Persistence without external rewards: A study of adult learners in art museum and planetarium education programs
Some people, without expectation of credits, degrees, job promotions, salary increases, or recognition, invest their resources to a significant degree so that they may become knowledgeable-even expert-in a given discipline. Why do they do so? Independent learning and lifelong learning impinge on this study of persistence but are more concerned with natural curiosity than with acquired expertise for the sake of knowing. The individual who charts an independent path to self-education in art or science is the topic of this study. The purpose of this study is to discern differences between art and science students in adult education, to determine impetus for and initiation of their academic pursuits, and to identify commonalities in persistent adult learners. The population of the study includes six men and women who have studied at The Art Institute of Chicago, and seven in a study of challenging issues in physics, mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy or in making a telescope lens, at The Adler Planetarium. Although some subjects of the study were engaged in occupations related to these studies, most were not related; they desired to know as much as they could assimilate, and they demonstrated that desire by investing money, and considerable time and energy to that purpose. Participants ranged in age from 22 to 72. This study addressed self-directed learning not in psychological idiom but in experiential, evidentiary terms. The study was designed to mine the experience of its subjects; the research method is grounded theory. Each subject was interviewed at length. Researcher and two other analysts identified recurrent phrases and ideas, as well as evidence of attitudes. Conclusions: persistent adult learners became aware of a discipline at age 9 or age 12. Latency obtained for a period of fifteen to twenty years, at which point the adult actively sought precise and continuing instruction, acquired a degree of expertise, and often instructed others. Individuals in both programs indicated they were seeking connections between disciplines or a higher truth.
Graham, A. W. (1990). Persistence without external rewards: A study of adult learners in art museum and planetarium education programs. Northern Illinois University
Type of Publication
Graham, Angela, W.
Northern Illinois University
Department of Leadership and Educational Policy Studies
Number of Pages
Nation(s) of Study
United States of America