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«JOHN-PAUL HATALA MINIMIZING DETERRENTS TO RE-TRAINING OR RE-EDUCATING LAID-OFF AND UNEMPLOYED ADULTS: AN INTERVENTION STUDY. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM ...»

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MINIMIZING DETERRENTS TO RE-TRAINING OR RE-EDUCATING LAIDOFF AND UNEMPLOYED ADULTS: AN INTERVENTION STUDY.

JOHN-PAUL HATALA

MINIMIZING DETERRENTS TO RE-TRAINING OR RE-EDUCATING

LAID-OFF AND UNEMPLOYED ADULTS: AN INTERVENTION STUDY.

STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

An adult’s decision to return to an organized educational activity is a complex, multifaceted process.

Theory and research in this area has focused on the development of parsimonious conceptions of factors that impel adults to participate in educational opportunities (e.g., Boshier & Collins, 1985; Cross, 1981). This research is important to the development of our understanding of participation but it is limited by its inattention to factors that are negatively related to motivation to participate. Recently researchers have focused much more directly on enhancing our understanding of deterrents to participation and the role they play in intruding on participation decisions (e.g., Darkenwald & Valentine, 1985; Martindale & Drake, 1989; Scanlan & Darkenwald, 1984). Research on deterrents, though relatively immature as a field of inquiry, promises to add significantly to theories relating to adult participation in organized educational activities.

Much of the research in this area has focused on the identification of specific deterrents which affect adult re-entry decisions and the extent to which these generalize over various populations (Blais, Duquette & Painchaud, 1989; Darkenwald & Valentine, 1985; Martindale & Drake, 1989; Scanlan & Darkenwald, 1984). While implications for practice of these studies are discussed, very little attention has been directed toward the empirical evaluation of interventions designed to overcome these deterrents. This is particularly the case for unemployed and laid-off adults.

The present study seeks to add to our knowledge about forces that negatively affect adult participation in systematic educational opportunities by evaluating an intervention designed to ameliorate such deterrents. By evaluating practical intervention methods grounded in knowledge from available deterrent research, we stand to learn much about how adults confront and deal with reentry decisions which may have previously seemed to have been beyond their control. Such data will be instrumental in developing practical applications for helping adults overcome unresolved perceptions of deterrents that potentially prevent them from re-entering educational activities.

THEORY AND RESEARCH

Theories of Adult Participation in Education Since the early 1960’s, researchers have been analyzing participation rates in adult education. Many researchers (e.g., Boshier & Collins, 1985; Darkenwald & Valentine, 1985; Grabowski, 1976; Houle, 1961; Scanlan & Darkenwald, 1984) have conducted studies designed to illuminate basic perceptions and causes of participation in adult education. These perceptions stimulated researchers such as Blais et al. (1989) and Drake and Martindale (1989) to systematically assess the forces the affect participation.

Houle (1961) suggested that adult education participants were either goal (learn to accomplish specific objectives), activity (learn to develop social contacts and relationships with others) or learning (seek knowledge for its own sake) oriented. This tripartite typology represented the basis for which future researchers (e.g., Boshier, 1971) identified motives that impel people to participate in adult education. In the years to follow, various instruments were designed to investigate the validity and comprehensiveness of Houle’s typology. Most notable was the Education Participation Scale (EPS) which Boshier (1977) used in an evaluation of Houle’s typology.

Twenty-two years after Houle first introduced his tripartite typology, Boshier and Collins (1985) conducted a large-scale empirical test to determine if it accurately characterized adult education participants.

Using cluster analysis from a 40 item version of the EPS, a three-cluster solution was observed. Cluster I consisted of Cognitive Interest items and was congruent with learning orientation. Cluster II included “common interest” and “education centers” items loosely resembling the activity orientation and Cluster III included “to seek professional advancement” and to “acquire knowledge to help with other courses” which most resembled the goal orientation. The authors concluded that although the typology had described adult education participants, Houle failed to anticipate the complexity of learner’s reasons for participation which became most evident in the activity orientation cluster (Boshier & Collins, 1985).

Descriptive survey methodology has frequently been used to identify factors underlying low participation rates among adult populations. This empirical research has contributed somewhat to the development of conceptual models and theories which address adult participation behavior. Notably, three theoretical perspectives have attempted to combine dispositional, situational and institutional factors into composite models of participation. Dispositional factors are attitudes about learning and perceptions of oneself as a learner, such as feeling too old to learn, lack of confidence, and boredom. Situational factors refers to deterrents arising from one’s situation in life at a given time, such as lack of time due to home or job responsibilities and lack of child care. Finally, institutional factors include those erected by institutions that exclude or discourage certain groups of learners because of such things as inconvenient schedules and lack of sufficient support services.





Scanlan (1986) conducted a comprehensive review of the literature on deterrents to participation and identified and discussed three significant developments for theoretical models for participation. First, Rubenson’s (1977) Recruitment Paradigm emphasizes the perceptual components of a potential learner, whereas, actual experiences, needs and environmental factors are viewed as being less important in determining participation behavior than how the adult perceives and interprets his/her barriers to participation. The model looks at participation behaviour as multiple interactions on both personal and environmental variables which affect an adult’s life. However, these variables alone cannot explain participation behaviour but can only be interpreted by the adults themselves who then decide how to respond to their meanings. As a result, intermediate variables emerge: active preparedness; the perception and interpretation of the environment; and the experience of individual need(s) (Scanlan, 1986). These variables interact to determine both an individuals perception of an educational activity (valence) and the probability of participating and benefiting from a learning activity (expectancy) The combination of these variables play an important role in determining the perceived importance an adult has regarding educational activities and the probability of them participating (Scanlan, 1986).

Taking a cognitivist perspective, this model suggests that deterrents to participation should be conceptualized as perceived frequencies or magnitude of influence rather than the assumption of actual experiences, actual environmental structures and actual individual needs.

Second, Cross’ (1981) Chain-of-Response Model deals with a complex chain of responses (i.e., self-concept and attitude toward education) that are intrinsic to the adult and play a critical role in a potential learner’s decision making process. An adults decision to participate in an educational activity does not involve only one factor, but many factors as a result of a complex chain of responses that determine the individual’s position in their environment and their ability to return to an educational activity (Scanlan, 1986). Adding prior elements of theory within this model, Cross has maintained the cognitivist approach in that participation behaviour is best interpreted by the individuals making the decisions.

Finally, the Psychosocial Interaction Model (Darkenwald & Merriam, 1982) depicts participant responses to internal and external stimuli as the probability of an adult participating in systematic educational opportunities being affected by such variables as socioeconomic status, perceived value of participation, readiness to participate and barriers to participation. This model has combined prior formulations to enable rigorous testing and the development of participation behaviour. As in Cross’ model of participation, participation is determined by a set of responses to internal and external stimuli, but has extended this theoretical base by emphasizing socioeconomic status as a determinate for participation behaviour. Environments which encourage continuing education will elicit positive perceptions rather than negative ones which ultimately increases an adult’s chances to participate in adult education. As well, Darkenwald and Merriam (1982) added informational factors to the overall deterrent framework which refer to not only the institute’s negligence (institutional factors) in communicating program information, but an adult’s failure to acquire information regarding available programs.

While these composite models of participation and supportive research studies have helped to extend our understanding of motivation to participate and have added to theory in that respect, others have looked to identify commonalties in deterrents that diminish motivation among different adult populations (e.g., Darkenwald & Valentine, 1985; Martindale & Drake, 1989). These studies serve as significant contributions to deterrent research as they have identified specific typologies of potential learners and developed conceptual frameworks as to what motivates an adult to participate in systematic educational activities. As well, these models imply that a number of variables are associated with the decision to participate in educational activities and help to determine the influence of such demographic variables as age, sex, income, race, educational attainment, employment status and geographic location and nondemographic variables such as dispositional, situational and institutional factors.

Describing and Measuring Deterrents to Participation Scanlan and Darkenwald (1984) were among the first to systematically investigate deterrents to participation. They used exploratory factor analysis to develop the Deterrents to Participation Scale (DPS) an instrument they validated for health professionals. A number of deterrents to participation in disciplinespecific educational courses were found to be significant. These were: disengagement, stemming primarily from individual inertia, apathy and negative attitudes; dissatisfaction with the quality of available educational opportunities; costs to individuals; family constraints such as young children, working spouse and so forth; perceived lack of benefit and doubts about the need for continuing education; and constraints at work such as overload, stress, variable schedules and the like.

Further studies were carried out and a generic version of the DPS, one that was said to be generalizable to a wider population, was constructed. Darkenwald and Valentine (1985) enhanced the generalizability of the original DPS by validating it in the general adult population in the U.S. An exploratory factor analysis revealed a similar set of factors to the 1984 study.

These were labeled as follows: lack of confidence; lack of course relevance; time constraints; low personal priority; cost; and personal problems. Other studies using the DPS have replicated these findings in U.S. Air Force enlisted personnel (Martindale & Drake, 1989) and female nurses (Blais et al., 1989). These studies identified similar deterrent forces.

While this collection of studies has helped to clarify the nature of psychosoical deterrents to participation, they reveal nothing about the extent to which different types of would-be learners experience these forces. This gap in our knowledge was addressed by Darkenwald and Valentine (1990) who conducted a study designed to generate profiles of potential types of learners in terms of both deterrent and sociodemographic variables. They found a variety of types of potential learners are influenced by different deterrents. Through cluster analysis a typology of adults based on selfreported deterrents to participation was established.

Type One refers to people deterred by personal problems and consists primarily of traditional homemakers with demanding life situations that make participation in organized adult education difficult. Type Two people are said to be deterred by lack of confidence and consists largely of mature adults who other than having problems with confidence are in a position to attend. Type Three refers to people deterred by educational costs and is made up mostly of young women of moderate education and moderate means who have the confidence to participate in adult education but cannot afford the direct and indirect costs involved. Type Four describes people who are not interested in organized education and consists mainly of well-educated, affluent, working individuals (more likely to be male than female) who place relatively low value on participation in organized adult education. Finally, people categorized as Type Five, are not interested in available courses and consists primarily of highly educated, middle-income, working individuals (more likely to be male than female) who place considerable value on continued education but find existing programming irrelevant to their needs.



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