The Self-Directedness and Motivational Orientation of Adult Part-Time Students at a Community College

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Teaching and Leadership


Roger Hiemstra


Continuing education, Participation, College education, Onondaga Community College

Subject Categories



Increasing numbers of adults are attending college on a part-time basis, consistent with a blended life plan of concurrent activities involving work, education, leisure, and family responsibilities. By virtue of the fact that adult college attendance is usually voluntary, a research premium has been placed on reasons for participation. Self-directed learning has also emerged as a primary focus of adult education research. This kind of learning activity, planned, conducted, and evaluated primarily by the individual learner, is seen by many as an important component of a blended life and learning plan.

The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between part-time students' perceptions of self-directed learning readiness and their ascribed reasons or motivational orientations for participation in college education.

Ninety-five part-time students from Onondaga Community College, all of whom were at least 25 years old, participated in the study. The mean age of the sample was 35.17 years, 65.3% were female, and 66.3% indicated that high school was their highest completed level of formal education. Each subject was administered the Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale (SDLRS) and the Education Participation Scale (EPS).

Findings indicate a significant, positive correlation between the motivational orientation of Cognitive Interest and self-directed learning readiness (r = .31; p < .05), as well as a number of significant, positive correlations (p < .05), between Cognitive Interest and factors of the SDLRS identified by the author of the instrument. Both Cognitive Interest and self-directed learning are linked in the literature to a growth or life space orientation for meeting the challenges and changes of adult life. All other motivational orientations were negatively correlated with self-directed learning readiness. Gender emerged as a possible influencing variable, with females significantly (p < .01) more ready for self-directed learning, and significantly more inclined to identify Cognitive Interest as their primary reason for participation.

It is suggested that both instruments are valuable research and diagnostic tools, and that a determination of self-directed readiness and motivational orientation can help to match student characteristics with appropriate activities, courses, programs and policies. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)


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