When graduation time comes and school is finally over, we feel so many different emotions. This time also marks the beginning of a journey where we continue fostering lifelong learning skills. This time, however, we won’t be graded and we won’t be in a classroom. Welcome to lifetime learning 101—learning the way you want to learn.
When we look at education these days, what do we see? STEM, the Arts, Language, and more. But underlying all of these is the goal of fostering lifelong learning skills within our students. Thus, to kill someone’s innate love of learning is contrary to all goals of modern education. For this reason we must strive toward making learning something kids want to do, not dread.
Defining Lifelong Learning
If we’re going to talk about fostering lifelong learning skills, we should start by defining lifelong learning itself. In it’s most basic sense, lifelong learning is exactly as the name suggests—learning that continues throughout one’s entire lifetime. However, what would possibly make someone want to be a learner for that long?
It has to be more than a matter of being forced to learn for survival or success. The motivation needs to extend beyond necessity and the “do or die” mentality. Ultimately fostering lifelong learning skills means nurturing a passion and desire for learning. In order to do this, learning needs to have relevance, purpose, and real-world connection.
There’s no need to make learning “fun” or “interesting” because that happens by default when those three factors are working. Take a look at the examples below. Which ones have you done either recently or in the past?
- You picked up a magazine and learn something new.
- You searched YouTube for a tutorial on how to fix or make something.
- You took any kind of a class.
- You looked up how to do a problem in a school assignment online.
- You learned something from a mentor.
Lifelong learning manifests itself in a number of different ways, and the above examples are just a few of them. We also learn through conversation and interaction, by experience (either ours or someone else’s), by observation, and by making mistakes. Fostering lifelong learning skills gives us the tools we need to make the most out of each of these situations as they occur in our lives.
It is absolutely essential that our children have these skills for navigating life both in and out of school. Not just to make their own lives better either, but to make a positive difference to the entire global society they will inherit.
Fostering Lifelong Learning Skills for a Better Society
Lifelong Learning Council Queenland Inc breaks lifetime learning down below. It’s here we begin to see how it contributes to bettering people and the communities they live in.
- Learning to know—mastering learning tools rather than acquisition of structured knowledge.
- Learning to do—equipping people for the types of work needed now and in the future including innovation and adaptation of learning to future work environments.
- Learning to live together and with others—peacefully resolving conflict, discovering other people and their cultures, fostering community capability, individual competence and capacity, economic resilience, and social inclusion.
- Learning to be—education contributing to a person’s complete development: mind and body, intelligence, sensitivity, aesthetic appreciation and spirituality.
What this demonstrates is that we learn automatically throughout much of our lives. Even things that come to us without our conscious knowing is a form of learning. Pop-up ads, billboards, and videos are all types of learning. We are certainly absorbing this information whether we want to or not and whether it’s true or not.
Can we say that because of the digital age we have become life learners simply because the information is there when we want or need it? Is this what fostering lifelong learning skills is about?
The answer is both yes and no.
The Need for Vetting Information
One should have enough knowledge and skill to be able to identify what is true and what is not, and what is useful. With lifelong learning, we are actively seeking out information and using it. We retain that skill for future use since it is relevant to us and we are solving problems with it. In most instances, lifelong learning becomes self-directed. It is meaningful to us and we are motivated to learn. With true learning also comes a reflection on how it fits within your moral code.
Lifetime learning, in its more comprehensive definition, must provide for active verification of whether a certain piece of information is true. Information Fluency was designed for this very purpose. However, this is no easy task, as the Internet can disguise untruths with layers of appeal to our need for quick-search answers. That’s why we have to get back to scrutinizing our primary sources.
The average Internet user is just too lazy or does not have enough time to sift through all those layers. In fostering lifelong learning skills, we happily take on this challenge. In doing so a learner discovers responsibility, and with it a sense of empowerment. Consequently, lifelong learning compels a student to be self-directed—asking the questions that need to be asked, not just accepting things at face value.
This is important because the world needs people who will ask the hard questions and create the answers when no one else can. This is how our society becomes better—across town and across the globe—through fostering lifelong learning skills.
So how do we make sure our students grow up to become lifelong learners? There are 3 things we must strive to do as educators. These are things which we as adults tend to appreciate when we are employed:
- Eliminate fear of failure by allowing students to experiment, make mistakes, and take risks.
- Provide formative assessment with real-time feedback on student performance
- Include collaboration, since kids are more apt to seek help and work together to get something done.
Peter Drucker of the Drucker Institute says this about lifelong learning:
“We know that what we absorbed in the college classroom was at best a foundation for absorbing more, and a fragile foundation at that …
For knowledge, by its very definition, makes itself obsolete every few years, and then knowledge workers have to go back to school …
They may be store managers…or physicians or engineers, but every few years they have to refresh and renew their knowledge. Otherwise they risk becoming obsolescent …
It will force us to accept that, in the knowledge society, learning is lifelong and does not end with graduation.”
Our global society will benefit from our work in fostering lifelong learning skills within our children. Lifetime learners will develop compassion and respect for people of different cultures by learning it on their own. Such students know that together we can accomplish great things.
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