Date of Award

May 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Professional Studies


Information Science and Technology


Art P. Thomas


Cohort, Confucian learning philosophy, Doctoral students, Motivation, Syracuse University, Working practitioners

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


This doctoral study explores the motivational orientations of working practitioners pursuing a professional doctoral program who are former and current DPS-IM program students at Syracuse University, School of Information Studies. The found motivational orientations are compared to Confucian philosophy principles of self-cultivation illustrated in The Great Learning (DaXues`å>{t) which is considered the first of a set of Four Books (Sishusl`t). The manuscript's structure consists of a brief of three principles, followed by eight steps that promote individual self-cultivation. Researchers frequently utilize these steps as a connection between civil conduct applied to social and political order (e.g. Keenan, 2011, p. 37). This study uses this Confucian philosophical framework to reveal self-cultivation components related to the motives and aspirations of this select group; Western older adult learners. This study also aims to bridge Eastern motivation theory with Western approaches, making a contribution to both motivational theory and adult education fields of study.

This research utilized semi-structured interviews of twenty one DPS-IM students (80.77% participation). Collected data revealed that the majority of the participants were working professionals who have been in their field for at least 10 years. The interview data revealed that self-cultivation was found to be the greatest motivational factor for this study group followed by self-improvement, self-transformation, and sense of responsibility; which are all supported by Confucian learning philosophy found in The Great Learning.

This study suggests that even though in modern times, a 2000 year-old Eastern philosophy of learning is synonymous with the motives of adults seeking further education regardless of their cultural background.


Open Access