Ready and willing to learn: exploring personal antecedents to taking on learning challenges

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10 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine the personal antecedents to taking on the challenge of learning, particularly when there is competition for time at work. Taking on challenging tasks, particularly those that enhance learning, is a critical behavior in today’s dynamic business environments. This paper explores how individual differences motivate people to choose a challenging task over an easy one. Design/methodology/approach: A behavioral measure was used to determine if working adults higher in learning goal orientation, curiosity, and need for cognition were more likely to take on a challenging task, even when there was competition for their time. Structural equation modeling was used to more deeply examine whether these constructs independently contribute to the outcome. Findings: Goal orientation, curiosity and need for cognition each significantly predicted whether working adults took on a challenging task. Additional analysis revealed that learning goal orientation, curiosity, and need for cognition loaded onto a single factor. Research limitations/implications: This paper answers calls for the use of direct measurement in social science research. Rather than asking individuals about what they have done or would do, the study observes what choices working adults actually make when confronted with the opportunity to learn. Originality/value: Contributing to the recent surge of work on informal learning behaviors, this paper examines a critical learning behavior – that of taking on challenging tasks. It demonstrates that even if individuals are ready learn (have the time and resources), there are key individual differences that drive whether they are willing to do so.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-304
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Workplace Learning
Issue number4
StatePublished - 18 Jul 2019


  • Learning behavior
  • Learning orientation
  • Motivation


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