Book by Raymond J. Wlodkowski
Review by: Rebecca McCarson
Regional Campuses Academic Advising
University of Central Florida- Ocala

The best feature of Wlodkowski’s book, Enhancing adult motivation to learn: A Comprehensive guide to teaching all adults, is his call for action and change among all educators. After considering the sixty different strategies designed to motivate adults to learn and engage in the classroom, the reader cannot help but feel inspired to lead and engage adults to further their studies. The real question is, however, do these instructional strategies translate into helpful tips for advisors working with adults who are returning to college?   

Wlodkowski begins with a biological foundation for adult motivation. He explains why our brains are wired in certain ways and why some motivational strategies work better than others.  Even the non-scientific reader will find that this explanation provides a solid foundation for the rest of the book.

Moving beyond the biological beginning, the author argues that there must be four environmental conditions inherently present for adults to be motivated to learn: inclusion, attitude, meaning, and competence. If any of these four conditions is missing, adults are less likely to be vested in the learning process. Each of the sixty specific strategies is built upon one of these four conditions and designed to motivate adults. 

While some of these strategies are designed specifically for the classroom, advisors can easily adapt several others into their advising sessions. For example, in order to promote inclusion, Wlodkowski suggests that educators “emphasize the human purpose of what is being learned and its relationship to the learners’ personal lives and current situations” (p. 158).  Advisors can use this strategy to humanize  advising sessions and relate to students’ personal lives and current situations. Thus, the advising session should not only be about classes and schedules—it should instead, as Wlodkowski suggests, connect to the adult student’s own circumstances if the advisor wants to motivate the student to learn.

Similar strategies and tips throughout the book remind advisors that their jobs are not only to guide students as they move through their college careers, but to motivate and inspire. Adult students especially can lose interest and enthusiasm in their studies; advisors need to know how to build back that enthusiasm. Wlodkowski’s practical suggestions for increasing adult student motivation can actually motivate advisors to improve their own relationships with adult learners.  

Arguably, the single greatest strength of this book is Wlodkowski’s renewed focus and attention on diversity and multiculturalism. This latest edition genuinely strives to include all adults in the quest for learning. The author’s heightened cultural sensitivity and awareness makes this book especially unique among other motivational texts. “Our emphasis is on creating a convergence of multiple ideas and methods from which teachers and learners may choose in order to support the diverse perspectives and values of adult learners” (p. 45). The author most definitely succeeds in this charge towards inclusion of all.

Admittedly, this book is targeted to those who teach in the classroom. That said, should advisors read it?  Maybe—if those advisors work with adult or multicultural students. Advisors will find that the strategies shared in this book are useful when working with students who are lackluster or seemingly not interested in their educations. For those instances, this book is definitely useful, practical, and specific in discussing different ways to advise and motivate these students as they move through college.

Enhancing adult motivation to learn: A comprehensive guide for teaching all adults.  (2008).  Book by Raymond J. Wlodkowski.  Review by: Rebecca McCarson. San Francisco, CA: Wiley Periodicals (Jossey-Bass), 528 pp.  Price $45.00.  ISBN # 978-0-7879-9520-1

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