motivation recognize the power of the learner’s environment—instructional interactions and structures, relationships, and broader social and cultural experience—to affect motivation, engagement, and goal attainment (e.g., Anderman and Anderman, 2010). This chapter integrates findings from disciplines that offer complementary perspectives on these issues (psychology, anthropology, and sociology) to obtain a more complete understanding of where to focus efforts to increase adults’ persistence with learning.1 The framework for the chapter, shown in Figure 5-1, specifies the multiple dimensions of persistence and puts at the center the question of how to support it through the design of effective learning environments.

Box 5-1 identifies principles that are reasonable to use and further study to determine how best to support adults’ persistence in developing literacy given current research. The principles are derived mainly from decades of research with students in school settings, adolescents in programs outside school, adults in workplace training, and adult behavior change more generally. Studies of high school dropouts, community college and university students, and adults in literacy education were included when available. The principles must be studied further, however, with adults needing to improve their literacy since they have for the most part not been included in the research studies. The chapter concludes with needs for future research, which are summarized in Box 5-2.


An impressive array of contributors to individual motivation has been identified in psychological studies, among them self-efficacy (e.g., Bandura, 1977; Eccles et al., 1983), self-control (e.g., Findley and Cooper, 1983), goal orientations and task choice (e.g., Ames, 1992; Nicholls, 1984; Pintrich and Garcia, 1991; Urdan and Maehr, 1992), interest (e.g., Alexander, Kulikowich, and Jetton, 1994; Renninger, Hidi, and Krapp, 1992; Schiefele, 1996a; Wade, 1992; Wade et al., 1993), self-regulation (e.g., Butler and Winne, 1995; Pintrich and DeGroot, 1991; Pintrich, Marx, and Boyle, 1993; Schunk and Zimmerman, 1994; Zimmerman, 1989), self-concept of ability (Eccles et al., 1983), and others. Before examining these constructs in greater depth, there are several general points to note. First, each factor, although distinguishable and discussed separately, interacts with the others in complex ways to influence motivation to persist. For instance,


1The most profound area of difference among these three disciplines lies in how the relationship between individuals and social systems is conceptualized. The different fields use different terms to discuss motivation, resilience, and persistence. These different terms connote unique meanings specific to the theoretical underpinnings of each field, and so the distinctions are retained in this chapter to signify important differences among the various perspectives that are likely to be useful for conceptualizing effective practices.

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