Chapter 3

Who participates and why?

  1. Adult learning has never had neat boundaries like age, mission, vision, delivery systems, and goals and so on. This leaves it open and flexible to whatever is the need.
  2. Knowing who is participating and understanding why they’re participating in a volunteer process is important to continue to pave the way to continue to motivate a newer generation to do the same.
  3. Pick up on the newer trends and needs of the community.

The Who

What was found based on the NORC study done in Chicago? This study described participation in formal and informal education activities assess attitudes and opinions held by adults concerning education, deliver methods in communities and a focus on young adult learners.

Present day article can be found here:

  1. What were the results?
  2. National studies of formal participation: please view chart p. 57-58 Pages 57-58
  3. Non-formal and informal participation – was divided into three studies of participation rates.
    1. Credential program (institutions)
    2. Business or industry training
    3. Community organizations – highest in participation. Why?


Why adults do or don’t participate

One approach was to ask adult learners what makes them participate in learning activities.

  1. Surveys – most answers to the why adults participate are due to job related motives. Another reason is due to life transitions. Therefore it is safe to conclude the main motives are to better themselves for better careers.
  2. Motivational Orientations of Learners – Experiment of 22 adults engaged in various forms of continuous learning.
    1. Houle – conducted his research and concluded his typology of three classes: goal oriented learners, activity oriented learners and learning oriented participants.
    2. Boshier – concluded on adult learning involving 7 factors: communication, social contact, educational preparation, professional advancement, family togetherness, social stimulation and cognitive interest.
    3. Fujita-Starck – found Houle’s scale reliable to differentiate students and their motive for participation within a university environment.
  3. Barrier to participation –
    1. Contentment or satisfaction with their present state
    2. Internal and external barriers – Johnson & Rivera, Valentine

i.      Lack of time

ii.      Lack of money

iii.      Lack of motivation

iv.      Influences beyond individuals control

  1. Darkenwald and colleagues

i.      Lack of confidence

ii.      Lack of course relevance

iii.      Low personal priority

iv.      Time constraints

v.      Cost

vi.      Personal problems

vii.      Personal health issues

  1. Adding Sociological Lens to Explanations of Participation
    1. This field studies why some adults choose to participate in learning and others do not

i.      Motivation

ii.      Attitudes

iii.      Beliefs

iv.      Behaviors

v.      Position in the life cycle (can be interpreted as social status)

vi.      Hall and Donaldson, 1997 – “can be understood in terms of societal processes and structure, institutional processes and structure and individual consciousness and activity”

Problematizing the concept of participation

This area questions the previously viewed theories and opinions on why or why not adults participate in learning.

  1. Crowther – conceived four assumptions:
    1. participation is a good thing
    2. participation equals formal learning
    3. learners are abstract, not socialized, individuals
    4. there are barriers to participation, not resistance


Participation in learning activities within adult learners can vary in all kinds of ways according to different variables that can either enhance or distract learners from their learning goal or objective.

Taking it to the Word:

In your own words answer the following questions listed below. Please cite references and scriptures to back up your claim:

  1. What part of this lesson could you as an adult learner relate to the most? Was it a barrier or a conductor? Please explain your answer in 5 or more sentences.
  2. Choose a theory or scale and describe why you think it was the best out of all the case studies, theories and/or scales to better understand why people won’t participate in church ministries or bible studies.
  3. Define the 4 areas that Crowther intended to convey as important and how is it relevant with Christian life-long learners. Please use scripture to back up your answer

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