The Four Contexts of Motivation

Malcolm Knowles’ research in adult motivational learning produced four “distinct contexts”; Practical, Personal, Experiential, and Idealistic. The Practical context is motivated by a direct desired benefit result received from the learning such as a specific employment position, for financial wisdom and gain, or to apply the learning towards greater competency and confidence in making life decisions in situations anywhere from family to work, or even building that dream house that may have previously thought to be unattainable.

The Personal context involves motivation directed by self fulfillment goals to overall better oneself and therein the quality of life. An adult student may for example want to learn in this context to increase self worth. Experiential learning differs from the other contexts in that one draws from real-life and past experiences motivated by a desire for renewal by consolidating with more current and forward ideas with the goal of improving and refreshing their experience.

The final Idealistic context motivation attracts those who just desire to continuously learn for the sake of the ongoing discovery of knowledge and new ideas throughout their lifespan. Learning wine tasting may be a venture for this type of learner. My learning motivation is Experiential. Professionally I have experienced a long career in the Human Resources field and held BA degree positions despite the fact that I did not have one. I do have my PHR but have learned mostly in a hands-on context. I have experienced both successful and unsuccessful situations during my career.

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My motto during those times became ‘‘fake it until you make it! ”. That attitude eventually caught up with me and forced me to face what I was missing. It took my losing a couple of positions to overcome the denial I was in. I know that I need this degree to enhance my performance and definitely for organizational development. I am know on a serious mission to complete this goal and believe attending Ashford University will give me the competency, knowledge and confidence I need to be successful resulting in a much happier and less stressful lifestyle.

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