Expectancy and Value as Factors of Motivation in Adult Learning

Current theories of motivation integrate the elements of needs and goal model and highlight the factors internal to the human motivation. Behavioural model mainly focuses on the external factors of human motivation and assume that human beings can be motivated through incentives (Barkley, 2010; Merriam & Bierema, 2014). Need driven motivation model assumes that intrinsic human needs are the fundamental drivers of human motivation. As a result, this theory indicates that a person may be interested in learning only when he/she satisfies his/her lower order needs. Brophy (2004) indicated that many factors that affect adult learning can be organized in expectancy and value model. Expectancy and value model shows that effort that an individual is willing to invest in a certain task is a product of expectancy and value. This model assumes that people do not invest effort on a certain task when one of these elements is missing entirely. Similarly, people do not like to attempt to tasks that they do not enjoy or that do not lead to something they value (Barkley, 2010).
When people think that they cannot succeed on a particular task, they do not make effort on such activities. According to this model students’ motivation is highly influenced by factors that they think important and what they can accomplish. When people lose hopes they do not have motivation to engage in learning or any other productive activity. Therefore, confidence on the success of learning is very important for students than their actual abilities on learning process. When students have high confidence on the success on learning, they have high level of motivation for engaging learning process. Such phenomenon leads to active participation in learning activities in the class room environment. Though expectancy plays a significant role in students’ motivation, value also becomes a key variable in motivating students in learning activities (Cross, 2003; Brophy, 2004). Currently, many adult students in the world attempt to receive college or university education because they recognize the value of learning and the degree for getting social reputation and employment. Therefore, in this short posting, I would argue that both expectancy and value are important to motivate adult learner in the learning process.
Considering the above analysis, I would also argue that expectancy and value model helps instructors to design teaching strategies that motivate adult learners in learning process. For example, to create expectations among adult learners, an instructor can describe the importance of the lesson for career progress at the beginning of the lecture. To create the value for learning, an instructor can describe the importance of the degree in getting employment opportunities and career advancement. An instructor can also provide a description to adult learners about the current trends in the labour market and necessary competencies to perform on a particular job (Finlayson, 2014; Brinkey, Undated). Furthermore, an instructor should create confidence to adult learners about their successful completion of studies at a given time. This expectancy and value model can also be used by instructors to make interventions to students who have low level expectancy on success and confidence on success on their studies. Considering the above factors, I would argue that expectancy and value model integrate both external and internal motivation to create active learning environment in the class room.


Barkley, E. F., (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint.
Brophy, J.E., (2004). Motivating students to learn. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Brinkley, I., (Undated). Defining the knowledge economy, Knowledge economy program report,retrieved from http://www.theworkfoundation.com/assets/docs/publications/65-defining, on 30th August 2016.
Cross, K.P., (2003). Techniques for promoting active learning. Mission Viejo, CA: League for Innovation in the Community College
Dale, R., (2005). Globalization, knowledge economy and comparative education. Comparative education, 41(2), 117-149.
Finlayson, J., (2014). The changing world of post-secondary education. Retrieved from http://www.bcbc.com/bcbc-blog/2014/the-changing-world-of-post-secondary-education,
on the 30th August 2016
Merriam, S.B., & Bierema, L.L., (2014). Adult Learning linking theory and practice. CA: John Wiley & Sons Inc.


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