This article is part one in the series “Why Should I Learn This? A Series on Learner Motivation.”

I recall clearly the day that a teacher on the staff of the performing arts academy of which I was the Principal, approached me with a question “I want to get a degree, what do you think I should study?” My automatic response was “What is it you want to learn?”

The teacher on my team had been focusing on the prestige and credibility that might come from receiving that credential.  However, even though at that time I was actually in the process of attaining my own degree at university, my reason for doing so had not been the piece of paper I would receive at the end.  Sure, the degree itself would be a genuine achievement, one that might open doors of opportunity in the future.  However that motivation alone was not going to get me through 8 years of part time study whilst balancing a life that included work, ministry, the raising of three children and a husband who ran a business.  I was motivated to learn because I knew exactly what it was I was there to learn, and why.

At the time that I commenced my degree in Cultural Studies I had been working and ministering for many years in the area of the Creative Arts. I wanted to understand why it was that one person would be deeply impacted by what we produced, and another was left untouched. I felt the answer may be cultural, and thus I wanted to study the relationship between art and culture.

There were two earlier moment in my life when I pursued adult education.  The first had been when I was working in my first job in a bank.  I had moved through every available position from the lower ranks in the branch, and had arrived at the position of teller younger than most.  Yet that was when I first encountered the ‘glass ceiling’.  I looked at those in positions above me, and every one of them was male and at least ten years my senior.  I realised I was going to stagnate, and thus made the decision to go to Business College, gain the skills necessary (typing and shorthand dictation… yes I am that old) to become a Secretary, starting my life on a new trajectory that could eventually move me through the business world to Personal Assistant and eventually into Management.

Fast track a couple of years, and I was working as a Personal Assistant to the Managing Partner in a large accounting firm.  I had just been offered a position in another company that was the ‘dream job’.  High salary. Travel. A position that would mean the sky would be the limit for my future career path.  That is when God called me into creative arts ministry.

Back to school.  I did not ever believe I would be in full time ministry, I just wanted to become a great volunteer.  I was pioneering dance in the church I was part of at that time, and felt the weight of responsibility to become skilled and ‘get it right’.  So I spent the next two years of my life gaining a Diploma of Creative Ministries.  I had high motivation, loved every moment of it, and it was the foundation for twenty five years of creative arts ministry during which time I did become a Creative Arts Pastor and enter full-time ministry.

Based on my own experiences as a learner, I have been guilty of assuming that every student in my class is motivated to learn.  I have since discovered this is not always the case! Some students simply do not study for the right reasons.  Check out these amazing articles on Good and Bad reasons study.  Although it is focused on Grad School, these apply to any college or university education.

The ‘wrong reason to study’ is not the only factor that can hamper a student’s motivation to learn.  This series will investigate this important topic… so come back next week for Part 2!