Motivating Adult Learners
The Basic Skills Agency today launches new research into what motivates adults with poor basic skills to improve them. The survey, commissioned by the Adult Basic Skills Promotion Task Force (set up following the publication of the Moser Report, A Fresh Start), is called Getting Better Basic Skills - what motivates adults.
For the first time in a published survey we have asked adults themselves why and how they want to improve their literacy and numeracy. The findings break down many assumptions previously held by educationalists. Assumptions such as that adult basic skills learners are intimidated by computers or that setting formal tests and qualifications as targets is demotivating are overturned. Most adults asked said both computers and tests would be incentives. It is apparent that people want to learn on their own terms and that by recognising and accommodating this, learning strategies can make progress tackling the crisis in adult basic skills that this country faces.
MORI conducted the research on behalf of The Basic Skills Agency and worked with them and Ufi Ltd to develop the questionnaire. The research focuses on people's perceptions of their own skills, why they want to improve their skills, their access to learning programmes, the content of the programmes and what would encourage them to try and improve their skills. Significant findings include:
- a third of adults think that their basic skills need improving;
- 29% of adults questioned who said they would like to improve their basic skills would definitely take up a basic skills course and 42% said they probably would do so [yet, significantly, of the 7 million adults in this country with poor basic skills only around 5% are currently enrolled in a programme];
- the main reasons for wanting to improve basic skills are both emotional ("to feel better about yourself/ your skills") and practical ("to be better at everyday tasks which involve basic skills");
- the majority of adults (41%) asked would prefer teaching to be in their own home;
- most adults would prefer to learn with a teacher however ICT facilities are also very important;
- factors that would motivate adults to improve their basic skills include being able to learn on a computer, being able to improve computer skills and basic skills at the same time, getting a qualification and being able to attend a course near home.
The research clearly indicates that there is an existing interest in improving basic skills among those in need. Whilst this is encouraging, it is also clear, that only by considering what the learners want, will it be possible to make progress in achieving the targets set out in the Moser Report, A Fresh Start.
Alan Wells, Director of the Basic Skills Agency said:
'It's clear from this survey that we need to spend more time asking adults how, where, when and why they want to learn. For all too long we've been trying to make adult learners do things our way. Go to the courses and classes we decide to put on. Yet only about 1 in 20 of the estimated 7 million adults with poor literacy and numeracy ever join a course or go to a class. Asking potential learners what they want might mean that what we provide reaches more than the small proportion we reach today.'
- Getting Better Basic Skills is available free of charge by calling the Basic Skills Agency on 0870-600 2400 or faxing 0870-600 2401 or writing to: The Basic Skills Agency, Admail 452, London, WC1A 1BR
- The findings of this survey will be useful for anyone involved in local or regional action planning both in terms of developing promotional campaigns to reach participation targets and also in terms of evaluating what further diversity of provision might be advantageous in any particular area
- The Basic Skills Agency is the national development agency for literacy, numeracy and related basic skills in England and Wales. Our Patron is Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal and our Chairman is Sir Claus Moser KCB CBE FBA. The Director of the Agency is Alan Wells OBE. We're a company limited by guarantee and a registered charity. We're also a not-for-profit organisation. By Basic Skills we mean 'the ability to read, write, and speak in English/Welsh and use mathematics at a level necessary to function and progress at work and in society in general.'
- Ufi Ltd is the government's flagship initiative for lifelong learning which is creating the learndirect online learning network. Its mission is to boost individuals' employability and organisations' competitiveness by inspiring existing learners to develop their skills further, winning over new and excluded learners and transforming the accessibility of learning in everyday life and work. Ufi Ltd is committed to exploiting information and communications technology (ICT) to make learning more widely accessible than ever before.
- In February 2000 MORI conducted the research using their General Public Omnibus Survey. A total of 2072 adults in Great Britain were approached for interview, of whom 602 completed the survey. Field work was carried out by MORI /Field & Tab on MORI's Omnibus using CAPI. Interviewers were provided with a list of twelve addresses within each point (selected from the 641 Parliamentary constituencies). All interviews were conducted in the home, with only one interview per household. No incentives were offered to respondents.
- The research was commissioned on the recommendation of the Adult Basic Skills Promotion Task Force that was set up following publication of The Moser report on basic skills A Fresh Start. One of the actions suggested by the task force was to carry out a survey to find out what basic skills learners themselves have to say about what motivates them to learn. Members of the Adult Basic Skills Promotion Task Force are : Alan Wells (Director of the Basic Skills Agency and Chair of the Adult Basic Skills Task Force), Sir David Nicholas, Sir Claus Moser, Martin Howarth (Dfee), Mel Brown (DFEE), Jenny Stevens (BSA), Europe Singh (Ufi), Jenny Hunt (Ufi), Kay Smith (NIACE), Geoff Bateson (Birmingham Core Skills Partnership), Angela Ainsworth (Clarendon College), Miriam Sampson (Highbury College, Portsmouth), Martin Stephenson (INCLUDE), Martyn Lewis and Steve Broomhead (Warrington Borough Council).
- 7 million adults and young people in this country have poor basic skills. These are divided into three levels of need. Group A -low skills- are adults who are regarded as on the borderline of functional literacy and numeracy and may need little if any direct instruction to reach the national average. The greatest proportion of adults with poor basic skills are in this group (15% for literacy and 12% for numeracy). Group B - lower skills - the adults in this group will have some literacy and numeracy skills already, although these may be fragile. Their difficulties would have an impact on their daily lives (5% for literacy and 7% for numeracy). Group C - very low skills. Adults in this group would need intensive instruction to bring them up to the basic skills threshold. This is the smallest group (4% for literacy and 5% for numeracy). About 300,000 of estimated the 7million are currently taking part in programmes of provision to improve their skills.