“Examining the Links Between Self-Perception and Adult Learning: Highlighting the Parallels for Educators and Learners.”
Kling, MR, 'Examining the Links Between Self-Perception and Adult Learning: Highlighting the Parallels for Educators and Learners.', The IISES International Interdisciplinary Conference Proceedings, 15-18 April, Palermo, Sicily, pp. 1-29. ISBN 978-80-905241-0-1 (2012) [Refereed Conference Paper]
This paper is based on an exploratory study about self-perception and its affects upon adult learners. It explored the question of why adults often believe it will be difficult for them to engage in formal learning, and in particular, the extent to which self-perception plays a vital role in this process. Research examining adult and workplace learning is plentiful; however, there is a paucity of conceptually sound and methodologically rigorous research that addresses the relationship between learner self-perception and motivation to learn. The major contribution of this research to knowledge and practice was to provide insights into the thinking undertaken by learners during the learning process, as well as the mechanisms they use to internalise their thoughts and which may affect their future processes of, and attitudes towards, learning. The study employed a qualitative research paradigm focusing on developing a ‘rich’ understanding, based on the experiences of participants, of why things happen and the meaning that participants themselves ascribed to the events. A multi-method design was used involving semi-structured interviews, questionnaires and participant observation. The theoretical perspective employed for the study was ‘Grounded Theory’. An inductive rather than deductive approach was used with inferences being drawn from the data after rather than before it was collected. The sample for the exploratory study involved 66 participants (30 female, 36 male). Data analysis involved interrogation of the full data sets
(notes of interviews, questionnaire responses, and observation notes) in order to identify and report both the unique and common issues and themes provided by respondents. Five major conclusions are drawn that warrant further research. First, there is a mutually interactive cycle involving self-perception (how we view ourselves and believe the world views us), our feelings (emotions, including motivation) and behaviour (including our engagement in learning). Second, there is a strong, overt and mutual relationship between self-perception as a learner and learning success. Third, for adults, self-perception as a learner is improved by previous acknowledged success. Fourth, the greater our self-perception as a learner, the more ‘risk’ we are prepared to take with respect to our learning, and as a consequence, the greater our willingness to engage in a variety of learning events and environments. Finally, reflection appears to be the most powerful way of influencing our self-perception as a learner.