

questions were asked as appropriate to explore a point or to keep the adult learner on the

topic.

One interview session involved adult learners responding to complex ethical

dilemmas as part of the Reflective Judgment Inventory (RJI). This line of questioning

allowed the researcher to assess how adult learners process and problem solve, which is

an outcome of learning. The questioning protocol for the RJI is available in Appendix E.

Family members were often identified as significant in the lives of participants in

the study. Spouses, siblings, parents, friends, and colleagues were among those identified

by participants. However, exploring these relationships was not the primary reason the

researcher included interviews with family members. It was unexpected that questioning

the participants about their relationships with family would lead to the rich data on

families described in the findings and conclusions of this study. Interviews were

primarily used to gain another perspective on the experiences of the participant in the

study. For example, one participant (Richard, 11/18/01, p.102) discussed in detail how

his spouse supports and also becomes involved in his learning activities. Upon

completion of this interview, the researcher asked participant if he felt his spouse would

participate in an interview. The participant confirmed that she would, and assisted in

setting up an interview for her.

There was no screening process for selecting family members to interview. The

only criteria were that they were identified as being influential to the participant, the
81

participant agreed to allow them to be interviewed, and the family members agreed to the

interview. All of the five participants identified a potential family member to be

interviewed, but only three were interviewed. The reason two family members were not

interviewed was because the family member either was unwilling or unavailable to be

interviewed. These interviews with family members lasted no more than one hour. The

questions used were unstructured and customized based on issues, themes, or questions

initiated by the participant. The focus of the questions was on the original participant,

and not the family member being interviewed. Interviews with family members were tape

recorded and the data was used to confirm, dispute, or contribute to findings in the study.

The researcher maintained written field notes during all interviews. These notes

were recorded on a separate pad of paper and in the transcripts of the interviews. After

each interview, the researcher would reflect on what was said and add additional

comments to the notes from the interview which would be inserted into the transcripts.

Field notes were used for the researcher to record feelings, observations, and thoughts that

are relevant to the adult learner’s experience, as well as the researcher.

Data Organization

The researcher employed a transcription technician who assisted in transferring

tape recorded data to computerized transcripts. The researcher did some transcription

work in order to become more familiar with the data and to speed up the transcription

process. The researcher also added observer comments (or “OC”) to the transcripts.

Observer comments were developed from some of the field notes written during the
82

interviews or directly following the interviews. Formatting and titling of the data was

conducted during this time. Transcripts were single spaced and given a one inch margin to

allow for each separation when organized by category. The total number of transcript

pages was 152. This does not include approximately 200 hundred pages of field notes

and the three-page learner questionnaire completed by each adult learner who volunteered

to apply for the study. Appendix F contains transcripts from all interviews with the five

primary participants of this study. These transcripts are commonly cited throughout this

paper.

Data Analysis

The first steps were to organize the data into a three-ring binder grouping it

according to each participant. A copy was made of the data from each adult learner with

each being assigned a different color of paper. The researcher read the raw data several

time from start to finish making notes about how to organize and group it. After reading

the data three times, the researcher identified eighteen initial categories for the data. Table

5 lists these initial categories. Each cluster of data was assigned a category identified by

the

Table 5

Initial Categories of Data________________________________________________

1. Attitudes
2. Motivation
3. Self-esteem
4. Resources
5. Settings and Types of Learning
83

6. Environment
7. Perceptions of Learning
8. Critical and Reflective Thinking
9. Family Influence
10. Success Factors
11. Barriers
12. Socioeconomic Influences
13. Activities or Topic Preferred
14. Learner Background
15. Problem Solving
16. Influence of Others (non family)
17. Male and Female Differences
18. Observer Comments
______________________________________________________________________

number of that category. These initial categories were done as a first step so that data

could be groups into more manageable groups.

Clusters of data were reviewed once more by the researcher to assure they were

properly assigned or to look for further ways in which to break them down. After this

final review, the clusters were cut apart with a scissors, and grouped according to their

assigned category. This process was not done with data for from the Reflective Judgment

Inventory (RJI).

A three-ring binder, with self adhesive pages covered by acrylic sheets (for photo

albums), was used for reorganizing the data. These photo album pages would allow for

easy affixing of data onto pages and moving of data later in the process. Adhesive flags

were placed in each section for easy identification of the data by the number that was

assigned to the category. The flags can also easily be removed and replaced as categories

are combined.
84

Next, another review of the data was conducted by the researcher, with each

category of data being reviewed for similarities or differences. Resorting of the initial

categories revealed some of the themes to be discussed as the results of this study became

clearer. The six themes that are discussed in the findings of this study were identified.

The researcher kept notes during this process of analysis recording thoughts and

ideas that could be incorporated into the study. Additionally, all of the observer

comments (OC) during the interview process were assigned to category 18 and combined

in the binder. These comments, coupled with notes made during the analysis process,

were sorted separately according to the themes and issues identified in the data. These

notes and observer comments were used for the narrative of the findings and in the

conclusions found in the next chapter.

Analysis of the RJI

Reflective Judgment Inventory transcripts were evaluated using two, neutral raters

who were trained by the researcher to evaluate RJI transcripts. The training involved

reading about the model and rating process, discussing the meaning of each of the stages,

learning the meaning structure identified with each stage, and practicing the rating process

on sample transcripts. Transcripts from the participants of this study were provided to

the raters. The names of the adult learners were removed, a transcript number was

assigned, and the order of the transcripts was randomized so the raters never reviewed

transcripts from the same participant consecutively. Raters rated each of the seven

questions asked in the RJI, assigning it a score based on the criteria of the Reflective
85

Judgment Model. Each transcript was given a three-digit score, based on the scores of

individual questions. The three-digit scores of each of the two raters was compared and

they were considered in agreement if there was three points or less separating the scores

as stipulated by rater conditions of the RJI. (Kitchener & King, 1994) Inter-rater

reliability was 73%. The raters reevaluated those dilemmas in which more than three

points separated their individual scores. The second pass by the raters resulted in

agreement on the remaining dilemmas. Since there was agreement after the second pass,

no additional dilemmas needed to be rated. The results of the RJI are reported in the next

chapter.

Coding system

The coding of data is very important in a qualitative study because is provides a

means by which information is organized, filed, and analyzed (Bogden and Biklen, 1995).

The data in this study was coded with the following information: participant, date

collected category it was taken from, and the page number in the transcript file. The

coding used for each of these pieces of data will be reported as follows:

1. participant name - a pseudonym of all adult learners or any others associated with

the adult learners will be used throughout the study. The pseudonym was

selected by the adult learner.

2. source - INT=interview; RJ=reflective journal; OC=observer or researcher

comments; LQ = learner questionnaire


86

3. date - The date the information was collected is identified in a MM/DD/YY

format. For example, March 15, 2000 would be recorded as "03/15/00".

4. primary category - Categories are identified by a number. Categories have been

assigned a number between 1 and 17. These were the categories were data was

initially assigned. The category is preceded in the citation by “CAT:”

5. page number – This references the page, in the original transcript file (Appendix

F), where the statement was taken from, if it is cited verbatim.

An example of a citation in text using this system of coding would look like this.

"I am required to attend at least 15 hours of in-service for certification each year. I

usually have no problems getting the hours required." (Hattie, INT 12/23/02, CAT 4, p.

129)

Summary

This study employed a multi-case qualitative design. Adult learners were selected

through a screening process. Adult learners enrolled in formal and non-formal courses

were asked to complete a learner questionnaire. Student services personnel were also

asked to identify individuals they know to fit the characteristics desired in this study.

The learner questionnaire was used for the identification of potential participants. These

individuals were evaluated through interviews, observation, and their scores on the

Reflective Judgment Inventory (RJI). Participants were asked to identify family

members whom could speak to their learning activities. Three of these family members

were interviewed as part of this study as a means of providing a more in-depth look at the
87

participants and to confirm some of the reflections of the participants. The steps of

analysis included data coding, the separation of sections of data from transcripts, the

grouping of data into common categories, and further separation of data into more detailed

themes and observations. This process supports existing literature; and new grounded

theory.
88

Chapter IV

Results

Participants

Five adult learners were selected to participate in the study – three women and

two men. These five adults were selected because they possessed the qualities and

experiences that fit the operational definition written for this study. See the section in

Chapter III entitled; Selection and screening of potential participants, for a more detailed

discussion of the selection criteria. Table 6 contains an overview of the selected

participants along with their occupations and degrees. Participants received some formal

education; however all of those who achieve bachelor’s degrees did so later in life.

Table 6

Descriptive Characteristics of Participants

Name Age Ethnicity Occupation Highest Degree

Gail 42 White/American Medical Associates


Assistant Degree
Guy 51 White American Concessions Bachelors
Supervisor Degree
Polo 38 Hispanic Administrative Bachelors
American Associate Degree
Richard 46 White American Engineer Bachelors
Degree
Rose 48 Hispanic Administrative Associates
American Assistant
89

American Assistant Degree

A content analysis of descriptive data provided this view of active learners in the

study. They have previously held, and currently hold a variety of jobs including office

support technician, engineer, administrative assistant, bookkeeper, registered medical

assistant, hotel and catering sales agent, concessions supervisor, car dealership

accountant, plumber, restaurant manager/owner, cook, construction supervisor, and legal

assistant. This list of occupations demonstrates the variety of different work that

participants, in this study, have completed. Occupation is a very important factor in the

motivation of some learners. Adult learners were asked in their learner questionnaire

whether they were required to obtain continuing education for their profession. Two of

the five identified that some forms of continuing education were required.

Continuing education requirements, however, seem to be only minimal motivation

for the participant in this study. The drive toward learning seems to be inherent.

Richard, for example, indicated that he had a continuing education requirement for his

occupation. His spouse, Marie, explains that this drive goes beyond the minimal

requirement. “Part of it is work. Part of it is that he is a very curious person. I think

that is part of the reason why he chose the profession he is in. He has a real interest in

knowing how things work and why they work. I think he is very detail-oriented on what

he is interested in. If he is interested in something, he wants to know all about it.”, stated

Marie. (Marie, int. 12/8/01, cat. 14, p. 123)


90

The participants in this study identified many learning activities in which they

have participated. These settings are outlined in Table 7. Participants tend to be very

active in many different activities, whether they are formal, non-formal, or informal.

Table 7

Participant Learning Activities


______________________________________________________________________

Informal Learning Activities Non-Formal Learning Activities

Discussions Software and Computer Classes


Reading Books and Newspapers Music Activities
Travel Safety Workshops
Recreation and Fitness Ethics Workshops
Computer Research Security Workshops
Watching Television Non-Credit Enrichment Classes
Collecting Genealogy Workshops
Photography Lab Certification Classes
Personal Correspondence Occupational Workshops
Home Repair Team Projects
Outdoor Recreation
Caring for Animals
Touring Local Attractions
Listening to the Radio
Mechanical Activities
Landscaping and Gardening
Wood and Metal Work
Art Activities
Movies
Caring for Children
Community Service Activities
Cancer Survival Education
______________________________________________________________________

Table 7 is only inclusive of those activities in which participants were involved in at the

time of this study. It is not necessarily reflective of their learning throughout their lives.
91

Participant Profiles

Gail – Gail is an energetic mother of two with a passion for helping people. She

has pursued a number of occupations including hotel sales manager, concessionaire,

medical assistant, and retail sales. Gail did complete a two-year program at a medical

institute obtaining a technical degree as a medical assistant. However, Gail’s story is like

all of the participants in this study in that her formal education was obtained through

overcoming unique challenges.

Gail’s parents immigrated to the Southwestern United States from Canada. Her

father had asthma and relocated to a place where he could live more comfortably. While

her father was enrolled at a university in the United States, his sister was diagnosed with

Polio. He was forced to quit school and find a job in order to pay living and medical

expenses for his sister. He eventually went to work at a Standard Oil Service Station, and

over time became an owner, with his partner, of three different service stations. Gail’s

mother was also from Canada. Her mother and father were married prior to moving to the

United States. Her mother never went to college. She got a job working at a bank, and

eventually took on bookkeeping for the family service station business.

Gail’s parents were strong advocates of education. They emphasized it

constantly for Gail and her sister who is three years older. According to Gail,

“They both instilled in me that I always had to put my 100% into


everything. School literally didn’t come easy to me. It was very hard for
me. Mom always would make time to help me. I think that put a big
emphasis on me, because she would always say, ‘You know, it is hard but
you just keep pushing and you’ll get it.’ She would show me different
ways to look at things.” (Gail, int. 7/11/03, cat. 2, p. 8)
92

Gail chose to get married after high school and pursue a business degree while her sister

went on to higher education, eventually receiving a doctorate.

Gail’s marriage to her first husband failed. Her daughter was an infant at the time.

Searching for support, she sought out her parents who welcomed her back home, helped

care for her baby, allowing her to return to school and complete her two-year degree as a

medical assistant. This was a very difficult time for Gail challenging her to use the work

ethic and organizational skills she learned from her family.

Gail worked as a medical assistant for many years allowing her to practice her

helping skills with patients and doctors. She was remarried to a man named Paul, and

they have an infant son. Gail has been staying home with the child for the last few years,

but is considering returning to the medical field or even back to school. Paul, who is a

very supportive spouse, has plans of his own. He stated, “We are kind of tossing

around now that I can qualify to retire soon from the state (where he is employed) in five

years. I was throwing around the idea of me staying home with the kiddos and working

part time and stuff around the house. She would go back for her education or go back to

the medical field or whatever she chooses to do.” (Paul, int. 10/22/02, cat. 9, p. 27)

Guy – An internal drive to accomplish career and educational goals is how one

could describe the source of Guy’s energy for learning. Circumstance and other people in

Guy’s life have influenced, positively and negatively, the path he has chosen. Guy

describes this influence as “perhaps the path of least resistance”. (Guy, int. 10/3/02, cat

14, p. 34)
93

Guy grew up in California in a working class family. His father was a plumbing

contractor in Southern California. His parent divorced as he finished high school so he

went to work in grocery store and a restaurant while going to a junior college. Guy spent

much of his adolescent and young adult life working with his father in the plumbing

business. “He had always been grooming me to take over the plumbing business. That’s

what he wanted me to do. That’s why I decided to move on to other directions. At that

time, I wanted to be anything except a plumber.”, noted Guy. (Guy, int. 10/3/02, cat. 14,

p. 41)

Guy’s uncle took him under his wing encouraging him to move to Tucson, AZ, in

order to help him run his pizza franchise business. Marriage kept him from finishing a

two-year degree at a local community college. Guy became a manager at restaurants

owned by his uncle and was very successful. He, and his wife, had a dream of opening

their own restaurant. They realized their dream through hard work, saving their money,

and working at extra jobs opening up a pizza restaurant in 1978. For four years, Guy and

his wife ran their restaurant, but the stress and strains of trying to operate a major

business contributed to their divorce. They had a daughter at the time.

The trauma of going through a divorce and selling his restaurant led Guy to a life

change. He spent time getting his life back together, and was able to get a job in the dining

services department at the University of Arizona. He has worked there since 1989. His

explains here his motivation behind this change of location:


94

“One of the motivating reasons for me to come to the University was the fee

waiver. It was not for me, but for my daughter was with the gifted program at

school. I thought this was a great opportunity for me to pay her way through

college. So, I believe that within six months I had signed up non-degree. I started

taking courses just for something to do. I think my first course was a psych class.

Psych 101 or 100 or whatever. It was a general survey class of psychology. It

got me excited. I started taking when I could the six credit limit – the max allowed

under the fee waiver – just for my own knowledge. It was a year into that when I

actually decided to set a goal. I did start out with that.” (Guy, int. 10/3/02, cat. 2,

p. 33)

The rest of Guy’s story is that he finished his degree eleven years later receiving a BS/BA

in Human Resource Management, working his way through the courses at a pace of three-

to-six credits per semester.

Guy is an active learner beyond his drive for formal education. He has an interest

in a number of athletic activities including running, volleyball, softball, and the Senior

Olympics. He is also a member of a sailing club and takes as many opportunities as

possible to get on the water. Guy is, however, like many adult learners in that his

learning is related to his career. He continues to learn about technology, real estate, and

various construction trades which will help him pursue his next career in renovating and

restoring houses.
95

Polo – This energetic, woman, of Mexican heritage, is part of a large family of

active learners. When she talks about her parents, grandparents, and her two brothers and

sister, she glows with pride at the tradition of learning and the accomplishments they

have enjoyed.

“My younger brother has continued his education since he was in high

school, so we have that connection where we can bounce ideas off of each

other. Even though he is my younger brother, he’s always been my

mentor. He has taken a real interest in my education. He places me up on

a pedestal and encourages me constantly, so he’s been a big part of it. (her

continued education)”, noted Polo. (Polo, int. 10/23/01, cat. 14, p. 70)

Polo has faced challenges, as all the other participants in this study. She was a

single parent with three children. She made a choice of being involved in her children’s

activities and schools while she was attempting to finish a degree at a local community

college. It took her eight years to complete her degree, but her persistence paid off. She

was offered opportunities to continue her education at several four-year institutions, but

she chose to attend a business school that is geared toward adult learners.

Polo’s family values education because formal education opportunities have not

been available to them. Polo’s mother completed her high school degree, but her father

had to quit high school to support his family. He worked in the cotton fields to earn a

living. Her mother and father placed a very high value on education for their children

because they did not have the same opportunities. Polo said, “His (her father’s) yearning
96

for education, which was not an option for him, was passed down to his children. He

couldn’t emphasize enough what an opportunity it was to be educated.” (Polo, int.

11/7/01, cat. 9, p. 78)

There is a connection that ties all of Polo’s stories together, and that tie is family.

Her brothers and sister are all active adult learners, and they all support one another in

their learning. Her parents are actively involved in providing emotional and financial

support for their grandchildren’s education. Polo is proud of her accomplishments

because she has done it her way. She has continued to be involved with her children,

pursued her career as an administrative associate, maintained her relationship with her

husband of five years, and continued to learn for her own benefit.

Richard - Richard grew up in San Diego, California, where he was the oldest of

five children in his family. Twelve years separate Richard and his next oldest sibling.

His father was a self-educated engineer and his mother was a teacher. His life as a child

was average, until his father died while Richard was young. He had to quit school and

support his family. Richard’s responsibilities at home made it difficult for him to pursue

his educational goals.

Richard’s mother was always an advocate of education, but, as Richard’s wife,

Marie, explains, she “talked the talk, you know, about education being important, but I

don’t know that they really helped him pursue it.” (Marie, int.12/8/01, cat. 14, p.129).

When Richard was 18 years old, his youngest sibling was still in grade school. They did

not have the resources to support a college education for Richard.


97

Richard went to a community college, completing an Associates of Arts Degree in

Business, and went on to California State Northridge. Richard ended up dropping out of

school. He worked for a while taking classes at a community college for electronics

finally completing an Associates of Science Degree in Electronics. Richard could have

stopped pursuing education, but his drive to learn and achieve was too strong. He

continued to work and take classes in business, but his dream was to be an engineer like

his father. His wife convinced him to change his major and to work toward his

engineering degree at California State Northridge. Richard achieved his dream, after ten

years, of receiving an engineering degree, through his own efforts and the support of his

family and his employer.

Richard is unique for several reasons. He overcame three major challenges that

could have been insurmountable for the average adult learners. First, he was married and

eventually had two children while working on his education. Second, he battled disease

for most of his adult life including lupus, a disease that weakens the immune system, and

melanoma. Third, Richard worked the night shift as an engineer at a missile manufacturing

facility. His evening schedule allowed him lots of quiet time during the day to reflect and

learn, and also allowed him to attend to his medical condition which included trips to the

hospital for radiation treatments and chemotherapy. Richard had many surgeries and

treatments between 1996 and 2003, but he continued to keep a positive attitude. The

melanoma produced many tumors which were removed surgically or treated. Through all

these challenges, Richard maintained a positive attitude. “These problems have changed

my outlook on life. I could be depressed and just give in, but I have become active in
98

fighting this disease. I have given talks to groups and have talked to other patients who

have cancer. I always tell people it’s alright to be scared, but if you keep a positive

attitude, you’re gonna win. Attitude has a whole lot to do with health.”, Richard said.

(Richard, int. 11/18/01, cat 14, p. 104)

Richard died on April 15, 2003 from a brain tumor. He was survived by his wife,

Marie, and two young boys. His life was prolonged by his positive attitude and his drive

to continue learning in spite of overwhelming adversity. Richard provided inspiration for

many as he fought cancer, continued working until his last months, and died in his home

with his family nearby.

Rose – A comparison of Rose to other participants in this study would result in a

number of similarities. The connection to family, the orientation toward learning that was

present in her household as a child, and a drive to learn that is innate. The primary

difference would be that Rose comes from a family where the parents were products of

higher education. Her father has a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology, while her mother has a

Bachelors Degree in Biology. Among her five brothers and sisters, there is a lawyer, a

carpenter, an artist, a customer service specialist, and one who is finishing his degree.

Rose is interesting because of the many self-directed learning activities in which

she participates. Her primary interest is genealogy. This hobby has become a passion.

She began investigating family stories hoping to create a written history of her family for

her son to have. He grandparents were getting older and she feared losing a vital

connection that had been communicated through them. Rose reflected that “if you listen

to something then repeat it, it could be changed, just by the different ways people talk.
99

So that’s what got me started. What I get out of it now is it’s like being a private

investigator. You can spend ten minutes or two hours on it and can find something new

and exciting.” (Rose, int. 12/11/01, cat. 14, p. 133)

Rose’s family has stayed together through many difficulties. She grew up with

her mother, spending some time with her father only in the summer, since her parents

divorced when she was eight years old. Her mother was the consistent influence on her,

although she had stepfathers whom she also came to know.

Rose is a single parent, with a teen-aged boy she supports. She is also a student,

taking classes more for personal enrichment than for the continuation of a degree. Her

career as an administrative assistant at a university department allows her to be emerged

in an educational setting which gives her many opportunities, but she does not see herself

finishing a degree. Her only disappointment is that she feels she is not living up to her

mother’s expectations, since it was common that members of her mother’s family

pursued degrees. “For those of us who did not go on and get a bachelors degree it was

very hard for my mother to take. So for me it was very hard to come to terms with it

myself”, noted Rose. (Rose, int. 12/11/01, cat. 9, p. 135)

Family Members

Some family members were interviewed in this study primarily to gain another

perspective on the experiences of the participants in the study. As explained in Chapter

III, these family members were not screened or selected formally through an application

process. They were identified by the participants as being significant others whom
100

would be able to discuss the participant accurately and honestly. There were three family

members interviewed. Family members from two the five participants were not

interviewed because these individuals were either unavailable or were unable to participate

in an interview. The three individuals interviewed include Amber, Marie, Paul, and

Amber. Profiles of these family members and descriptions of how they influenced the

participants in this study are contained in the next two pages. While these profiles do

describe why they are influential to the participants, their primary contribution to this

study is the data they add to the study. Amber, Marie, and Paul are cited multiple times

throughout the results and conclusions lending greater credibility to themes that have been

developed. They assist in telling the story of the adults offering insights from another

perspective.

Amber – Guy enjoys a close relationship with his daughter, Amber, long after she

became an adult. At an early crossroad in his life, Guy took up running competitively

after he became burned-out from managing his restaurant and was getting through a

divorce. His relationship with Amber continued as they became running partners and

training for races. Guy was very involved in Amber’s education as she excelled in high

school through the gifted and talented program.

Amber has always been an ambitious learner graduating first in her high school

class and going on to college. Guy was right there every step of the way providing

encouragement and support for his daughter athletically, academically, and personally.

After Guy decided to go back to college, he relied on Amber for support and inspiration.

Through the eleven years that Guy went to school and worked full-time, Amber was the
101

person who kept him focused on his goal of a college degree. She was impressed with his

accomplishments. “After watching him go through school, and watching him pull A’s the

whole way, and working 40-80 hours per week. Going to school part time and doing all

of the extra curricular activities of being active in all different types of sports, it really

inspired me because he is just so exceptional.”, Amber recalled. (Amber, int. 4/10/03, cat.

14, pp. 65-66)

Paul – Gail and Paul had known each other for 20 years before they started

dating. They had both been recently divorced at the time and were looking for

companionship. Paul and Gail have been married for over five years and have one child

together, along with each having a child from their previous marriages.

Their children keep them focus on their learning. Gail has been working in their

home for the past few years working part time jobs to make ends meet. Paul has been

employed full time managing food and concession businesses. Paul is considering retiring

from his current career to stay home full-time with the adolescent son, allowing Gail to go

back to work and school. Their common desire to stay close to their children drives their

financial and educational decisions. Paul understands Gail’s drive to go back to her career

as a certified medical assistant, and that her success depends on him taking on the full-

time responsibility with the children.

Marie – Richard met Marie during his second attempt to go to college. Marie was

taking classes to be certified as a legal assistant, which is the profession in which she

continues to be employed. She influenced Richard immediately convincing him that the

business degree he was pursuing would be less valuable to him than an engineering degree.
102

She had come from a family that was very supportive of education and her father was an

engineer as Richard was striving to be. Marie’s family and the influence they had on her

learning motivated her to support Richard as he struggled to complete his degree later in

life. Further, Marie’s parents provided support for Richard which he had missed as his

father died when he was very young.

Marie describes herself as direct in handling and communicating with people.

These skills helped her to give Richard good feedback and work effectively as his

partners. She identified problem-solving skills as one of Richard’s strength, while she is

more philosophical. They pursued different educational paths, but would share with each

other the knowledge they gained from their learning activities. Richard and Marie do not

necessarily always share the same interests, but they worked together very effectively as

a family. (Marie, int.12/8/01, cat. 14, pp. 127-129)


103

Themes

The sixteen data categories were used to generate the descriptive section of this

chapter and the adult learner profiles. The data was then resorted in an effort to identify

themes related to the primary research question: What are the common factors in the lives

of adult learners in this study, which enhance motivation and opportunity for learning?

Themes are focused groupings of data, which better describe the finding of this study.

The following themes were identified:

1. Active adult learners can be identified through their learning accomplishments.

2. Learning accomplishments were achieved in spite of barriers.

3. Participants in this study are motivated through the support of a positive

family environment and individual family members.

4. Positive self-esteem is a characteristic of participants in this study.

5. Active learners in this study displayed quasi-reflective thinking.

6. Active learning environments, identified in this study, provided access to other

adult learners, encouraged problem solving, and supported learner self-esteem.

These six themes are to be overviewed in this chapter. A perspective on the how these

themes provide a new view of active adult learning will be presented in the final chapter.

Theme 1: Active adult learners may be identified through learning

accomplishments. Adult learners for this study were identified by the number of

learning activities in which they were active or were accomplished. In Chapter One,

active adult learners were defined as adults who are successful in their personal lives,

careers, and community as a result of being oriented toward learning throughout their
104

adult lives. (Houle, 1992) Determining that an adult is “oriented toward learning

throughout their adult lives” is difficult, and beyond the scope of this study, however

learning accomplishment of the five learners in this study seemed to be tied to making a

change in the adult’s life. More sophisticated tools may be developed in the future which

would examine the amount of time an adult spends on learning tasks, and the difficulty or

challenge of those activities. Again, the development of such an instrument is beyond the

scope of this study, however the learners in this study were constantly looking for new

learning challenges that advanced their understanding of their favorite learning topics.

This finding may inspire other researchers to pursue to methods of predicting active

learners.

Theme 2: Learning accomplishments were achieved in spite of barriers.

This theme was repeated throughout the lives of all of the participants in this study.

Each of the adults had overwhelming obstacles that stood in the way of learning goals.

Adults can be held back by the responsibilities they assume early in life, and the

consequences of the choices they have made. Polo and Richard are examples of active

adult learners facing these barriers. Polo was a teen-aged mother which was a significant

barrier to her pursuing any advanced degree when completing high school. She survived a

divorce, and the challenge of getting her career started. Polo was remarried seven years

ago. She and her husband have been responsible for raising five children. Polo succeeded

in achieving her learning goals. She found a way to return to school and complete her

bachelor’s degree
105

Richard’s father died when he was an adolescent, forcing him to work odd jobs to

help support his family. Richard’s mother was supportive of him continuing his

education in spite of the fact that they could not financially support his college education.

Richard settled for getting an associates degree in business, but still dreamed of getting a

bachelor’s degree. He was highly motivated, but would have to find the direction and

financial resources on his own. He eventually complete his bachelors degree after ten

years of going to school and working. (Richard, int. 11/18/01, cat. 9, p. 101)

A content analysis of barriers identified by adult learners in this study include

marriage, children, time, health, family commitments, work commitments, unsupportive

supervisors, unsupportive spouses, lack of technology resources, and lack of financial

resources. Adult learners in this study were not asked in the learner questionnaire to

specifically identify all the barriers they had experienced in their lives, so this list is not

all inclusive. Nor were they asked to identify all barriers in the interview. They were

asked what barriers had the greatest impact on their lives, and they identified others

through their stories and experiences that were included in this list. Additionally, it is

anticipated that self confidence may be an unidentified limiting factor as it is easier to

identify more tangible issues.

Richard’s story is especially compelling because the health issues he has faced

have been a significant barrier, even though he never specifically identified health as a

limiting factor. “Many years ago I was diagnosed with lupus which I have been fighting

for some time now. About five years ago, I contracted melanoma cancer. I have been

taking treatments on a regular basis for cancer over the past year, and have had to be
106

treated off and on for cancer over the past five years.” (Richard, int. 11/18/01, cat. 14, p.

104) Battling two major diseases fueled Richard’s desire to live each day to the fullest,

and learn as much as he could for his benefit and for the benefit of his family.

Participants in this study faced the same challenges that any adult faces in life, but their

learning either stems from these barriers, or is enhanced from overcoming these barriers.

Richard, without the challenge of facing disease each day, may not have made the same

learning choices. His desire to have a positive influence on others and make the most of

his life made him an exceptional example of an active adult learner.

Theme 3: Participants in this study are motivated through the support of a

positive family environment and individual family members. It is certainly no secret

that lack of support from family is a major barrier to adult learning. It is interesting to

learn from this study the various kinds of support that is received. There are three major

types of support provided adults in this study. They include 1) parental messaging; 2)

immediate family; and 3) extended family support.

Parental messaging is defined as the communication of positive messages, both

overt and covert, provided by the parents or guardians who influence adults when they

are adolescents. Typical parental messaging could include words of encouragement, role-

modeling, rules within the home, and tutoring by parent figures. Parent messaging existed

in the families of all the participants in this study. The types of parent messaging

identified in this study are listed in Table 8. Guy provides a good example of the parental

messaging he received from his mother. He remembers, “My mother was actually

academically pretty good and pretty gifted. She is the one that actually taught me how to
107

write. She was my big supporter in education….She checked the homework and she

would get involved in school especially in the early years by volunteering. Just, mostly

verbal support, in that ‘we want you to do what we were not able to do’, they would

say.” (Guy, int. 10/3/02, cat. 9, p. 36)

Immediate family support is words and behaviors that come from the

participant’s immediate family, or those family members that are spouses, children,

partners, or other significant people who are within their living unit. Supportive

immediate family within the living unit is the factor that makes learning opportunities

available and helps participants consider acting upon these opportunities.

The obvious way immediate family support is demonstrated is when the

participant pursues a formal degree later in life. This was the case with four of the five

adult learners in this study. Marie, Richard’s spouse, was asked if she would support

Table 8

Parental Messaging and Active Adult Learners


_____________________________________________________________________

Type of Parental Messaging Source

Covet learning opportunities Polo, int. 11/7/01, cat. 9, p. 78


Educational expectations Rose, int. 12/11/01, cat. 9, p. 135
Emphasizing work ethic Gail, int. 10/22/02, cat. 9, p. 6
Family service learning activities Polo, int. 11/7/01, cat. 9, p. 91
Involvement with schools Guy, int. 10/3/02, cat. 9, p. 41
Keeping a close family environment Polo, int. 11/12/01, cat. 9, p. 94
Orienting to educational opportunities Richard, int. 11/18/01, cat. 9, p. 102
Reading in the home Richard, int. 11/18/01, cat. 9, p. 125
Role modeling Richard, int. 11/18/01, cat. 9, p. 104
Rewarding learning accomplishments Rose, int. 12/11/01, cat. 9, p. 135
Support of siblings Gail, int. 7/11/02, cat. 9, p. 9
Teaching learning skills Guy, int. 10/3/02, cat. 9, p. 41
108

Tutoring by parents/guardian Richard, int. 11/18/01, cat. 9, p. 102


Verbal encouragement for learning Rose, int. 12/11/01, cat. 9, p. 135
Verbal praise for learning Richard, int. 11/18/01, cat. 9, p. 102
Volunteering Guy, int. 10/3/02, cat. 9, p. 41
______________________________________________________________________

Richard going back to school again, considering it took ten years for him to obtain his

bachelor’s degree. Marie said,

I would, and I have encouraged him to do that. I know that in the

profession he has chosen, there is a ceiling if all you have is a bachelors. It

took him a long time to get his bachelors. He had to do it on his own. My

parents paid for my education. He was trying to work a job and trying to

get his education. I would love him to go back to school. I don’t know

how he would fit that in, but where there is a will, there’s a way. Maybe

taking just one class per semester. Even if it takes you ten years, you get

the diploma. (Marie, int. 12/8/01, cat. 9, p. 130)

Richard’s primary support was his spouse. The same is true for Gail, whose

husband, Paul, was interviewed in this study. Gail’s parents were also part of her

immediate family support. Gail was married at a young age and soon had a child. Shortly

after the baby was born, she and her husband separated and divorced. Gail had the

responsibility of supporting herself and her child, which she did by working for hotels

and resorts at the time. When her first marriage began to fail, her parents provided

daycare for the child so she could work. Eventually Gail moved back home to live with

them. “She had a second chance. That’s pretty much what you have to do. Especially
109

when you are a young parent, a single parent, you have to try to get another career

started.”, said Paul, Gail’s current spouse. (Paul, int. 10/22/02, cat. 9, p. 32) Gail

completed a two-year degree to become a Certified Medical Technician thanks to the

immediate family support she received.

Extended family support comes from those people in an adult’s life who

influence their learning, whom are not part of their family unit. They may be siblings,

parents, friends, or colleagues. Polo gives us the best proof of the power of extended

family support.

Polo searched for the right educational institution that would cater to her need to

work and raise a family with her husband. She found a university that serves working

adults with evening classes, web-based curriculum for distance education, and adult

oriented teachers.

Polo talked extensively about how her family has supported her learning. She is

especially close to her younger brother. Polo explained, “My younger brother has

continued his education since he was in high school, so we have that connection where we

can bounce ideas off of each other. Even though he is my younger brother, he’s always

been my mentor. He has taken a real interest in my education. He puts me on a pedestal

and encourages me constantly, so he’s been a big part of it.” (Polo, int. 10/23/01, cat. 14,

p. 70) Polo completed her bachelor’s degree after five years of working and going to

school.

Support for learning is not simply made available in the form of formal learning

opportunities, like going to college. Most of the active learning done by adults in this
110

study was non-formal and informal (self-directed). These opportunities are initiated by

the motivations and interests of the learner, but are often influenced by others in the

learner’s environment. Guy, for example, was destined to become a partner in his father’s

plumbing business. As a young man, his father took him on jobs and encouraged him to

pursue an apprenticeship in plumbing. Guy could have easily slipped into this path, but

chose instead to leave California, where he had lived most of his life.

Guy moved to Arizona to work with his uncle in the restaurant business. Guy

found his passion was in restaurant management. He learned from his uncle how to

design, construct and manage a new restaurant through working with him on his chain of

businesses. His uncle was a significant influence on him as he pursued his dream of

building and opening his own restaurant. Guy already had a great deal of knowledge to

share about the construction and project management aspects of the business, and his

uncle helped him become more business minded, effective in managing the books, and

capable of handling personnel decisions. These were all lessons learned outside the

classroom through drive, passion, and hard work. (Guy, int. 10/3/02, cat. 14, p. 35)

Theme 4: Positive self-esteem is a characteristic of participants in this

study. Self-esteem is not a difficult concept to understand. It quite simply is

“confidence and satisfaction in oneself.” (Merriam-Webster, 1996) The expression of

confidence and satisfaction is evident in these participants. Their confidence stems from

their personal and academic accomplishment in the face of challenging barriers and

complications.
111

Guy’s experience in the restaurant business is a great example of gaining

confidence through learning. He was assigned the project management duties of

renovating a steak restaurant building into a pizza parlor. Guy was challenged by this

job, but being around construction his whole life gave him confidence. “That was really a

great experience for me. It gave me the confidence and the knowledge that I needed to

open my own restaurant two years later.” (Guy, int. 10/3/03, cat. 14, p. 29)

Another participant that exudes confidence is Polo. She has worked through

personal challenges her whole life building confidence in herself and her abilities. She used

this confidence to return to school and finish her bachelor’s degree after almost fifteen

years of raising her family, dealing with a divorce, and starting her career. (Polo, int.

11/7/01, cat. 14, pp. 67-70)

For the participant, the satisfaction of learning generates interest in the next

learning project as in any cause-and-effect cycle. Rose takes classes in anthropology and

studies genealogy in her spare time. She talks about her passion for learning as a stream

that rushes to the lowest point. “I’m studying it because it’s something I’m interested in.

I love to read ethnographies. I love hearing about different cultures and, instead of just

having made war, how they lived in their homes, and what they did with their families…I

look back at the different jobs I have had. I took care of children. I ran daycare centers. I

was more involved in people’s families and maybe that’s why I’m interested in

genealogy.” Rose believes that she needs to continue learning throughout her life in order

to become a complete person. (Rose, int. 12/11/01, cat. 2, p. 140)


112

Theme 5: Active learners in this study displayed quasi-reflective thinking.

This seems obvious because we would assume anyone is capable of reflective thinking.

Reflective thinking, we recall from Chapter I, is the type of thinking that is applied to

complex problems, where the right answer is not at hand. Further, it is often cited as the

outcome of formal, higher education. Formal, higher education trains one to question the

difficult problems faced in life and to find potential solutions. Being a critical consumer

of information available in life is a skill that is coveted. (King & Kitchener, 1994; Wood,

1983).

Adult learners in this study were given the Reflective Judgment Inventory (RJI).

This instrument (King & Kitchener, 1994) provides a means for evaluating the decision-

making and reflective thinking skills of the adults. Scores from this study are displayed in

Table 9. The column to the left lists the pseudonym of the five adult learners. The next

three columns – D1, D2, and D3 – list the score the adult learner received for each of the

three dilemmas they were presented to him/her from the inventory during an interview.

The dilemmas, as explained in Chapter III, focus on several challenging topics that may

include the origins of the pyramids, bias in news reporting, creationism vs. evolution, and

the causes of alcoholism in families. These scores are assigned based on two RJI rater’s

assessment of the interview transcripts. The overall stage, as listed in the next column, is

the average of the three individual dilemma scores and relates to one of the seven stages of

the Reflective Judgment Model. See Table 1 for a complete description of the model.

The last column reports the category within the Reflective Judgment Model where

the adult learner’s score falls. These categories describe the reasoning the adult learner
113

used in responding to ill-structured problems. Pre-reflective thinking utilizes the

reasoning that
114

Table 9

Reflective Judgment Scores of Adult Learners

Name Average Score D1 D2 D3 Overall Stage Category

Gail 3 3 2 3 Pre-Reflective

Guy 5 5 6 5 Quasi-Reflective

Polo 3 4 3 4 Quasi-Reflective

Richard 5 4 3 4 Quasi-Reflective

Rose 4 4 5 4 Quasi-Reflective
______________________________________________________________________

knowledge can be absolute and that answers to complex problems exist in the explanation

of authority figures. Quasi-reflective thinking involves reasoning that knowledge can be

uncertain and the adult learner can cite sources for knowledge can differ based on context.

However, the adult learner struggled to form their own conclusions or justify their beliefs

about a complex problem. Chapter II contains a detailed discussion of these categories

and their meaning within the Reflective Judgment Model (pp. 36-37).

These scores on Table 9 provide a view of these adult learners, and cannot be

generalized to any group of adult learners anywhere else. What we do know about

reflective judgment is that adult learners who possess high-level reflective thinking skills

are thought to be highly formally educated, often with terminal or graduate degrees, which

was not the case with any of the adult learners in this study. The level of reflective

thinking displayed, when they were assessed using the Reflective Judgment Inventory

(RJI), was average. These findings demonstrate that the participants develop reflective
115

judgment similarly to those who are able to choose a route of formal higher education.

Their reflective thinking skills come from their motivation to learn and the growth they

experience from overcoming complex problems in their own lives.

Theme 6: Active learning environments, identified in this study, provided

access to other adult learners, encouraged problem solving, and supported learner

self-esteem. There are some commonly accepted aspects of adult learning that have

evolved from theory to accepted principles. One is that adults are experienced, self-

directed learners. When they learn on their own, they capitalize on their preferences of

content, rate, method, and time of day. (Tough, 1979) The reality of working with adults

in a more structured environment is that they can sometimes be unmotivated, dependent,

lacking in direction, and lacking confidence. These behaviors may be due in part to the

fact that they are not free to choose their most preferred learning activity or they are not

proficient in the setting they are in. This would certainly be expected considering a self

directed learning, in a formal or non-formal setting, would have less control, support, and

cannot easily predict the direction of the learning activity. (Cross, 1981; Wlodkowski,

1993)

The findings of this study suggest that learning environments that allow

participants the ability to be self-directed will facilitate greater comfort in the

environment. While it was discovered that learners prefer different levels of activity

within an environment (i.e. Lecturer of speaker vs. discussion groups), the common

thread among active learners in this study is that the environment must have other adult

learners who are in similar circumstances. Richard is a private person who enjoys
116

solitude when he is studying or learning. However, his ideal learning environment

involves other learners in his same situation, in a location that is “away from kids and

away from other distractions.” He believes that, “If I am there to learn, that’s great and

that’s the final criteria.” (Richard, int. 11/18/01, cat. 5, p. 106) Richard’s personal

preference for quiet solitude is overridden by having other learners in the same

environment with a common purpose.

Polo’s notion of an effective learning environment is a formal setting with other

learners where she can engage others along common learning objectives, assert leadership

in a group, and be nurturing to others. This suits the more gregarious personality of Polo.

She gains energy and self-esteem from the feeling of common purpose in a learning setting

where she and others role model effective learning behaviors. She describes an ideal

learning setting were she is part of a group of five or six adult learners. “After taking a

personal inventory, which all students are required to complete, each group meets

together. Groups consist of five or six people. I’ve always been assigned as the leader of

the group. In doing that, it’s a learned behavior in that I was able to recognize the

strengths of all players and use those for the benefit of our product, a paper.”, Polo

described. (Polo, int. 11/7/01, cat. 10, p. 95)

A group setting is also the preferred situation where participants can contemplate

complex problems. Again, adult learners did identify a preference for solitary situations

as where they do their best thinking. Richard identified the time he does his best thinking

as in the middle of the night. (Richard, int. 11/18/01, cat. 15) Polo and Rose like the

morning or the middle of the day, (Polo, int. 11/7/01, cat. 15; Rose, int. 12/11/01, cat. 8)
117

when they are fresh and can focus without distraction. Gail was most effective in the

evening when it’s quiet and the children are sleeping. (Gail, field note, 7/11/02). However,

when questioned about how others affect their decision-making, they felt the chance to

work cooperatively on problems or to pose solutions to a group was preferred. Rose

finds it hard to take a different path when others provide feedback and advice. “They

give their advice. It was a hard thing for me to learn that they can give advice that does

not mean you have to take it. It’s good to take what you need and it’s great to get input

and support when you do make a decision.”, reflected Rose. She noted that she is drawn

to learning settings where there is a common interest between learners and an opportunity

to make friends. (Rose, int. 12/11/01, cat. 15, p. 140)

As noted in theme four, self-esteem is a common quality of an active adult learner.

The learning settings where these active learners participate support their self-esteem, and

again, that can stem from a facilitator or teacher that builds their confidence. Polo would

like a facilitator who builds the self-esteem of the learner, rather than draws attention to

their own expertise and credentials. “I don’t care about seeing the long alphabet behind

their name. (i.e. Phd, ME, etc.) I think the love of learning and teaching is a true passion

and when I look for an instructor, I look for techniques that extend beyond the workbook.

I look for creativity in assignments that enhances my learning.” (Polo, int. 11/7/01, cat. 4,

pp. 95)

Rose provides an example of an instructor who tears down an adult learner’s self-

esteem, by making them self-conscious and disabling them from being able to draw from

their preferred learning style. “I remember I took a class from this one young instructor
118

and he made some little wise crack about your life’s work was being in school, but I’ve

always felt that I could continue school forever and the things I’m in, like genealogy, you

have to study.” (Rose, int. 12/7/01, cat. 2, p. 138)

Learning environments that allow the learner to interact with others, challenge

themselves with complex problems or issues, and support the learners self-esteem

provide the optimum environment for active adult learning. These qualities are not

exclusive to formal or non-formal learning environments. They also apply to self-directed

(informal) learning environments that are not structured or formalized.

Polo’s hobby is photography. She took it up because she is involved in a public

school where the students are teenage parents and the school provides a nursery

environment for the children. During graduation, she started taking pictures of graduating

mothers with their children. “I use my own camera. We hang up a sheet and use a plant

and a stool. There is some creativity involved….Everyone loved the photograph, so we

give the moms the opportunity to do that type of photograph.”, Polo explained. (Polo,

int. 10/23/01, cat. 13, p. 68) All of the elements of a motivating learning environment are

present in Polo’s example. There are others involved in the activity who have a personal

interest; she is being challenged by the creative process and providing a positive outcome

for teenaged parents; and the outcome contributes to Polo’s self-esteem. Polo explained

how she feels about this learning activity. She said, “When I see how proud the moms

and dads are, because there are males involved in the program. When they see their

pictures, it’s a memory for them and they’ve worked really hard for it. So it makes me

feel good.” (Polo, int. 10/23/01, cat. 13, p. 63)


119

Guy spent the last ten years of his life going to classes in pursuit of his bachelors

degree. His attention to a formal educational goal has not diminished his desire to learn in

other areas, assuming the environment is right. Guy’s new learning activity is sailing. “I

am motivated by self interest. I am constantly trying to learn about construction, by

reading books. Same thing with my sailing, because it’s my passion. I read about sailing

and learn about sailing. That’s a fairly recent thing in my life. I’ve only been sailing for

about 15 years. By joining the Tucson Sailing Club and being around those people, I’m

trying to learn even more from others. But what motivates me more is my own self-

interest and seeing what I can do with it”, Guy explained. (Guy, int. 12/29/03, cat. 2, p.

48) Again, the qualities of an active learning environment are present in Polo and Guy’s

stories. The environment involves others with common interests, there are challenges and

complex problems to be solved in an informal manner, and the learner’s self-esteem is

enhanced through success.

Summary

The identification of participants followed the following parameters: participants

must be 35 to 55 years of age, must have little or no post-secondary education, must have

active involvement in a diverse number of learning activities, must represent cultural and

gender diversity, and must live in the Tucson community because interviews would not

be conducted over the telephone or computer. Sixteen learner questionnaires were

completed out of a one hundred potential adult learners with five of these being selected

for the study. Learners were interviewed three times for an hour or less using semi-
120

structured questioning. Sessions were tape recorded as the researcher took field notes and

asked questions. This line of questioning allowed the researcher to assess how adult

learners process and problem solve, which is an outcome of learning. The researcher

successfully scheduled and conducted interviews with three family members who the

adult learners identified in the interview as being influential. These interviews with family

members were also tape recorded and this data was integrated into participant data as a

means of confirming the findings of the study.

The researcher employed a transcription technician who assisted in transferring

tape recorded data to computerized transcripts. The researcher did some of transcription

work in order to become more familiar with the data and to speed up the transcription

process. Data analysis only began only after all the data was organized, page-numbered,

and placed in binders. The researcher read the raw data several times start to finish and

then identified eighteen initial categories. Each cluster of data was assigned a category

identified by the number of that category. These initial categories were done as a first

step so that data could be groups into more manageable groups. Another review of these

initial categories resulted in the six themes that are identified as the major findings of this

study.

Three women and two men offered the opportunity to compare gender as it

relates to lifelong learning. Participants all had either an associates or bachelor’s degree;

however all of those who achieved bachelor’s degrees did so later in life. These adult

learners would not be in this study if they did not seek a wide variety of learning

activities. Activities include discussions, reading, recreation and fitness, photography,


121

home repair, landscaping, art, software and computers, ethics, genealogy, and team

projects, just to name a few.

Themes were developed from the initial categories, through extensive analysis and

data sorting. These themes are focused groupings of data which better describe the

finding of this study.

Theme 1: Active adult learners may be identified through learning

accomplishments. Adult learners for this study were identified by the number of learning

activities in which they were active or were accomplished. In Chapter One, active adult

learners were defined as adults who are successful in their personal lives, careers, and

community as a result of being oriented toward learning throughout their adult lives.

(Houle, 1992) Determining that an adult is “oriented toward learning throughout their

adult lives” is difficult, and beyond the scope of this study, however learning

accomplishment of the five learners in this study seemed to be tied to making a change in

the adult’s life. More sophisticated tools may be developed in the future which would

examine the amount of time an adult spends on learning tasks, and the difficulty or

challenge of those activities. Again, the development of such an instrument is beyond the

scope of this study, however the learners in this study were constantly looking for new

learning challenges that advanced their understanding of their favorite learning topics.

This finding may inspire other researchers to pursue to methods of predicting active

learners.

Theme 2: Learning accomplishments were achieved in spite of barriers. This

theme was repeated throughout the lives of all of the participants in this study. Each of
122

the adults had overwhelming obstacles which stood in the way of learning goals. They

faced the same challenges that any adult faces in life, but their learning either stems from

these barriers, or is enhanced from overcoming these barriers.

Theme 3: Participants in this study are motivated through the support of a

positive family environment and individual family members. There are three major types

of support provided by others for the adults in this study. Parental messaging is defined

as the communication of positive messages, both overt and covert, provided by the

parents or guardians who influence adults when they are adolescents. Immediate family

support is words and behaviors that come from the participant’s immediate family, or

those family members that are spouses, children, partners, or other significant people

who are within their living unit. Supportive immediate family within the living unit is the

factor that makes learning opportunities available and helps participants consider acting

upon these opportunities. Extended family support comes from those people in an

adult’s life who influence their learning, whom are not part of their family unit. They

may be siblings, parents, friends, or colleagues.

Theme 4: Positive self-esteem is a characteristic of participants in this study.

Self-esteem is express in the confidence and satisfaction of the participants in this study.

Their confidence stems from their personal and academic accomplishment in the face of

challenging barriers and complications. The satisfaction of learning generates interest in

the next learning project as in any cause-and-effect cycle but the net result is a more

robust self-esteem with regard to their learning skills and abilities.


123

Theme 5: Active learners in this study displayed reflective thinking. Reflective

thinking is the type of thinking that is applied to complex problems, where the right

answer is not at hand. Further, it is cited as one of the outcomes of formal, higher

education. Formal, higher education trains one to question the difficult problems faced in

life and to find potential solutions. Being a critical consumer of information is a skill that

is coveted. (King & Kitchener,1994; Wood, 1983,) The level of reflective thinking

displayed, when they were assessed using the Reflective Judgment Inventory (RJI), were

at the pre-reflective or quasi-reflective stage. These finding demonstrate that participants

develop reflective judgment similarly to those who are formally educated in a traditional

manner, but that formal education really does help in sharpening and developing these

skills.

Theme 6: Active learning environments, identified in this study, provided access

to other adult learners, encouraged problem solving, and supported learner self-esteem.

Adults are experienced, self-directed learners. When they learn on their own, they

capitalize on their preferences of content, rate, method, and time of day. (Tough, 1979)
124

Chapter V

Conclusions

The conclusions of this study must begin by examining the initial purpose. The

purpose of this study was to examine the attitudes, motivations, preferred resources,

desired settings, and reflective thinking of participants. The attitudes and motivations of

participants in this study are interesting and contribute to the literature. In fact, this

study contributes new ideas to how active adult learners are defined. The findings in this

study do not point to some innate quality that is found in participants that is not present

in others. This study substantiates that attitudes and motivations are manifest by the

environment in which the learner was reared and that in which he/she is struggling to

navigate as an adult.

The primary research question in this study is: What are the common factors in

the lives of adult learners in this study, which enhance motivation and opportunity for

learning? The answer to this question is answered with the following conclusions. First,

active learners, as defined operationally by this study, are further defined by the criteria

in the first conclusion. Three factors, family support, barrier navigation, and pre-

reflective thinking – were common in the lives of adult learners in this study. The

response to the primary research question is further explained throughout this chapter.

Defining Active Adult Learners

Who are active adult learners? The answer to this question is valuable to

practitioner and researchers since it is predictive of who will participate in learning


125

activities, and who will not. The literature, as stated in Chapter II, would have us

identify the typical active adult learner as better educated (formally), younger, has a

higher level of income, Caucasian, and likely to be employed full-time. (Merriam &

Caffarella, 1991, 1999) However, we know this information must be viewed with caution

since it is a compilation of many different studies and hides, through the process of

extrapolation, very rich and substantive variations that are important.

One of the results of this study is the analysis of data that provides greater insight

into the participants. Based on the analysis of the participants in this study, a criteria is

introduced in Table 10 for the purpose of summarizing the characteristics and learning

environment of participants in this study. This criteria is not intended to be predictive of

Table 10

The Criteria of an Active Adult Learner

Criteria A:
Adult learners were raised as adolescents in environments where active learning was
supported and role modeled by family members. The types of support for learning
present in their family environment including parental messaging, immediate family, or
extended family. Attendance and academic accomplishment in primary and secondary
school can be an outcome of this fertile environment.

Criteria B:
Adult learners in this study were motivated through rising above barriers. They worked
through problems with learning and adaptation. The ability to envision solutions, use
education as a vehicle for accomplishing goals, and maintain high self-esteem through
accomplishment of learning goals. A barrier perceived or real is addressed like a goal
challenging the adult learner to rise to a new level of competence.

Criteria C:
Active adult learners in this study displayed quasi-reflective thinking predominantly
(King & Kitchener, 1994) when confronted with unstructured, complex problems. Skills
of deduction, reasoning, and justification may be enhanced with formal, non-formal, and
informal learning.
126

______________________________________________________________________

all adult learners nor is it considered a participation model. It provides criteria that future

researchers may use in identifying adult learners. The criteria must be used with caution,

since it is based on the analysis of the small group of adult learners in this study.

The criteria are meant to be applied collectively to an adult learner. It is possible

to apply these criteria to learners in other studies, but caution must be used in considering

the results because these criteria were developed from the five adults in this study.

Criteria A is supported by the data collected in this study on family support.

The three categories of support for active adult learners, parental messaging, immediate

family, and extended family, were identified in chapter IV, and form the basis for this

category of the criteria. It is the belief of the researcher that family support is the

foundation for an active adult learner as defined for this study (Keintz, 2004). Advocates

of the value of formal education need not be threatened by this finding because the value

of formal education cannot be over emphasized or under valued. However, excelling

academically in primary and secondary education does not guarantee that a person will

become an active adult learner. This researcher found very rich data from the five learners

in this study suggesting the power of this factor for these learners. Years of studies have

linked formal education to achieving goals as an adult learner, (Lorimer, 1931; McGrath,

1938; Kaplan, 1945; Cervero and Kirkpatrick, 1989) but completion of formal education

may be traced to a supportive family environment. The modeling provided to adult

learners in this study as adolescents influenced their work ethic, motivation, and the

choices made as adults.


127

Criteria B acknowledge that barriers experienced by active adult learners, in this

study, made them stronger. Those adult learners who face and overcome the challenges in

life build self- esteem and utilize learning as a means for picking themselves up. This is in

alignment with the notion commonly held among adult educators that the profession

operates at the fringe, where there is the greatest need for education. Marriage, children,

time, health, family commitments, work commitments, unsupportive supervisors,

unsupportive spouses, lack of technology resources, and lack of financial resources were

identified through content analysis as barriers for these active adult learners in this study.

However, they are only barriers to pursuing educational endeavors. The daily challenges

of work and life, that may not be educationally related, contributed to the self-esteem of

the active adult learner in this study. These challenges sharpened their critical and

reflective thinking skills and challenged them to consider all available opportunities.

Criteria C challenges the education community to be inclusive of non-formal and

informal learning when making a case that formal education builds skills for critical inquiry

and reflective thinking. The active adult learners in this study all scored predominantly in

the quasi-reflective stage of the Reflective Judgment Model. (King & Kitchener, 1994)

This is important because reflective judgment is desirable as an outcome of formal

learning. It is noted that many of the learners in this study had completed associates and

bachelor degrees, mostly later in life and through significant sacrifice, and this formal

education most likely enhanced their reflective judgment abilities. It must be conceded

that informal and non-formal learning, along with overcoming numerous ill-structured

problems in daily life, also contributed to reflective judgment. The Reflective Judgment
128

Inventory (RJI) should be highly valued as a measure of an adult’s learning ability and

may be an accurate predictor of an active adult learner, when results are cross-referenced

with age and educational experience.

Conclusions Related to Motivation

Active adult learners stand out because they are perpetually learning. When facing

a complex life or work dilemma, their natural orientation would be to consider all the

potential approaches to solving the problem. Most of these solutions, in the active

learner’s consideration, involve the enhancement of knowledge, skill, or certification

provided by education and learning. The act of choosing and implementing one of these

solutions likely leads to resolution of the problem and increased self-esteem. This

somewhat simplistic, cyclical construct provides an effective explanation of the process

and steps. However, the missing element is still where learning motivation comes from.

A helpful metaphor is a watermill on a river. When the river is low, the mill has

potential to accomplish the task at hand – milling grain into flour or generating power –

but without water, the mill has no motivation. When the water level grows, the millwheel

turns from the flow of the water in perpetual motion. The active adult learner’s

watermark is always high for learning and their process of addressing problems through

education is set in perpetual motion. In many cases of adult learners, their flow is limited

or not constant because their self-esteem is not such to put the motivational process into

constant motion. The finding in this study is that the active adult learner’s self-esteem

leads to confidence and motivation when facing an educational challenge.


129

This study was modeled after the classic study of participation, The Inquiring

Mind , by Cyril Houle (1961) which provided a great deal of motivation for research on

participation and self directed learning. Houle interviewed adult learners in his study and

developed categories of participation, including the goal-oriented learner who learns to

meet specific goals; the activity-oriented learner whose motivations have little or no

bearing on the content of the activity; and learning-oriented learner who seek to learn for

enjoyment. These categories were established to make the point that the motives of adult

learners vary considerably.

The active adult learners in this study demonstrated all three categories of

participation. It would be impossible to categorize them as a certain type of learner using

the Houle typology. Learning motivation is different depending upon the learning

activity. Each learner demonstrated and articulated the capacity to utilize all three

categories of motivation, which may also be indicative of an active adult learner. There

may indeed be a preferred orientation for each learner, but the active learner is capable of

drawing from all three motivations depending on the circumstance.

Tools for Identifying Active Adult Learners

Identifying active adult learners is not an exact science, but there are descriptive

characteristics that can be tools for researchers and educators. The discussion of the

Reflective Judgment Inventory (RJI), under Category C of the criteria, argues in favor of

reflective judgment being predictive of active learning. Those adults that are identified as

pre-reflective or quasi-reflective under the criteria of the Reflective Judgment Model

(King & Kitchener, 1994) are inclined to be active adult learners. A condition of using
130

this tool is to control for the age of the participants. Research suggests that adult learning

peaks between ages 25 and 34 years of age. (Courtney, 1991) This researcher arbitrarily

set the age limit at 55 years of age so that adult learners could reflect accurately on their

peak years as learners. Age is important because it is a confounding factor with

measuring reflective judgment. According to King & Kitchener (1994), “Age brings with

it more opportunities for a broad range of life experience.” (p. 160)

The value of the learner questionnaire in this study was that it provided the

researcher with a look at the participant’s learning from a holistic perspective that was

inclusive of formal, non-formal, informal learning. The learner questionnaire worked well

for the purposes of this study, and is a model for other questionnaires or surveys that

may be developed that would quantify and place weights on learning activities providing a

guide to determine if a person is an active adult learner. An example of an instrument of

this type currently available is the Self Directed Learning Readiness Inventory

(Guglielmino, 1977) which focuses only on informal learning.

Lessons About Learning Environments

There were some lessons about learning environments that can be taken away

from this study. A clear theme that was evident throughout this study was that adults

enjoy learning from each other. This characteristic was documented under theme 6 in

Chapter IV. Active adult learners in this study referred to their enjoyment of sharing

ideas with other learners, working in groups, and the process of active learning supports

the process of reflectively thinking through problems in a trial-and-error fashion. These


131

are techniques commonly practiced among enlightened adult educators who understand

how adults are unique.

The aspect that contributes to the literature of classroom learning for adults is that

adult learners in this study identified role modeling as an effective method. The role

models who are most effective are other adult learners. Self-confidence can be enhanced

when other adult learners serve as the source of knowledge in formal, non-formal, or in

self directed learning situations. There were learners who expressed a preference for

problem solving alone or who needed solitude, but the ability to bounce ideas off of

others and to share in a common solution or project helped them to gain self confidence.

Self-esteem, generated through the adult learner realizing they contribute to the process of

knowing, facilitates the flow of active adult learning, as describe in an earlier discussion in

this chapter.

Researcher Reflexivity

The researcher in a qualitative study is the instrument and is assumed to bring

biases into a study. The researcher must identify those biases and examine how they may

affect the outcomes of a qualitative study. This researcher can identify several biases that

have affected this study which include leading the participants in some interviews, and

the personal interest of participant in this study leading to acquiescence.

The transcription process is very revealing of the quality of questioning that is

used. Early interviews in this study were transcribed by a professional clerical assistant

employed by the research while interview conducted later in the data collection process
132

were transcribed by the researcher. Transcripts from the professional clerical assistant

were not closely analyzed until the process of analysis had begun, however when the

researcher was personally transcribing data, poorly structure, leading, and unclear

questions became evident. Questioning techniques were improved with time, but in the

case of some participants, the data had already been collected. These questions were

identified in the transcripts, but some of this data was still used in the analysis.

Participants for this study were recruited through the School of Extended Studies

at the University of Arizona, through emails sent to colleagues at the same campus, and

through contacts at a local community college in Tucson, AZ. Some of the participants

who were selected for the study were already acquainted with the researcher. These

participants may have chosen to provide data supportive of the premise of the study.

An existing relationship with a participant does not constitute a bias initially, because any

adult learner may want to be treated favorably by the researcher and thus, acquiescence

the study. This is certainly a concern for this study but acquiescence cannot be

completely controlled for. Every effort was made to not lead the participants with

questions and it was explained that certain answers or information was not being sought.

They were aware that they were considered to be active learners and that was why they

were selected for the study.

Implications for the Research Community


133

There are several new concepts introduced in this study that may contribute to

the research community. Specifically, the development of a criteria for active adult

learners updates past research and provides an opportunity for other researchers to test

the criteria it establishes.

The classification of support from an adult learner’s family as parental messaging,

immediate family, and extended family provides greater structure for this factor, and the

extensive discussion of how powerful family support is in the scope of developing an

active adult learners. The overall implications do not contradict what is already

determined to be important in the educational support of adolescence. However, this

research further supports parental and family involvement in a child’s education as it has

longer term affects that result in the child becoming an adult who lives a enjoyable and

accomplished life as an active adult learner.

Barriers to education have different meanings in different contexts; however

barriers in the context of this study generally had a positive affect on the adult learners.

In fact, these educational barriers challenged learners to envision their success and utilize

education as a means for overcoming these challenges. Not all learning is motivated in this

manner, but certainly the affect of these barriers is additive to the overall literature of

active adult learners.

The use of the Reflective Judgment Model, and the Reflective Judgment Inventory

(RJI) (King & Kitchener, 1994) added perspective to this study. The RJI provided a

means for describing the outcome of life-long learning. This will add the opportunity for

future researchers to utilize the RJI with predominantly non-formal and informal learners.
134

A challenge for adult educators is giving credibility to self-directed and informal learning

as a legitimate form of learning among the world of all educators. The demonstration that

these activities add to the ability of learners to think reflectively and provide critical

analysis of complex problem-solving would add the credibility of these learning activities

and would elevate the value associated with those who are active in these processes. The

integration of these tools in this study paves the way for this future study to be

conducted. Finally, as described earlier in this study, the RJI and the learner

questionnaire can contribute to future studies that seek to identify and define the active

adult learner.

An interned outcome of this qualitative study is to tell a story of an average group

of adult learners to the depth not often attained by adult educators. As other adult

educators read this study, they will reflect on these findings and may choose to examine

additional questions that beg to be answered through research. Some of these questions

may include:

• Is there value in the use of the Reflective Judgment Inventory for predicting if

adults are active learners?

• What are the specific, long-terms affects of family support on active adult

learning?

• Are there certain types of family support that are more powerful than others as

predictors of active adult learners?

• What is the long-term affect of family support on self-esteem, development, or

socioeconomic status?
135

• Is the criteria introduced in this study predictive of active adult learning?

• How could the criteria be expanded or reorganized to be of greater assistance to

adult learners?

Final Thoughts

This researcher is proud to follow the path carved by Cyril Houle, (1961) in his

book, The Inquiring Mind. Houle knew that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to

paint the picture of adult learners through national census and survey data because of

their diversity. He chose to get to the heart of the matter by talking to adults individually

and examining the intricacies of their lives, motivations, and dreams. This study is not

intended to provide the answer to what constitutes an active adult learner. It is written to

tell the story of five adults whose lives have been changed immeasurably by their passion

for learning. Expressing the richness of their life experience is the underlying value of this

research.

We have learned from Malcolm Knowles (1975) that adult educators are

facilitators of adult learning. The knowledge that adults bring has value and depth and

should be treated with respect and care. This researcher has learned, through this study,

to respect the knowledge of adults and to care for the manner in which it is extricated for

the benefit of others. The key to this process is building the self-esteem of the adult

learner, challenge them to use what they have learned, and provide the proper

environment for this knowledge and wisdom to improve their lives and those for whom

they are responsible. It is the opinion of this researcher that all adult educators must
136

conduct research life this in order to truly understand those whom they are charged to

serve.

Summary

Who are active adult learners? One of the important results of this study is the

analysis of rich and substitutive data that provides greater insight into the active adult

learner. The criteria provides a standard by which future research may be developed;

however it must be approached with caution, since it is based on the analysis of the small

cluster of adult learners in this study. The following are the criteria identified by this

study:

Criteria A: Active adult learners were raised in environments where active

learning is supported and role modeled by adults. Some or all types of support are

present including parental messaging, immediate family, or extended family (Chapter

IV, p. x). Attendance and academic accomplishment in primary and secondary school is

more the result or outcome of this fertile home environment, than the sole indictor of an

active adult learner.

Criteria B: Active adult learners are motivated through rising above barriers to

their prosperity and learning. Their vision, when confronted with challenges, includes

learning and adaptation. The ability to envision themselves achieving their goals, using

education as a vehicle for achieving success, and the acquiring self-esteem gained from

achieving a learning objective is cyclical. A barrier, perceived or real, is addressed like a

goal challenging the active adult learner to rise to a new level of competence.
137

Criteria C: Active adult learners displayed pre-reflective and quasi-reflective

thinking (King & Kitchener, 1994) when confronted with unstructured, complex

problems. These skills of deduction, reasoning, and justification may be enhanced by

higher levels of formal learning. Thus, formal post-secondary education is a chosen

activity that may enhance adults abilities to be reflective problem solvers.

Conclusions related to motivation

Active adult learners stand out because they are caught in perpetual learning

motion. The active adult learner is assumed to have self-esteem. When facing a complex

life or work dilemma, a person’s natural orientation would be to consider all the potential

approaches to solving the problem. The active adult learner’s desire for learning and their

process of addressing problems through education is set in perpetual motion. The finding

in this study is that the active adult learner’s self-esteem leads to confidence and

motivation when facing an educational challenge.

Houle (1961) interviewed adult learners developing categories of participation,

including the goal-oriented learner; the activity-oriented learner; and learning-oriented

learner. These categories were established to make the point that the motives of adult

learners vary considerably. The active adult learners in this study demonstrated all three

categories of participation and are capable of drawing from all three motivations

depending on the circumstance.

Tools for Identifying Active Adult Learners


138

Identifying active adult learners is not an exact science, but there are descriptive

characteristics that can be tools for researchers and educators. The discussion of the

Reflective Judgment Inventory (RJI) in criteria C argues in favor of reflective judgment

being predictive of active learning. Those adults that are identified as pre-reflective or

quasi-reflective under the criteria of the Reflective Judgment Model (King & Kitchener,

1994) are inclined to be active adult learners. Another possible tool is the learner

questionnaire which worked well for the purposes of this study, and could a model for

other questionnaires or surveys that may be developed.

Lessons about Learning Environments

A clear theme that was evident throughout this study was that adults enjoy

learning from each other. Active adult learners in this study referred to their enjoyment

of sharing ideas with other learners, working in groups, and the process of active learning

supports the process of reflectively thinking through problems in a trial-and-error

fashion. These are techniques commonly practiced among enlightened adult educators

who understand how adults are unique.

Researcher Reflexivity

The researcher in a qualitative study is the instrument and is assumed to bring

biases into a study. The researcher must identify those biases and examine how they may

affect the outcomes of a qualitative study. This researcher can identify several biases that

have affected this study which include leading the participants in some interviews, and

the personal interest of participant in this study leading to acquiescence.

Implications for the Research Community


139

There are several new concepts introduced in this study that may contribute to

the research community. Specifically, the development of criteria for active adult learners

updates past research and provides an opportunity for other researchers to test the

criteria it establishes.

The classification of support from an adult learners family as parental messaging,

immediate family, and extended family provides greater structure for this factor, and the

extensive discussion of how powerful family support is in the scope of developing an

active adult learners.

Barriers to education have different meanings in different contexts; however

barriers in the context of this study generally had a positive affect on the adult learners.

In fact, these educational barriers challenged learners to envision solutions and utilize

education as a means for overcoming these challenges. Not all learning is motivated in this

manner, but certainly the affect of these barriers is additive to the overall literature of

active adult learners.

The use of the Reflective Judgment Model, and the Reflective Judgment Inventory

(RJI) (King & Kitchener, 1994) added significant perspective to this study. The

examination of active adult learners in this study provided a means for describing the

outcome of life-long learning. This will add the opportunity for future researchers to

utilize the RJI with predominantly non-formal and informal learners.


140

References

Alreck, P.L. & Settle, R.B. (1995). The survey research handbook: Guidelines

and strategies for conducting a survey (second edition). Burr Ridge, ILL: Irwin

Professional Publishing.

Anderson, R. & Darkenwald, G. (1979). Participation and persistence in

American adult education. New York: College Entrance Examination Board.

Arbeiter, S. (1977). Profile of the adult learner. Journal of Adult Education, 6 (1),

1-12.

Aslanian, C. & Brickell, H. (1980). Americans in transition: Lifechanges as

reasons for adult learning. New York: College Entrance Examination Board.

Bejot, D. D. (1981). The degree of self-directedness and the choices of learning

methods as related to a cooperative extension program. Unpublished doctoral

dissertation, Iowa State University, Ames, IA.

Belenky, M. F., Clinchy, B. M., Goldberger, N. R. , and Tarule, J. M. (1986).

Women’s way of knowing: The development of self, voice, and mind. New York: Basic

Books.

Bogdan, R. C., & Biklen, S. K. (1998). Qualitative research in education: An

introduction to theory and methods. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Boshier, R. (1971). Motivational orientations of adult education participants: A

factor analytic exploration of Houle's typology. Adult Education, 21 (2), 3-26.


141

Boshier, R. (1973). Educational participation and dropout: A theoretical model.

Adult Education, 21, 3-26.

Belanger, P. & Valdivielso, S. (1997). The emergence of learning societies: Who

participates in adult learning. Terrytown, N.Y.: Pergamon and UNESCO Institute for

Education.

Boshier R.& Collins, J. B. (1985). The Houle typology after twenty-two years:

A large-scale empirical test. Adult Educational Quarterly, 35 (3), 113-130.

Brockett, R. G., & Hiemstra, R. (1991). Self-direction in adult learning:

Perspectives on theory, research, and practice. London and New York: Routledge.

Brookfield, S. (1984). Self directed adult learning. Adult Education Quarterly,

35(2), p. 15-27.

Brookfield, S. (1985). Understanding and facilitating adult learning. San

Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Brookfield, S.J. (1987). Developing critical thinkers: Challenging adults to

explore alternate ways of thinking and acting. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Brookfield, S.J. (1988). Conceptual, methodological and practical ambiguities in

self-directed learning. In H.B. Long and Associates, Self directed learning: Application

and theory. Athens, Georgia: Adult Education Department, University of Georgia, 11-

38.

Brookfield, S.J. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco:

Jossey-Bass.
142

Burgess, P. (1971). Reasons for adult participation in group educational activities.

Adult Education, 22, 3-29.

Caffarella, R. S. (1992). Psychosocial development of women: Linkages to

teaching and leadership in adult education. Information Series No. 350. Columbus, Ohio:

ERIC Clearinghouse of adult, career, and vocational education.

Caffarella, R. S. (1996). What women have taught us about teaching adults.

Journal of Staff Development, 14(2), 30-34.

Caffarella, R. S. & Caffarella, E. P. (1986). Self-directedness and learning

contracts in adult education. Adult Education Quarterly , 36, 226-234.

Candy, P. C. (1991). Self-direction for lifelong learning: A comprehensive guide

to theory and practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Carp, A., Peterson, R., & Roelfs, P. (1974). Adult learning interests and

experiences. In K. P. Cross and J.R. Valley (eds), Planning non-traditional programs. San

Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Cartwright, M. (1935). Ten years of adult education. New York: Macmillan.

Cervero, R. M. & Kirkpatrick, T. E. (1989). Determinants of participation in

adult education. Paper presented at the 1989 annual conference of the American

Educational Research Association, San Francisco, March 29, 1989.

Charnley, A. H. (1974). Research in adult education in the British Isles. London:

National Institute of Adult Education.

Chene, A. (1983). A concept of autonomy: A philosophical discussion. Adult

Education Quarterly, 34, 38-47.


143

Churchman, C.W. (1971). The Design of Inquiring Systems: Basic Concepts of

Systems and Organizations. New York: Basic Books.

Crookson, P. S. ( 1987). A framework for theory and research on adult education

participation. Adult Education Quarterly, 36 (3), 130-141.

Cross, K. P. (1978). A critical review of state and national studies of theneeds

and interests of adult learners. In C. Stalford (ed.), Adult learning needs and the demand

for lifelong learning, Washington, D.C.: The National Institute of Education.

Cross, K. P. (1979). Adult learners: Characteristics, needs, and interests. In R.E.

Peterson and Associates (eds.), Lifelong learning in America. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Cross, K. P. (1981). Adults as learners: Increasing participation and facilitating

learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Courtney (1991). Why adults learn: Towards a theory of participation in adult

education. Routledge: London and New York.

Darkenwald, G. G., & Merriam, S. (1982). Adult education: Foundations of

practice. New York: Harper-Collins.

Darkenwald, G. G., & Valentine, T. (1985). Factor structure of deterrents to

public participation in adult education. Adult Education Quarterly, 35 (4), 177-193.

Darkenwald, G. G., & Valentine, T. (1986). Measuring the social environment of

adult education classrooms. Proceedings of the adult education research conference, no.

27. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University.

Digest of education statistics 1985-1986. Office of Educational Research and

Improvement, U.S. Department of Education.


144

Dimmock, K. (1985). Models of adult participation in informal science education

(Doctoral dissertation, Northern Illinois University). Dissertation abstracts international,

46, 2519.

Dressel, P., & Mayhew, L. (1954). General education: Explorations in evaluation.

Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Essert, P. (1950). Creative leadership in adult education. New York: Prentice-

Hall.

Furedy, C. & Furedy, J. (1985). Critical thinking: Toward research and dialogue.

In J. Donald & A. Sullivan (Eds.), Using research to improve teaching, (New Directions

for Teaching and Learning, No. 23), San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Gardner, J. W. (1990). On leadership. New York: The Free Press (a division of

Macmillan).

Geisler, K. K. (1984). Learning efforts of adults undertaken for matriculating into

a community college. Doctoral Dissertation: Texas A & M University.

Gibbon, E. (1907). The autobiographies of edward gibbon, printed verbatim from

hitherto unpublished mss. New York: F. Defau & Company.

Glenn, D. D. (1992). The relationship of graduate education and reflective

judgment in older adults. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Indiana University,

Bloomington, IN.

Goldberger, N.R., Tarule, J.M., Clinchy, B.M., and Belenchy, M.F. (eds.) (1996).

Knowledge, difference, and power: Essays inspired by women’s ways of knowing. New

York: Basic Books.


145

Gray, W.S. & Munroe, R. (1929). Reading interest and habits of adults. New

York: Macmillan.

Gramsci, A. (1985). Selections from prison notebooks. (Q. Hoare and G. Smith,

eds. and trans.) New York: International Publishers.

Guglielmino, L.M. (1977). Development of the self-directed learning readiness

scale. Dissertation abstracts international 1978, 38: 6467A.

Guglielmino, L. M.; Guglielmino, P. J. (1988). Self directed learning in business

and industry. In H. B. Long and Associates (eds.), Self directed learning: Applications

and theory. Athens: Adult Education Department, University of Georgia.

Guglielmino, P. J.; & Choy, C (2001) Readiness for self-directed learning, job

characteristics, and workplace performance: An austrialian sample. In H. B. Long &

Associates, Self-directed learning and the information age. The University of Oklahoma,

Norman, OK.

Habermas, J. (1984). The theory of communicative action. Vol. 1: Reason and

the rationalization of society. Boston: Beacon Press.

Habermas, J. (1987). The theory of communicative action. Vol. 2: Life world

and system: A critique of functionalist reason. Boston: Beacon Press.

Hiemstra, R. & Sisco, B. (1990). Individualized instruction: Making learning

personal, empowering, and successful. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hiemstra, R. (1994). Self-directed learning. In T. Husen & T.N. Postlethwaite

(Eds.), The international encyclopedia of education (second edition), Oxford: Pergamon

Press.
146

Hiemstra, R. (1996). What's in a word? Changes in self-directed learning language

over a decade. Paper presented at the International Symposium on Self Directed

Learning, West Palm Beach, FL.

Hiemstra, R. & Burn, J. (1997, September). Self directed learning: Present and

future. Paper presented at the First World Conference on Self-Directed Learning.

Montreal, Canada.

Houle, C. O. (1961). The inquiring mind. Madison: University of Wisconsin

Press.

Houle, C. O. (1984). Patterns of learning: New perspectives on lifespan

education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Houle, C. O. (1992). The literature of adult education: A biographic essay. San

Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Johnstone, J. & Rivera, R. (1965). Volunteers for learning: A study of the

educational pursuits of American adults. Chicago: Aldine.

Jones, J. W. (1995). In the middle of the road we call our life: The courage to

search for something more. New York: Harper Collins.

Jordon, J. V. (1997). Women’s growth in diversity. New York: Guilford Press.

Josephson, J. S. (1982). Feminine orientation as a mediator of moral judgment.

Dissertation abstracts international, 50, 751.

Kaplan, A. (1945). Socio-economic circumstances and adult participation (in

educational pursuits of American adults. Chicago, Ill: Aldine.


147

Kasworm, C. E. (1983). An examination of self-directed contract learning as an

instructional strategy. Innovative Higher Education, 8 (1), 45-54.

Kelton, J. , and Griffith, J. (1986). Learning context questionnaire for assessing

intellectual development. Unpublished report, Davidson College, Davidson, N.C.

Kerka, S. (1994). Self-directed learning: Myths and realities. (on line) Eric

Clearinghouse. Eric identifier: ED365818.

Kim, K. K., Collins, M., Stowe, P. & Chandler, K. (1995). Fourty percent of

adults participate in adult education activities: 1994-1995. Washington, D.C.: National

Center for Educational Statistics, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S.

Department of Education.

King, P.M. & Kitchener, K.S. (1994). Developing reflective judgment:

Understanding and promoting intellectual growth and critical thinking in adolescents and

adults. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Kitchener, K. S. (1983). Cognition, metacognition, and epistemic cognition: A

three-level model of cognitive processing. Human Development, 4, 222-232.

Knowles, M. (1955). Adult education in the U.S. Adult Education, 4, 67-77.

Knowles, M. (1975). Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers.

Cambridge Book Co., New York.

Knowles, M. (1980). The modern practice of adult education. From pedagogy to

andragogy. (Rev. ed.) Chicago: Follett.


148

Kopka, T.L.C. & Peng, S.S. (1993). Adult education: Main reasons for

participation. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Educational Statistics, Office of

Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education.

Kratz, R. J. (1978). The effect of programs which foster self-directed learning on

the dropout rate, the length of stay, and the preferences for self-directed learning of adult

basic education students. Doctoral Dissertation, State University of New York.

Kuhn, T. (1962). The structure of scientific revolutions (third edition) . Chicago,

IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Lawson, J. M. (1980). The relationship between graduate education and the

development of reflective judgment: A function of age or education experience.

Dissertation abstracts international, 47, 402B.

Lehmann, I. (1963). Changes in critical thinking, attitudes, and values from

freshman to senior years. Journal of Educational Psychology, 54, 305-315.

Lehmann, I. (1968). Changes from freshman to senior years. In K. Yamamoto

(Ed.), The college student and his culture. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Levinson, D. J. & Levinson, J. D. (1996). The season’s of a woman’s life. New

York: Ballantine.

Long, H. B. (1983). Adult learning: Research and practice. New York:

Cambridge.

Lorimer, F. (1931). The making of adult minds in a metropolitan area. New

York: Macmillan.
149

Maher, F. A., and Tetreault, M. K. (1994). The feminist classroom. New York:

Basic Books.

McGrath, E. (1938). The adult student in Buffalo. Buffalo, N.Y.: Buffalo

Foundation.

Mentkowski, M., & Strait, M. (1983). A longitudinal study of student change in

cognitive development, learning styles, and generic abilities in an outcome-centered liberal

arts curriculum (Final report to the National Institute of Education, Research Report No.

6). Milwaukee, WI: Alverno College, Office of Research and Evaluation.

Merriam, S.B., & Brockett, R. G. (1997). The profession and practice of adult

education: An introduction. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Merriam, S. B. & Caffarella, R.S. (1996). Learning in adulthood (2nd Edition). San

Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Merriam-Wester (1996). Merriam webster’s collegiate dictionary. Springfield,

MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.

Mezirow, J. (1990). Fostering critical reflection in adulthood: A guide to

transformative and emancipatory learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco:

Jossey-Bass.

Miller, H.L. (1967). Participation of adults in education. A force field analysis.

Boston: Center for the Study of Liberal Education for Adults, Boston University.

Mish, F. C. (Ed.) (1996). Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (10th Edition).

Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Inc.


150

Morstain, B. R., & Smart, J. C. (1974). Reasons for participation in adult

education courses: A multivariate analysis of group differences. Adult Education, 24 (2),

83-98.

Moses, S. (1971). The learning force: A more comprehensive framework for

educational policy (occasional paper, no. 25). Syracuse, N.Y.: Publications in Continuing

Education.

Newman, M. (1979). The poor cousin: A study of adult education. London:

Allen & Unwin.

Pascarella, E. (1989). The development of critical thinking: Does college make a

difference? Journal of College Student Development, 30, 19-26.

Piaget, J. (1952). The origins of intelligence in children. New York: International

Universities.

Piaget, J. (1966). Psychology of Intelligence. Totowa, N.J.: Littlefield, Adams.

Piaget, J. (1972). Intellectual evolution from adolescent to adulthood. Human.

Pirttila-Backman, A.-M. (1993). The social psychology of knowledge reassessed.

Toward a new delineation of the field with empirical substantiation (Annales Academiae

Scientiarum Fennicae). Dissertationes Humanarum Literarum 68, Academia Scientiarum

Fennica, Helsinki, Finland.

Pirttila-Backman, A.-M. , & Kajanne, A. (2001). The development of implicit

epistemologies during early and middle adulthood. Journal of Adult Development, 8(2),

81-97.
151

Pratt, D. D. (1988). Andragogy as a relational construct. Adult Education

Quarterly, 38 (3), 160-181.

Ruben, H., & Ruben, I. (1995). Qualitative interviewing. Thousand Oaks, CA:

Sage.

Rubenson, K. (1977, March). Participation in recurrent education: A research

review. Paper presented at a meeting of the National Delegates on Developments in

Recurrent Education, Paris.

Scanlan, C., & Darkenwald, G. (1984). Identifying deterrents to participation in

continuing education. Adult Education Quarterly, 34 (3), 155-166.

Sheffield, S. B. (1964). The orientations of adult continuing learners. In D.

Solomon (ed.), The continuing learner. Chicago: Center for the Study of Liberal Education

for Adults.

Steele, J. (1986). Assessing reasoning and communication skills of post secondary

students. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Educational Research

Association, San Francisco.

Suttle, B. B. (1982). Adult education: No need for theories? Adult Education, 32

(2), 104-107.

Tough, A. (1967). Learning without a teacher. Educational research series, no. 3.

Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Tough, A. (1978). Major learning efforts: Recent research and future directions.

Adult Education, 28 (4), 250-263.


152

Tough, A. (1979). The adult learning projects: A fresh approach to theory and

practice n adult learning. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Turner, C. W. (1997). Psychosocial barriers to black women’s career

development. In J. V. Jordan (ed.), Women’s growth in diversity. New York: Guilford

Press.

Valentine, T., & Darkenwald, G. G. (1990). Deterrents to participation in adult

education: Profiles of potential learners. Adult Education Quarterly, 41 (1), 29-42.

Verner, C. (1964). Definition of terms. In G. Jensen, A. A. Liveright, and W.

Hallenbeck (eds.), Adult education: Outlines of an emerging field of university study.

Washington D.C.: Adult Education Association.

Williams, W. E. , & Heath, A. E. (1936). Learn and live: The consumer's view of

adult education. London: Methuen.

Wood, P.K. (1983). Inquiring systems and problem structures: Implications for

cognitive development. Human Development, 26, 249-265.


153

Appendix A
Learner Questionnaire

A. Contact and Personal Information:

1. Name: ____________________________________________________________
(Last) (First)
2. Evening Phone: _______________________DaytimePhone___________________

3. My current age in years is:


____Under 20____20-24 ____ 25-29___30-34___35-39___40-44___45-50 ____50 +

4. U.S Ethnic Group or Nationality:


____Multiracial American ____Hispanic American
____African American ____White American
____Native American ____Asian American
B. Work History:
1. Primary Occupation:___________________________________________________
2. Number of years employed in your primary occupation: _________
3. Have you been employed in your current occupation your entire work life?
Yes ____ No ____
4. If you answered “no” on the previous question, please list any former occupations and
years worked. If you answered “yes”, move on to question #5
_____________________________Yrs:________
5. In your primary occupation, is there a requirement of continuing education? Yes __No
__
6. Please describe any continuing education requirements for certification, license, or
continued employment?____________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________

7. What work-related educational activities do you participate in that are not required?
________________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

C. Formal Education History:


Formal education is educational activities offered through an institution or organization
that awards credits, diplomas, degrees, certificates or licensure for completion of a
program of study. The content of formal education is structured and presented by a
qualified instructor, professor, teacher, or a designee under their supervision.
154

Please indicate all formal education you have completed. You may indicate more than
one.
Formal Education
Completed Degree(s) (if applicable)

1. ___8th Grade N/A


2. ___Junior High School (10th Grade) N/A
3. ___High School N/A
4. ___Graduation Equivalency Degree (GED) N/A
5. ___ Trade School (i.e. Vocational-Technical)________________________________
6. ___ Military Training School ____________________________________________
7. ___ Associates Degree(s)_______________________________________________
8. ___ Bachelors Degree(s)________________________________________________
9. ___ Masters Degree(s)__________________________________________________
10. ___ Professional Degree(s) (dental, medical)_________________________________
11. ___Doctoral Degree(s)__________________________________________________
12. ___Other Formal Education______________________________________________
13. ___ Please describe:____________________________________________________

D. Non-Formal Education Activities:


Non-formal education is defined as educational activities that are voluntary and organized
in a structured manner, but the learner is not provided with credits, diplomas, degrees,
certificates or licensure for completion.

Please mark the sources and list the types of non-formal educational activities from the
past and present in which you have been active.
Example:
Public Libraries meet with the library board; attend workshops; tutor kids in reading
skills

Non-formal activity source Types of activities

1. ___ Art and Hobbie Centers_______________________________________


2. ___Community Education _______________________________________
3. ___ Community Leadership _________________________________
4. ___ Community Recreation _________________________________
5. ___ Continuing Education _______________________________________
6. ___Correctional Institute _______________________________________
155

7.___ Cultural Centers/Organizations__________________________________


8. ___ Employment Union Education__________________________________
9. ___ Fraternal Organizations _________________________________
10. ___Health and Wellness Agencies_________________________________
11.___Literary Societies ___________________________________________
12. ___Non-Credit Enrichment Courses________________________________
13. ___Professional Association Activities______________________________
14. ___ Public Libraries___________________________________________
15. ___ Religious Education _______________________________________
16. ___ Senior Citizen Center _______________________________________
17. ___ Service Organizations ___________________________________
18. ___ Professional Association Meetings_______________________________
19. ___ Other.____________________________________________________
20. ___ Other._______ _____________________________________________
21. ___ Other.____________________________________________________
22. ___ Other.____________________________________________________

23. Estimate the frequency for an average month in which you have participated in any of
the non-formal educational activities selected above during the past year. Count all
individual meetings within the series. (i.e. A weekly Rotary meeting is four
activities/month)

__1-5 __ 6-10 __ 11-15 __ 16-20 __ 20 or more times per month.

24. Please describe in a few sentences one of the non-formal educational activity that you
participate in the most.
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
156

E. Informal Education Activities:


Informal education is learning not involving an organization or institution where the
learner independently directs their own interacts with resources in a deliberate way to
fulfill personal learning goals.

Please indicate the types of informal learning in which you choose to participate for
personal development and occupational enrichment. Try to identify only those activities
in which you participate routinely. Remember, informal educational activities are:
• self-directed
• unstructured by another individual, institution, or organization,
• provided without tangible rewards or credit, and
• participated in routinely (at least monthly).

Question: Please select an informal (self-directed) educational activity in which you


participate frequently. You may choose one identified above. Describe how often you
participate and what you have learned from this activity.
Selected Activity: _______________________________________________________
Description of individual benefits:___________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
157

Appendix B

Reflective Judgment Dilemmas

The Origins of the Egyptian Pyramids:

Most historians claim that the pyramids were built as tombs for kings by the ancient
Egyptians, using human labor, and aided by ropes, pulleys, and rollers. Others have
suggested that the Egyptians could not by themselves have built such huge structures, for
they had neither the mathematical knowledge, the necessary tools, nor an adequate source
of power. They claim that the Egyptians were aided by visitors from other worlds.

The Objectivity of News Reporting:

Some people believe that news stories represent unbiased, objective reporting of news
events. Others say that there is not such a thing as unbiased, objective reporting, and that
even in reporting the facts, the news reporters project their own interpretations into what
they write.

Creation vs. Evolution:

Many religions of the world have creation stories. These stories suggest that divine beings
created the earth and its people. Scientists claim, however, that people evolved from
lower animal forms (some of which were similar to apes) into the human form known
today.

The Cause of Alcoholism:

Some researchers contend that alcoholism is due, at least in part, to genetic factors. They
often refer to a number of family and twin studies to support this contention. Other
researchers, however, do not think that alcoholism is in any way inherited. They claim
that alcoholism is psychologically determined. They also claim that the reason that
several members of the same family often suffer from alcoholism is due to the fact that
they share common family experiences, socioeconomic status, or employment.
158

Appendix C
Consent Form
An Examination of Active Adult Learners
The purpose of this study is to examine active adult learners with concentration on their learning
processes, reflective thinking, decision-making, and participation in learning.
Research Procedure:
Subjects in this study have already completed a learner questionnaire profiling their educational
background and learning experiences. Upon the subject agreeing to continue, a total of three meetings of
approximately one hour will be scheduled between the researcher and the subject. During the first meeting, the
subject will be asked if they have any questions. Subjects will be provided with an overview of the study and will
be administered the Reflective Judgment Inventory (RJI) in their first session. The RJI is administered by
presenting subjects with four complex ethical dilemmas. After the interviewer reads the dilemmas to the subject
and they read along on a provided script, the subject is asked a series of questions. Some questions are standard for
each dilemma however the interviewer is free to ask follow up questions for clarification. These interviews are
tape recorded, transcribed, and the transcripts are sent to a private rater service outside Arizona. The rating will
produce a score, which corresponds to a scale on the Reflective Judgment Model.
Subsequent interview sessions will consist of the interviewer posing questions to the subject in a
somewhat structured manner. These questions will require the subject to describe learning preferences, explain
information provided in the learner questionnaire, and provide general analysis of previous and current learning
experiences. The subject will have the option of not responding to questions that may cause discomfort. As in the
initial RJI interview, responses will be tape recorded, and transcribed for analysis.
Subjects will be asked to write a journal to record any post-interview thoughts, experiences, or questions
that may aid the researcher. The method for journal writing will be agreed upon mutually between the researcher
and subject. The researcher may request permission of the subject to observe him/her in a learning situation
(classroom, workshop, etc.); or may request permission to interview significant other individuals (instructors,
spouses, co-workers, etc.) regarding the subjects learning processes and preferences. These additional
observations and/or interviews will be determined during interview sessions with the subject and will be mutually
agreed upon.
Interviews will be scheduled in a location that is convenient to the subject and the researcher, and can
facilitate confidentiality.
Incentives:
Subjects for this study will be paid $30 for the required minimum of three interviews, plus journaling
activities associated with these interviews. Payment will be made in cash following the third interview.
Interviews will be approximately one hour, and but may vary slightly in length depending on the progress made.
The researcher may require additional interviews. The subject will be compensated at a rate of $10 per hour for
additional sessions mutually agreed upon by the researcher and the subject. Subjects participating in this study
will be allowed to read a draft of the final research document and will be asked to volunteer any comments of
thoughts. Subjects have the potential of to gaining a better understanding of their own approach to complex
ethical dilemmas on a daily basis and their individual learning habits and processes.
Confidentiality:
Subjects in this study will not be identified individually in the text of any resulting document from this
study. Subjects will be asked to identify a pseudonym (different name) for the study, which will allow the
researcher to maintain confidentiality while printing quotes. RJI scores will be published, but will be associated
with the corresponding pseudonym of the subject. Significant others interviewed in this study will also be
identified with pseudonym and confidentiality will be maintained in a similar manner as for the subject.
Agreement:
My participation is voluntary. I understand that I may refuse to participate at any time, and will not
result in penalty or loss of benefits to which I am otherwise entitled. Compensation for subjects will be prorated
according to the number of hours the subject participated in the study. (Based on a rate of $10/hour)

(Print)
Name: ________________________________________
Address:______________________________________

Signed: _________________________________________________________ Date:


_______________________

Phone:
159

______________________________________________________________________________________
160

Appendix D
Semi-Structured Question List
(Utilized for two interview sessions)

General Questions
• What is the educational background of your family? Parents? What degrees were
earned?
• How would you describe the educational interests of your parents? What influence
did they have on you?
• What motivated you to participate in this study?
• What are your personal goals?
• What role do you see education playing in your personal life?
• Why are you enrolled in formal/non-formal courses at Extended University?
• What motivates you to enroll in educational activities? (Explore motivation for
education based on the learner questionnaire, and their educational experience.)
• In your current occupation, what kinds of educational activities are provided for the
development of job knowledge and skill?
• What incentives do you receive for continuing education or expanding job skills in
your career?

Targeted Questions
Learning Processes:
• Please select a meaningful learning experience from your learner questionnaire, and tell
me about it.
• Why was this experience meaningful to you? What elements of this experience made it
appealing? What did you learn from this experience?
• Based on your learning experience at Extended University, what teaching methods
have you found to be most beneficial to your learning?
• What do you see as the role of the instructor, facilitator, or leaders in your extended
university course? What do you feel is your role in the process of learning?
• What do you, as the learner, bring to the course?
• What methods are most effective in helping you learn? How do you learn best?
(Explain what is meant by method, if necessary.)
• What was the role of others in the process of learning? What affect do they have in
your personal efforts to learn more?

Reflective Thinking/Decision-making:
• When are the times when you do your best thinking? (i.e. “In the shower. While
exercising.)
• Do you feel your educational experiences have affected your ability to think and
reflect effectively? If yes, please explain.
161

• Please describe for me the last time you were faced with a complicated question or
problem that required a great deal of energy to determine a solution. Please describe
this situation.
• What is the process you go through mentally when you are faced with a challenging
and complex problem? (Use an example here if possible.)
• Where have you learned to apply this approach to solving problems?
• Do you believe every problem has a correct solution? Please explain why you said
(yes) (no).
• How do other people affect your decision-making process?

Participation in learning
• What motivates you to learn?
• What motivates you to want to pursue learning activities such as those you have
identified in your learner questionnaire? Allow them to reference their learning
questionnaire if necessary.
• Describe for me what you feel people in your life would say about your participation
in education?
• Who do you feel are the greatest supporters of your learning activities? Why?
• Who do you feel are non-supporters of you learning activities? Why?
• How did you arrive at the decision to participate in ___________ as an activity?
• What factors, if any, could make your participation in learning more difficult?
• What factors contribute to you desire to participate in learning activities.
162

Appendix E

Reflective Judgment Inventory Questions

AFTER READING ONE OF THE FOUR REQUIRED ETHICAL DILEMMAS, THE


SUBJECT IS ASKED:
• What do you think about these statements?

IF THE PERSON CAN ARTICULATE A POINT OF VIEW ABOUT THE ILL-


DEFINED
PROBLEM:
• How did you come to hold this point of view?
• On what do you base that point of view?
• Can you ever know for sure that your position is correct? How? OR Why not?

IF THE PERSON CANNOT ARTICULATE A POINT OF VIEW ABOUT THE


ILLDEFINED PROBLEM:
• Did you ever have a point of view on this issue? Why not currently?
• Could you ever say which was the better position? How? OR Why not?
• Will we ever know for sure which is the better position? How? OR Why not?
• When two people differ about matters such as this, is it the case that one opinion is
right and one is wrong?

IF YES: What do you mean by “better”? What makes one opinion better?
IF NO: Why not?
• How is it possible that people have such different points of view about this subject?
• How is it possible that experts in the field disagree about this subject?