The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that individual factors, like self-knowledge, positively influence learning and achievement. Previous research indicate that when students believe in their capacities (Bandura, 1997; 2001) and compare their own progress over time (Martinot, 2006), they better perform on activities.
We hypothesized that in literacy classes, when students are able to recognize their own progress while learning by comparing their self-knowledge over time; they notice some improvement which in turn affects their performance and achievement.
This paper is based on a field research aiming at understanding adult students drop-out from
literacy classes. We used a mixed method combining qualitative and quantitative approaches to understand relations between students’ self-knowledge, motives to learn andrecognition of one’ improvement while performing learning. Different analyses were used for quantitative data while in-depth qualitative analysis was performed with interviews.
The data was collected in April and May 2008
Togo using short questionnaire and interview guide. The questionnaire focused on individual socio-demographic characteristics and was filled in individually. The interviews were conducted at individual and group level and focused on the variables studied. In total, 152 individuals were approached in local communities (rural areas) and marketplaces (urban areas).
The participants are adult students and teachers. The students sample consists of 132 adult, exclusively women, engaged in learning activities derived from 10 literacy classes. 97 students (73%) were recruited in rural areas and 35 students (27%) in urban areas. The teachers’ sample was composed of 20 volunteers of which 30% were women.
Adult students’ age ranged from 20 to 70 years with a mean of 43.6 (SD = 11,72). 78% were married and 22% were single, divorced or widow. 54% never went to school previously; 32% attended primary school and 14% attended secondary school. 80% of the adults in rural area and 52% of the adults in urban areas have never been to school. Finally, the learning in which the adult students were involved in included writing, reading, calculating and competences-based life skills such as child care, education, children rights, and women rights.
Results showed that mean age (43%) is relatively high which means the average women has an active life with multiple roles. Civil status indicated that many have families and have to care for children, their house and have to contribute to their community. An important number never attended school while some had primary or secondary levels.
Four specific learning activities were reported. These were: writing (82%), reading (27%), calculating (23%) and competence skill-based development (60%). The first three were referred to as instrumental learning and the last one as competence development. Analyses showed that students reported writing as the learning which is mostly undertaken.
During classes, students were able to compare their achievement over time. As many of them had never been to school, they started learning without prior knowledge about skills learned. But over time, they were able to
recognize their own progress by gaining knowledge on learning. They noticed that they were able to execute skills they had never expected to master such as writing their own name. Results indicated that writing is achieved progressively and significantly as they appreciate its importance and utility because they can use it to receive credits and to sign with their name.
Results indicated that reflecting on one’s progress over time, helped adults to recognize their own improvement. When comparing their performance over time (Martinot, 2006), they better perform as they focus on using the acquired skills (Husman and Lens, 1999).
Learning in educational setting is complex as students are sometimes focused on learning and sometimes on performance. When they are focused on learning, they look for strategies that better help them to achieve learning (Dweck, 2002). Temporal comparison is associated to the concept of self-efficacy and other individual factors, to help students in formal adult education to perform on different learning tasks in class.
In sum, results presented in this paper helped to understand the individual factors like self-knowledge that motivate students over time to engage in learning, to persist while attending classes and to successfully achieve learning. In adult learning, students’ self-knowledge comprises their perception of their own competences while learning and the temporal perspective they have while performing activities in classes.