Immigration and crime
Self-Directed Learning Readiness and Life Satisfaction Among Older Adults A Sample
Quantitative Research Proposal Written in the APA 6 th Style
[Note: This sample proposal is based on a composite of past proposals, simulated information
and references, and material I’ve included for illustration purposes – it is based roughly on a
fairly standard research proposal; I say roughly because there is no one set way of creating a
quantitative research proposal. Much of its design is based on the nature of the research, your
preferences, and your decisions regarding how to describe or portray what it is you plan to
accomplish. The material in this document was adopted from a dissertation proposal created by
Dr. Ralph Brockett. A biography is not included in this sample proposal. To examine ways of
creating references in the APA format and other suggestions for using the APA stylistic guide,
see http://www-distance.syr.edu/apa6th.html or http://www-distance.syr.edu/apa6th.pdf . Roger
An important area of emphasis in gerontological research over the past several decades has been
the issue of life satisfaction. Questions about the physical, psychological, social, and economic
status of older adults have served, either directly or indirectly, as the predominant focus of the
aging research (e. g., Maddox and Wiley, 1996). It is these kinds of questions that have increased
understanding of the processes and problems of aging and have led to the development of
strategies designed to maximize the potential of the later years.
At the same time, self-directed learning has generated considerable interest in the adult education
literature. This has been fueled by the development of the SDLRS (Guglielmino, 1997), a
scaledesigned to measure a person’s readiness for self-directed learning. Unfortunately, very few
have looked at self-directed learning and older adults. Hiemstra (1975) studied older adult’s
learningprojects and found a strong relationship between a preference for assuming personal
control over learning and age. This was supported by Hassan (1991) and McCoy (1992). Hassan
also looked at the self-directed learning readiness scores of older adults and found a
corresponding positive relationship between age and scores on the SDLRS. However, apparently
no published reports of subsequent research with the older adult exist.
In addition, no one has published accounts of any comparisons between SDLRS and Life
Satisfaction among older adults. If life satisfaction can be improved by learning efforts as shown
by Dowden (2008), it is important to determine if a propensity and readiness for self-directed
learning among older adults has a relationship to measures of life satisfaction. Therefore, the
intent of this proposed research will be to examine such relationships.
Based on the above discussion, it is possible to identify a two-fold problem that will serve as a
point of departure for the present investigation. As has been noted above and is clarified in the
later review of literature section, one problem area is the fact that many older adults face various
hurdles that can impact their overall state of well-being. Some adults are able to cross these
hurdles through self-learning efforts, while others find themselves less well equipped to cope
with such concerns. The second problem area involves better understanding why some people
turn to learning for meeting personal needs, while others do not.
In essence, life satisfaction varies considerable among older adults, as does personal propensity
to undertake learning efforts. It is these variances that lie at the heart of the problem areas
proposed for this study. If a link can be established between life satisfaction and an attitude
conducive to self-directedness in learning, then it might be possible to look toward self-directed
learning as a strategy for promoting a higher quality of life among persons in their later years.
The purpose of this study, then, is to explore ways in which older adults’ perceptions as selfdirected
learners compare with the degree of satisfaction that they ascribe to their lives.
Specifically, the study will focus on two primary objectives:
1. To determine the relationship between life satisfaction and personal readiness for self-directed
2. To determine the extent to which components of life satisfaction combine with selected
demographic variables to predict a person’s level of self-directed readiness.
In addition, because so little is known about self-directed learning among older adults, a third
objective will complete the research effort:
3. To examine various methodological and substantive considerations in studying self-directed
Based on a review of literature as noted later in this proposal, two major hypothesis areas will
guide the analysis of data. First, it is hypothesized that perceptions of life satisfaction will be
related to perceptions of self-directed learning readiness among a sample of older adults. Those
persons who report a high degree of life satisfaction will tend to have perceptions of higher selfdirected
readiness while low satisfaction will be related to low self-directed readiness. Inessence,
this means that it will be possible to predict an individual’s level of self-directed readiness by
knowing their score on overall life satisfaction plus some of the factors sometimes identified as
barriers to participation in adult education among older adults, such as age and gender. Finally, it
is hypothesized that subjects from a community sample will tend to demonstrate higher
self-directed readiness and life satisfaction than those residing in an institutionalized setting.
Definition of Key Terms
Life Satisfaction – a self reported assessment of one’s overall psychosocial well-being. It is a
combination of (a) personality factors such as mood and self-concept, (b) more socially-related
factors such as the nature of one’s social interactions, (c) perceived health, and (d)
Older Adult – for the proposed study, older adult is defined as any person who is at least 65 years
Self-Directed Learning – a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the
help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human
and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies,
and evaluating learning outcomes.
Self-Directed Learning Readiness – the degree to which one perceives oneself to possess the
attitudes and skills needed to be an effective self-directed learner. It is measured in the proposed
study through the Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale (SDLRS), developed by Guglielmino
Review of Literature
Before considering this body of literature, it is important to point out that research on qualify of
life has not fallen within the exclusive domain of gerontologists. Quality of life is an issue that is
relevant to persons of all ages and has been widely studied as such. Cantrill (1965), for instance,
studied quality of life among persons in more than a dozen nations at different stages of
development. In the U.S., researchers affiliated with the Institute for Social Research at the
University of Michigan have undertaken extensive efforts in studying quality of life (e.g.,
Andrews & Withey, 1996; Campbell, Converse, & Rodgers, 1996; Campbell, 2001, Davis, 2010,
Thomkins, 1996). The reader is alerted to the existence of broader studies such as these. The
present discussion, however, will concentrate primarily on findings and issues associated with
persons in their later years.
Defining Life Satisfaction and Related Concepts
To fully understand the meaning of life satisfaction as it is used in the proposed study, it is
necessary to be familiar with a number of related concepts. The term that probably serves as the
umbrella under which other terms are covered is quality of life. In general, quality of life is a
nebulous term that evades precise definition (Campbell, 1991). Andrews and Withey (1996) have
stated the following about quality of life:
. . . sometimes refers to an ‘outsider’s’ judgments of quality covered in such measures as
crowding, decibels of noise pollution, reported crimes, income levels, etc., but it may also refer
to the privately known and privately evaluated aspects of life (p. 4).
Another broad term, one that is specifically associated with the gerontological literature, is
successful aging. Kalish (1995) discusses the following four related though distinct definitions of
A way of life that is socially desirable for this age group
Maintenance of middle-age activities
A feeling of satisfaction with one’s present status and activities
A feeling of happiness and satisfaction with one’s life (p. 60).
Clearly, successful aging bears some relationship to life satisfaction, especially as
considered in the third and fourth definitions presented above. Leonard (1981-82) has
addressed the relationship between life satisfaction and successful aging by viewing the
former as “a major component” of the latter (p. 223).
Another term frequently associated with life satisfaction is well-being. This is sometimes
referred to more specifically as “subjective well-being” (Larson, 1998) or
“social-psychological well-being” (George, 2004). According to Larson, well-being is an
assessment of “the general affective experience of older persons in terms of a positive
negative continuum” (1998, p. 109). Essentially, then, life satisfaction can be viewed as
an “assessment of one’s overall psychosocial well-being.” Throughout the present
discussion, well-being will be used more or less interchangeably with life satisfaction.
So, then, just what is life satisfaction? As has been pointed out, life satisfaction is an
integral component of successful aging. George has described life satisfaction as
“essentially a cognitive assessment of one’s progress toward desired goals” (1999, p.
210). Lemon, Bengston, and Peterson (1992) define the concept as “the degree to which
one is presently content or pleased with his general life situation” (p. 513). An important
consideration that needs to be taken into account when conceptualizing life satisfaction is
the point of reference from which the concept is measured. Neugarten, Havighurst, and
Tobin (1961), among others, have discussed two approaches to measuring well-being.
The first of these is an examination of the person’s external conditions. Here, well-being
is determined on the basis of factors such as income, participation in social activities,
employment and marital status, and health as assessed through a physical examination.
This approach has been criticized by various authors. For example, Neugarten, et al.
(1961) have noted that this approach is subject to the biases of those who define the
parameters of what constitutes high and low life satisfaction. Campbell (1991) has
stressed that it is not possible to “understand the psychological quality of a person’s life
simply from a knowledge of the circumstances in which that person lives.” Therefore, by
attempting to “explain the population’s sense of well-being on the basis of objective
circumstances, we will leave unaccounted for most of what we are trying to explain” (pp.1-2).
Measuring Life Satisfaction: Different Approaches
Since 1949, a variety of measures have been developed to assess life satisfaction and
related constructs among older people. Four such scales are discussed in the present
section. The earliest of these efforts to measure the well-being of older adults was
reported by Cavan, Burgess, Havighurst, and Goldhammer (1949). The focus of this
study was on “personal adjustment,” which was measured through an instrument referred
to as Your Activities and Attitudes. This is a rather extensive survey of the kinds of
activities and concerns individuals devote their energies and attitudes toward health,
family and friends, happiness, and related issues.
Another early measure of well-being was the Kutner Morale Scale (Kutner, Fanshel, Togo, and
Langner, 1956). This is a seven-item Guttman scale that was administered to 500 persons at least
60 years of age. Here, morale was defined as “a continuum of responses to life and living
problems that reflect the presence or absence of satisfaction, optimism, and expanding life
perspectives” (p. 48). In this scale, subjects were asked to give their responses to each of seven
morale-related questions, with points scored for appropriate responses. A criticism that has been
leveled against this measure is that it views well-being as a unidimensional concept rather than a
combination of interacting factors (Neugarten, et al., 1961).
By far, the measure that has been predominant in life satisfaction research is the Life Satisfaction
Index A (LSIA), which was developed by Neugarten, et al. (1961). This is a 20-item scale where
subjects are asked to respond either “agree,” “disagree,” or “?” to each statement. The LSIA grew
out of a larger study where life satisfaction ratings were assigned to individuals based on a series
of interviews. Through these interviews, the authors recognized five factors that comprised the
variable life satisfaction. These factors include:
zest vs. apathy
resolution and fortitude
congruence between desired and achieved goals
The LSIA is regarded as a major contribution because it defined life satisfaction as a
multidimensional construct and specified the various factors comprising the construct. As
Salamon and Conte (1991) note, however, reliability figures for the Indexes were at best
low to moderate, with a range of r = -.07 to r = .59. This would indicate an important
limitation to the use of the LSIA.
In response to the limitations of unidimensional life satisfaction scales and the relatively
low reliability scores of the LSIA, Salamon and Conte (1991) developed a new life
satisfaction measure. The Salamon-Conte Life Satisfaction in the Elderly Scale
(SCLSES) is a 40-item Likert scale that asks subjects to respond to statements designed
to produce an understanding of their “feelings about life in general.” The SCLSES
contains eight subscales, five of which are closely related to those identified by
Neugarten, et al. (1961). These are “taking pleasure in daily activities,” “regarding life as
meaningful,” “goodness of fit between desired and achieved goals,” “positive mood
tone,” and “positive self-concept” (pp. 5-6). In addition, Salamon and Conte included
subscales for three additional factors that have been found to be closely related to life
satisfaction. These are “perceived health,” “financial security,” and “social contacts” (p.
6). This instrument was selected for use in the present investigation for two reasons. First,
the reliability coefficient of .93 reported by the SCLSES developers is considerably
higher than reliability figures for other life satisfaction measures. Second, several of the
factors in the scale can be linked, directly or indirectly, to adult education participation
and/or perceptions of self- directedness. The SCLSES, proposed for use in this study, is
discussed in greater detail in a later section.
Self-Directed Learning [note: this section has been shorted for purposes of illustration in this
sample proposal – in reality, it would most likely be 1-3 pages longer to make the case for its use
in the proposed research]
Self-directed learning is by no means a new concept to adult education; yet it only began to
emerge as a major research focus in the field since the early 1970’s. The foundation upon which
self-directed learning has been supported is generally associated with the principles of
humanistic philosophy and psychology. A variety of approaches have been used to study the
self-directed learning phenomenon. These studies can be categorized as either learning projects
(Tough, 1971), qualitative (Passmore, 1986), or self-directed readiness (1997). Findings indicate
that self-directed learning is far more widespread than had been imagined prior to Tough’s initial
learning projects study. In addition, there is growing evidence of a broad range of psychosocial
factors that correlate with self-direction. As these studies are reported, it becomes increasingly
possible to define the parameters of self directed learning.
Residence [note: this section has been shorted for purposes of illustration in this sample – in
reality, it would most likely be 1-3 pages longer to make the case for its use in the proposed
Especially relevant to the present investigation is a consideration of the relationship between
residential setting and life satisfaction. Wolk and Telleen (1999) studied life satisfaction
differences between samples from long-term care and retirement community settings. Life
satisfaction was found to be higher among the community sample, where subjects were in a
lower constraint environment. Further, they noted different emphases in life satisfaction
correlates between the two groups, suggesting that the strength of the correlation between life
satisfaction and related factors may differ on the basis of the setting in which an individual
Life satisfaction has been an important area of study for psychologists and sociologists in recent
decades. Because of its link with quality of life, gerontologists have found it especially fruitful to
explore life satisfaction among older adults. Like self-directed learning, life satisfaction is hard
to define and this has contributed to certain difficulties in studying the concept. Research has
examined life satisfaction variously as a unidimensional and a multi dimensional phenomenon,
an objective and subjective measure, an indicator of present and lifetime well-being, and a social
and psychosocial phenomenon. Learning efforts have been shown to be have a relationship to
life satisfaction, but the exact association is not clear. This proposed research will add to the
literature base by building a rationale for recognizing the importance of both self-directed
learning and life satisfaction in research and theory building in gerontology and adult education.
In the previous section, an introduction to the proposed area of research was presented. This
included a description of the study’s research problem, several research purposes,
threehypotheses that will serve to direct the data analysis, and an identification of several terms
the study. In addition, a review of relevant literature related to the two major study variables
–adult self-directed learning readiness and life satisfaction during the aging process – established
a background of support for the study. Both of these variables have been studied extensively, but
not together and with older adults. The proposed research is an effort to examine the relationship
between these variables in a manner that has not been done to date.
The intent of this section is to describe the methodology that is proposed for such a research
effort. Included in the section will be a description of the study setting, proposed research design,
study sample, and proposed data collection methods, procedures, and analysis efforts.
In its broadest conceptualization, this study is intended to address the population of older adults
in the United States. However, the vast diversity of this population in terms of socioeconomic
status and other related variables would make for a monumental undertaking. Therefore, it is
necessary to delimit the setting from which a sample for the study will be drawn.
The setting for the proposed study, thus, consists of all individuals residing within two settings.
One setting will be an adult residential home in Syracuse, New York. The adult home is a
long-term care facility for persons who need minimal support. The other setting is a senior
citizen’shousing project located adjacent to downtown Syracuse. Residents living in this facility
are all retired, living on their own, and do not need outside support. Choosing these two settings
will provide for a sample of older adults within a confined geographic area thereby facilitating
the collection of data, while at the same time meeting the requirements of grouping differences
as noted in the literature review.
The proposed study employs an ex post facto research design as described by Kerlinger (1973):
Ex post facto research is systematic empirical inquiry in which the scientist does not have direct
control of variables. Inferences about relationships among variables are made from any
determined variations between the studied variables. (p. 344)
Therefore, the study plan will involve the gathering of information about life satisfaction and
self-directed learning readiness among older adults living in two different residential settings. No
manipulation of the variables by the researcher will be possible; instead any determined
differences will be ex post facto in nature in that they will stem from differences in results in the
measurement efforts according to age, gender, residential setting, life satisfaction scores, and
self-directed learning readiness scores.
Population and Sampling Plan
The adult home is not a health care facility, but rather a residential setting for independent older
adults who require only minimal services, such as assistance with house keeping, one or two
daily meals, and transportation to meet medical, grocery shopping, and other needs. It has been
determined that 271 people, 65 years of age or older, live in this setting. In addition, 346 people
live in the 220 apartments contained within the senior citizen complex. Some tenants may
receive special services based on income and all are eligible for various social and community
activities, but all are independent in terms of transportation, meeting medical needs, and
involvement with others throughout the community.
A random sample will be drawn from the list of residents obtained for both settings. Using a
table of random numbers, the names of individuals will be selected from each setting until a
minimum of 110 people in each setting is obtained. It is anticipated that if fewer than 95 people
per setting initially respond to the instruments described below, names will continue to be drawn
from the remaining individuals until at least 95 people from each setting have completed the two
forms. It is hoped that at least 100 people from each site will complete the forms.
It is expected that obtaining a minimum of 190 people as described in the previous paragraph
will result in a good cross section of subjects in terms of gender, age, and residential setting. In
addition, the normal variations in life satisfaction SDLRS scores among at least 190 people
willenable statistical comparisons for the study’s hypotheses that provide new information about
Data Collection Procedures
In the proposed study, two instruments will be employed to measure one independent variable,
one dependent variable, and three moderator (demographic) variables. These are outlined below.
Independent Variable – Life satisfaction, the independent variable in this study, will be measured
by the Salamon-Conte Life Satisfaction in the Elderly Scale (SCLSES). Developed by Salamon
and Conte (1991), the SCLSES is a self-report inventory that focuses on three aspects of daily
living. These include (a) taking pleasure in daily activities, (b) regarding life as meaningful, and
(c) self-concept. It is a 44-item instrument; 40 of the items comprise a Likert scale measure of
life satisfaction, while the other items are measures of possible moderating variables. The
authors report a reliability coefficient of .93 for the entire scale. They did not talk about
theinstrument’s validity. Even given this latter limitation, the SCLSES, it would appear, offers
much potential as an approach to measuring the variable of life satisfaction.
Dependent Variable – The dependent variable in this study is self-directed readiness. It is
measured through the use of the Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale (SDLRS). This is a 58-
item Likert scale, developed by Guglielmino (1997) to determine the extent to which subjects
perceive themselves to possess the skills frequently associated with self-directed learning.
Guglielmino reported a reliability coefficient of .87 for the scale. In addition, both internal and
predictive validity of the instrument have been demonstrated to be high. Hassan (1991) used the
SDLRS with a sample of 102 individuals that included 39 people at least 60 years of age. She did
not find a significant relationship between age and self-directed learning readiness. Thus, it
would appear the SDLRS is appropriate for use with older adults as a means of identifying
variance across the population.
Moderator Variables – In addition to the above independent and dependent variables, three
secondary independent or moderator variables will be considered. According to Tuckman
(1978), a moderator variable is as follows:
. . . that factor which is measured, manipulated, or selected by the researcher to discover whether
it modifies the relationship of the independent variable to an observed phenomenon (p. 63).
Thus, the moderator variables can determine the extent to which the relationship between the two
major variables is influenced by secondary factors. In this study the moderator variables of age,
gender, and residential status will be included.
Data Gathering Plans – The two instruments and a simple instruction sheet that also asks subjects
their age and gender, will be delivered to an administrator in each setting who has agreed to
distribute and collect the completed instruments. Prior to their distribution an introductory letter
from both the researcher and the respective administrators will be placed in each
selectedsubject’s mailbox or mail slot asking for their cooperation. The letters will describe the
researchand its importance and the support of the administrator. They also will note that a $5
coupon toward any groceries at the local Wegman’s Grocery (donated by the store’s public
relationsoffice) will be available to each person completing the two instruments and signing a
letter of informed consent related to the research. Finally, they will provide a telephone number
for anyone with questions or who may need assistance in completing the instruments. This
procedure will be pilot-tested with at least 10 volunteers from the Fayetteville Senior center to
refine the data gathering plans.
Once the pilot-testing procedures have been completed, any required changes in the
administration plans will be carried out. Then the administrators will be authorized to distribute
the forms. Any person who has phoned needing clarification will be provided further
explanation. Anyone who phones in a need for assistance in completing the forms will
receivesupport in the form of one the location’s administrative assistants reading the forms
andrecording the answers. Each assistant so involved will be provided training by the researcher
on how to read and record the answers in an unbiased manner.
One week after this initial delivery, a follow-up phone call will be made to either thank those
who completed the forms or to remind those who have not yet completed their forms. The
grocery coupons will be mailed to all who have completed the forms with a letter of thanks. If
fewer than 95 people from each of the two settings complete the forms, then the random
sampling and distribution will continue until at least that number of completed forms from each
setting has been received. It is anticipated that all data collection efforts will be completed within
Four types of analysis are proposed for this study. First, in order to provide a description of the
sample from which data will be collected, descriptive information on age, gender, and residential
setting will be described, as well as the means, modes, range, and standard deviations for the
SDLRS and SCLSES scores. Second, to determine the relationship between SDLRS and
SCLSES, Pearson product moment correlation coefficients will be determined. Third, to
determine any differences in SDLRS and SCLSES scores according to the moderating effects of
age, gender, and residential setting, chi-square, t-tests, and analysis of variance will be used to
examine for any significant differences among the scores and moderator variables.
The specific hypotheses to be tested are shown below in null form:
1. There is no significant relationship between life satisfaction and self-directed learning
readiness. This will be tested with the Pearson correlation coefficient.
2. There is no significant difference in life satisfaction and in self-directed learning readiness
between adult home and residential setting subjects. Each will be tested by chi-square.
3. There is no significant difference in life satisfaction and in self-directed learning readiness
according to gender. Each will be tested by chi-square.
4. There is no significant difference in life satisfaction and in self-directed learning readiness
according to age. Each will be tested by t-test and, collectively, by analysis of variance.
All hypotheses will be tested at a minimum of the .05 level of significance.
It is expected that the study will make at least three contributions to the areas of adult education
and gerontology. First, the study will contribute to the expanding knowledge base of selfdirected
learning. As more is known about the relationship of self-directed learning to such
areasas a person’s satisfaction regarding life, it will be possible to more clearly understand
themeaning of self-directed learning. The proposed research study is viewed as a piece of this
Second, this study is the first attempt to utilize the SDLRS with a sample of older persons
residing in institutional and residential housing settings. So often, these segments of the aging
population are overlooked as potential learners. The study should contribute toward a better
understanding of this group.
Finally, the ultimate issue underlying the study is quality of life. It is anticipated that the study
may identify ways through which education can contribute to the meaning of life for many
persons in their later years. While this is an enormous undertaking, the study could prove to be a
small step in this direction.
There are three limitations to the study. First, the study will be limited in terms of its
generalizability to the total older adult population. Like any other age group, older adults are a
very heterogeneous population. While the proposed study sample should be quite diverse, the
fact remains that certain segments of the older population will not be included.
A second potential limitation of the study is that the independent and dependent variables
aremeasured as subjects’ perceptions, not actual behaviors. In essence, the study does not
addressactual participation in self-directed learning activities nor does it address actual aspects
thatmake up a person’s life satisfaction, rather it describes the values that subjects ascribe to
Finally, anytime you use an instrument the results are subject to the known reliability and
validity of that instrument. Although some information about the instruments in regard to
reliability and validity (in the case of the SDLRS) is known, the instruments may have
limitations in measuring what they purport to measure. Only subsequent research with other
audiences and with other instruments will help further our understanding of the concepts being
measured in the study.
Although they are not included in this sample proposal, this section would include such areas as
a bibliography of cited references in the APA 6 th style, any necessary appendix material, and a
copy of any instruments if appropriate.