literacy, such as task enjoyment, perceived task difficulty, and expectations for success, and how these attitudes in turn relate to literacy outcomes.
Research to identify the conditions that affect motivation to enroll in adult literacy courses. The effects of compulsory enrollment on motivation and learning should also be studied. The circumstances and incentives that affect decisions to enroll in literacy courses needs to be determined both to influence enrollment and to identify moderators of instructional effectiveness. In the job context, for instance, organizations often require their employees to attend job-related training programs, but the mandatory enrollment can promote feelings of external control and reduce motivation during training. Findings by Baldwin, Magjuka, and Loher (1991), Guerrero and Sire (2001), and others (see Mathieu and Martineau, 1997), for example, show that employees who are not allowed to decide whether to attend an organizationally sponsored or supported training program reported lower levels of motivation for training than employees who were allowed to participate in the enrollment decision. Consistent with motivational theories that emphasize self-determination and findings on the role of participation in goal setting, adults who are allowed to participate or control the decision are also more likely to report higher levels of training commitment, to allocate more time and effort to attending classes, and to spend more time engaged in on-task learning activities than adults who are not allowed choice over enrollment.
Development and implementation of support systems for motivating persistence. In educational settings, a student’s family and peers are often identified as key influences on learning motivation. In the working adult’s environment, family members, supervisors, and coworkers also exert important influences on motivation related to training and development. Research is needed to determine if sustained engagement with learning is helped by establishing appropriate expectations about the amount of time and effort that will be required to meet the learners’ literacy goals and by providing support for overcoming logistical difficulties. Encouraging significant others to participate in pretraining could also help to clarify the demands and the role of social support for learning and practice.
A final point about needed research on the barriers to persistence is critical: although research on individual motivation, engagement, and interest is useful, it is unlikely that adolescents and adults with pressing social, familial, and economic demands on their lives will make the time and effort necessary to persist unless strategies are in place to help them cope in significant and sustained ways with these demands. Adult literacy programs can offer significant and sustained means of supporting persistence. The contexts, texts, tasks, systems, and structures of adult literacy instruction require as much research-based attention as do the individuals who must persist in learning.