“Why don’t they participate?” Reasons for nonparticipation in adult learning and education from the viewpoint of self-determination theory


  • Jan Kalenda Research Centre of the Faculty of Humanities, Tomas Baťa University
  • Illona Kočvarová




attitudes to education, dispositional barriers, lifelong learning, nonparticipation in adult education, self-determination theory


The study deals with the perceived reasons for nonparticipation in adult learning and

education (ALE), drawing on existing research concerning the motivation for lifelong

learning, adult attitudes towards education, and the study of dispositional barriers. The

aim of the study is to determine the subjective reasons/motivation of adults not to

participate in ALE and what factors influence their nonparticipation. For this purpose,

we drew on self-determination theory (SDT). Based on that we have created the research

tool “Motivation to Nonparticipation Scale” (MNP-S), which measures three factors:

extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation, and amotivation. The empirical research was

conducted with a representative sample of adults (N = 943, age: 19 to 81 years) who had

not participated in ALE. Contrary to theoretical assumptions of SDT, amotivated adults

do not predominate among nonparticipants, with the main subjective reasons for

nonparticipation based on intrinsic or extrinsic motivations.


Metrics Loading ...


Albert Verdú, C., García-Serrano, C., & Hernanz, V. (2010). On-the-job training in Europe: Determinants

and wage returns. International Labour Review, 149(3), 315-341. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1564-


Antikainen, A. (2006). In search of the Nordic model in education. Scandinavian Journal of Educational

Research, 50(3), 229-243. https://doi.org/10.1080/00313830600743258

Baert, H., De Rick, K., & Van Valckenborgh, K. (2006). Towards the conceptualisation of learning

climate. In R. Vieira de Castro, A. V. Sancho, & V. Guimaraes (Eds.), Adult education: new

routes new landscapes (pp. 87-111). Braga: University de Minho.

Blais, J.-G., Duqueite, A., & Painchaud, G. (1989). Deterrents to women’s participation in work-related

educational activities. Adult Education Quarterly, 39(4), 224-234. https://


Blunt, A., & Yang, B. (2002). Factor structure of the adult attitudes toward adult and continuing

education scale and its capacity to predict participation behaviour: Evidence for adoption of a

revised scale. Adult Education Quarterly, 52(4), 299-314.


Boeren, E. (2016). Lifelong Learning Participation in a Changing Policy Context. An Interdisciplinary

Theory. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Boeren, E. (2017). Understanding adult lifelong learning participation as a layered problem. Studies in

Continuing Education, 39(2), 161-175. https:// doi.org/10.1080/0158037X.2017.1310096

Boeren, E. (2018). The methodological underdog: A review of quantitative research in the key adult

education journals. Adult Education Quarterly, 68(1), 63-79.


Boeren, E. (2019). Quantitative Research in Research on the Education and Learning of Adults. In A.

Fejes, & E. Nylander. (Eds.), Mapping out the Research Field of Adult Education and Learning

(pp. 139-155). Cham: Springer.

Boeren, E., & Holford, J. (2016). Vocationalism varies (a lot): A 12-country multivariate analysis of

participation in formal adult learning. Adult Education Quarterly, 66(2), 120-142.


Boeren, E., Nicaise, I., & Baert, H. (2010). Theoretical models of participation in adult education: The

need for an integrated model. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 29, 45—61.


Boeren, E., Holford, J., Nicaise, I., Baert, H. (2012a). Why do adults learn? Developing motivational

typology across twelve European countries. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 10, 247-269.

https://doi.org/ 10.1080/14767724.2012.678764

Boeren, E., Nicaise, I., Roosmaa, E. L., Saar, E. (2012b). Formal Adult Education in the spotlight:

Profiles, motivation, and experiences of participants in 12 countries. In S. Riddel, J. Markowitsch,

& E. Weeden (Eds.), Lifelong learning in Europe: Equality and efficiency in balance (pp. 63-86).

Bristol: Polity Press.

Boshier, R. (1971). Motivational orientations of adult education participants: a factor analytic exploration

of Houle’s typology. Adult Education, 21(2), 3-26. https://doi.org/10.1177/074171367102100201

Boshier, R. (1977). Motivational Orientations Re-Visited: Life-Space Motives and the Education

Participation Scale. Adult Education Quarterly, 27(2), 89-115.


Brady, E. M., & Fowler, M. L. (1988). Participation motives and learning outcomes of older learners.

Educational Gerontology, 14, 45–56. https://doi.org/10.1080/0380127880140104

Bynum, L. L., & Seaman, M. A. (1993). Motivations of third-age students in Learning in Retirement

institutes. Continuing Higher Education Review, 57(1), 12-22.

Cincinnato, S., De Wever, B., Van Keer, H., & Valcke, M. (2016). The Influence of Social Background

on Participation in Adult Education: Applying the Cultural Capital Framework. Adult Education

Quarterly, 66(2), 143-168. https://doi.org/10.1177/0741713615626714

Courtney, S. (1992). Why do adults learn? Towards a theory of participation in adult education. London:


Cross, P. K. (1981). Adults as Learners. Increasing Participation and Facilitating Learning. San

Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Darkenwald, G. G., & Valentine, T. (1985). Factor of deterrents to public participation in adult education.

Adult Education Quarterly, 35(4), 177-193. https://doi.org/10.1177/0001848185035004001

Dämmrich, J., de Vilhena, D. V., & Reichart, E. (2014). Participation in adult learning in Europe: The

impact of country-level and individual characteristics. In H. P. Blossfeld, E. Kilpi-Jakonen, D. V.

de Vilhena & S. Buchholz (Eds.), Adult learning in modern societies: An international comparison

from a life-course perspective (pp. 29-55). Cheltenham and Northampton: Edward Elgar.

Dämmrich, J., Kosyakova, Y., & Blossfeld, H-P. (2015). Gender and job-related non-formal training: A

comparison of 20 countries. International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 56(6), 433-459.


Dæhlen, M., & Ure, O. B. (2009). Low-Skilled Adults in Formal Continuig Education: Does Their

Motivation Differ from Other Learners? International Journal of Lifelong Education, 28(5), 661-


Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2013). Handbook of self-determination research. Rochester: University of

Rochester Press.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2017). Self-Determination Theory. Basic Psychological Needs in Motivation,

Development nad Wellness. New York: The Guilford Press.

Desjardins, R. (2017). Political Economy of Adult Learning Systems. Comparative Study of Strategies,

Policies, and Constraints. London: Bloomsbury.

Desjardins, R., Rubenson, K., & Milana, M. (2006). Unequal Chances to Participate in Adult Learning:

International Perspectives. Paris: UNESCO.

Gagné, M., Forest, J., Vansteenkiste, M., Crevier-Braud, L., Van den Broeck, A., Aspeli, A., ... Westbye,

C. (2014). The multidimensional work motivation scale: Validation evidence in seven languages

and nine countries. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology.


Gillet, N., Vallerand, R. J., & Lafreniere, M. K. (2012). Intrinsic and extrinsic school motivation as a

function of age: The mediating role of autonomy support. Social Psychology of Education, 15, 77-


Gnambs, T., & Hanfstingl, B. (2016). The decline of academic motivation during adolescence: An

accelerated longitudinal cohort analysis on the effect of psychological need satisfaction.

Educational Psychology, 36(9), 1691-1705. https://doi.org/10.1080/01443410.2015.1113236

Gorard, S., & Selwyn, N. (2005). What makes a lifelong learner? Teacher College Record, 107(6), 1193–


Houle, C. O. (1961). The Inquiring Mind. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press.

Hovdhaugen, E., & Opheim, V. (2018). Participation in adult education and training in countries with

high and low participation rates: demand and barriers. International Journal of Lifelong

Education, 37(5), 560–577.

Howard, J. L., Gagné, M., & Bureua, J. S. (2017). Testing a continuum structure of self-dtermined

motivation A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 143(2), 1343-1377.


Illeris, K. (2006). Lifelong Learning and Low-Skilled. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 25(1),

-28. https://doi.org/10.1080/02601370500309451

Isaac, E., Guy, T., & Valentine, T. (2001). Understanding African American learners’ motivations to

learn in church-based adult education. Adult Education Quarterly, 52(1), 23-38.


Kalenda, J., & Ko?varová, I. (2019). Approaching Limits of Participation? Trends in demand for Nonformal

Education in the Czech Republic. European Proceeding of Social and Behavioural

Sciences 72, 611–624.

Koucký, J.; Ryška, R. & Zelenka, M. (2014). Reflexe vzd?lávání a uplatn?ní absolvent? vysokých škol.

Výsledky šet?ení REFLEX 2013. Praha: Univerzita Karlova v Praze, Pedagogická fakulta.

Kyndt, E., Govaerts, N., Keunen, L., & Dochy, F. (2013a). Examining the learning intentions of lowqualified

employees: a mixed method study. Journal of Workplace Learning, 25(3), 178-197.

https://doi.org/ 10.1108/13665621311306556

Kyndt, E., Raes, E., Dochy, F., & Janssens, E. (2013b). Approaches to learning at work: Investigating

work motivation, workload and choice independence. Journal of Career Development, 40(4), 271–

Maurer, T. J., Weiss, E., Bacheite, F. (2003). A model of Involvement in work-related learning and

development activity. The effects of industrial, situational motivational, and age variables. Journal

of Applied Psychology, 88(4), 707-724. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.88.4.707

Merriam, S. B., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2020). Learning in Adulthood. A Comprehensive Guide, Fourth

Edition. Hoboken, NJ: Josssey-Bass.

Mulenga, D., & Liang, J. S. (2008). Motivations for older adults’ participation in distance education: A

study at the National Open University of Taiwan. International Journal of Lifelong Education,

(3), 289-314. https://doi.org/10.1080/02601370802047791

Nolen, S. (2020). A situative turn in the conversation on motivation theories. Contemporary Educational

Psychology, 61. ttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2020.101866

Paldanius, S. (2007). The rationality of reluctance and indifference toward adult education. In L. Servage,

& T. Fenwick (Eds.), Proceedings of the 48th Annual American Adult Education Research

Conference (pp. 471-476). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.

Patterson, M. B. (2018). The Forgotten 90%: Adult Nonparticipation in Education. Adult Education

Quarterly, 68(1), 41-62. https://doi.org/10.1177/0741713617731810

Psacharopoulos, G. P. (2006). The value of investment in education: Theory, evidence and policy.

Journal of Education Finance, 32, 113-126. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-6209-794-0_8

Regmi, K. D. (2015). Lifelong learning: Foundational models, underlying assumptions and critiques.

International Review of Education, 61(1), 133-151, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11159-015-9480-2

Robert, P. (2012). The sociodemographic obstacles to participation in lifelong learning across Europe. In

S. Riddell, J. Markowitsch & E. Weedon (Eds.), Lifelong learning in Europe: equity and efficiency

in the balance (pp. 87-101). Bristol: Policy Press.

Rubenson, K. (1977). Participation in recurrent education: a research review. Meeting of National

delegates on Developments in Recurrent Education. Toronto: Canada

Rubenson, K. (2011). Barriers to Participation in Adult Education. In K. Rubenson (Ed.), Adult Learning

and Education (pp. 216-224). London: Elsevier.

Rubenson, K. (2018). Conceptualizing Participation in Adult Learning and Education. Equity Issues. In

M. Milana, S. Webb, J. Holford, R. Waller, & P. Jarvis, (Eds.), The Palgrave International

Handbook on Adult and Lifelong Education and Learning. Palgrave (pp. 337-357). London:

Palgrave Macmillan.

Rubenson, K., & Desjardins, R. (2009). The Impact of Walfare State Requierements on Barriers to

Participation in Adult Education: A Bounded agency model. Adult Education Qaurterly, 59(3),

-207. https://doi.org/10.1177/0741713609331548

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2019). Brick by brick: The origins, development, and the future of selfdetermination

theory. In A. J. Elliot (Ed.), Advances in motivation science (pp. 111-156).

Cambridge: MA Elsevier Inc.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new

directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 54-67.


Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2020). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation from a self-dtermination theory

perspective: Definitions, theory, practices, and future directions. Contemporary Educational

Psychology, 61,101860. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2020.101860

Roosmaa, E-L., & Saar, E. (2017). Adults who do not want to participate in learning: a cross-national

European analysis of their barriers. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 36(3), 254-277.

https://doi. 10.1080/02601370.2016.1246485

Saar, E., & Räis, M. L. (2017). Participation in job-related training in European countries: the impact of

skill supply and demand characteristics. Journal of Education and Work, 30(5), 531-551.


Saar, E., Ure, O. B., & Desjardins, R. (2013). The Role of Diverse Institutions in Framing Adult Learning

Systems. European Journal of Education, 48(2), 213-232. https://doi.org/10.1111/ejed.12026

Scherrer, V., & Preckel, F. (2019). Development of motivational variables and self-esteem during the

school career: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Review of Educational Research, 89(2),

-258. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654318819127

UNESCO. (2019). GRALE IV. 4th Global Report on Adult Learning and Education. Leave no one

Behind: Participation, Equity and Inclusion. Hamburg: UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning.

UNESCO. (2020). Embracing a culture of lifelong learning. Contribution to the Futures of Education

initiative. Hamburg: UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning.

Vaculíková, J., Kalenda, J., & Ko?varová, I. (2020). Hidden gender differences in formal and non-formal

adult education. Studies in Continuing Education.


Valentine, T., & Darkenwald, G. G. (1990). Deterrents to participation in adult education: Profiles of

Potential learners. Adult Education Quarterly, 41(1), 29-42.


Vallerand, R. J., Gagné, F., Senécal, C., & Pelletier, L. G. (1994). A comparison of the school intrinsic

and perceived competence of gifted and regular students. Gifted Child Quarterly, 38(4), 172-175.


Vallerand, R. J., Pelletier, L. G., Blais, M. R., Briere, N. M., Senécal, C., & Valliers, E. F. (1993) On the

assessment of intrinsic, extrinsic, and amotivation in education: Evidence on the concurrent and

construct validity of the Academic Motivation Scale. Educational and Psychological

Measurement, 53(1), 159–172. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013164493053001018

Van den Broeck, A., Lens, W., De Witte, H., & Van Coillie, H. (2013). Unraveling the importance of the

quantity and the quality of workers’ motivation for well-being: A person-centered perspective.

Journal of Vocational Behavior, 82(1), 69–78. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2012.11.005

Van Petegem, S., Vansteenkiste, M., Soenens, B., Beyers, W., & Aelterman, N. (2015). Examining the

longitudinal association between oppositional defiance and autonomy in adolescence.

Developmental Psychology, 51(1), 67-74. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0038374

Vroom, V. H. (1964). Work and motivation. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.




How to Cite

Kalenda, J., & Kočvarová, I. (2022). “Why don’t they participate?” Reasons for nonparticipation in adult learning and education from the viewpoint of self-determination theory. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 13(2), 193–208. https://doi.org/10.3384/rela.2000-7426.3535