Learning projects and motivational factors among older adults participating in an Institute for Learning in Retirement program

Katherine Cecile Russett


The purpose of the present study was twofold: (a) to determine the relationship between selected motivational factors and level of participation in learning projects by older adults, and (b) to determine the degree to which older adults' participation in learning projects differs according to the variables of age, gender, educational attainment, and socioeconomic status (SES). Independent variables were motivation, age, gender, educational attainment, and SES. The variable of motivation was measured using Boshier's (1982) Education Participation Scale. The criterion variables, number of learning projects and number of hours spent on learning projects, were measured utilizing Tough's (1975) Interview Schedule for Studying Some Basic Characteristics of Learning Projects. Subjects consisted of 90 older adults, 55 years of age or older, participating in a learning in retirement program in Mississippi. Interviews of the 90 participants indicated that they participated in a total of 784 projects, with a mean of 8.7 ($SD=3.6$) projects reported per participant. With respect to total number of learning projects, a minimum of 1 to a maximum of 18 was found. In looking at participants' average number of hours spent per project, a mean of 768 ($SD=627.97$) per project was found. Canonical correlation analysis indicated that EPS Factor VII (cognitive interest), gender, educational attainment, and SES were noteworthy predictors of participation in learning projects. Using commonality analysis to examine the unique contributions of each of the variable partitions, the variable of motivation was found to have the most unique predictive power for participation in learning projects. Suppressor effects were noted for several combinations of independent variables.