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Defining Lifelong learning
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Lifelong learning is the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated” pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. Therefore, it not only enhances social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development, but also self-sustainability, as well as competitiveness and employability.
Lifelong learning is defined as “all learning activity undertaken throughout life, with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competences within a personal, civic, social and/or employment-related perspective”. It is often considered learning that occurs after the formal education years of childhood (where learning is instructor-driven—pedagogical) and into adulthood (where the learning is individually-driven—andragogical). It is sought out naturally through life experiences as the learner seeks to gain knowledge for professional or personal reasons.’Knowledge results from the combination of grasping experience and transforming it’ (Kolb 1984: 41). The concept of lifelong learning has become of vital importance with the emergence of new technologies that change how we receive and gather information, collaborate with others, and communicate.
Evolved from the term “life-long learners”, created by Leslie Watkins and used by Professor Clint Taylor (CSULA) and Superintendent for the Temple City Unified School District’s mission statement in 1993, the term recognizes that learning is not confined to childhood or the classroom but takes place throughout life and in a range of situations. Allen Tough (1979), Canadian educator and researcher, asserts that almost 70% of learning projects are self-planned.
During the last fifty years, constant scientific and technological innovation and change has had profound effects on how learning is understood. Learning can no longer be divided into a place and time to acquire knowledge (school) and a place and time to apply the knowledge acquired (the workplace). Instead, learning can be seen as something that takes place on an ongoing basis from our daily interactions with others and with the world around us. It can create and shapeshift into the form of formal learning or informal learning, or self-directed learning.
As technology rapidly changes, individuals must adapt and learn to meet everyday demands. However, throughout life, an individual’s functional capacities may also change. Assistive technologies are also important considerations under the umbrella of emerging technology and lifelong learning. Access to informal and formal learning opportunities for individuals with disabilities may be dependent upon low and high tech assistive technology.
Professions typically recognize the importance of developing practitioners becoming lifelong learners. Nowadays, formal training is only a beginning. Knowledge accumulates at such a fast rate that one must continue to learn to be effective (Williams, 2001). Many licensed professions mandate that their members continue learning to maintain a license. (Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007). Having said this, what are the characteristics or skills that a lifelong learner must develop. Reflective learning and critical thinking can help a learner to become more self-reliant through learning how to learn, thus making them better able to direct, manage, and control their own learning process (Candy, 1990). Sipe (1995) studied experimentally “open” teachers and found that they valued self-directed learning, collaboration, reflection, and challenge; risk taking in their learning was seen as an opportunity, not a threat. Dunlap and Grabinger (2003) say that for higher education students to be lifelong learners, they must develop a capacity for self-direction, metacognition awareness, and a disposition toward learning (Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007).
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