titleinquiry logo

Life-long Learning

"Knowledge is of two kinds: we know a subject ourselves or we know where we can find information upon it." - Samuel Johnson (1791)

lifelong readerWhen you're considering whether or not to buy a hybrid car, do you explore the issues and make an informed decision? When you hear a news broadcast that mentions a country in South America, do you look up its location on an atlas or in Google Earth? Do you read about the historical, cultural, natural, and recreational options as you plan the perfect vacation adventure?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, inquiry and learning are already an integral part of your life.

Life-long Learners

Life-long learning is the process of acquiring and expanding knowledge, skills, and dispositions throughout your life to foster well-being. It's much more than taking an adult pottery class or reading a nonfiction book occasionally. It's about the decisions you make and the problems you solve in everyday life. From enrolling in an structured, formal education program to considering whether to believe an infomercial's gimmick, lifelong learning takes many forms.

Life-long learners choose to seek out new ideas and alternative perspectives. They embrace our changing, dynamic, information-rich society by keeping their senses active and their minds full of ideas. Much of this learning is self-directed. To be successful, the child or adult must have basic information inquiry knowledge, skills, and dispositions.

Watching the TLC network to learn about home improvement, visiting your library to locate good books and movies, or exploring your local museum are all examples of enjoying life's opportunities. The key is motivation. Making an informed decision can lead to a positive career choice or a successful marriage.

Life-long learning isn't just about emotional well-being. According to medical research, people with active minds are less likely to suffer Alzheimer's Disease and other ailments.

Life-long learning is about anticipation, exploration, and reflection. Think about your own life. How has your time been spent? How would you like to spend your time? Each person makes his or her own choices and decisions. What will yours be? As educators we need to model the kind of life we envision for our students including enthusiasm for life, love of reading, and life-long learning!

Assumptions of Andragogy and the Ageless Learner

Before exploring how children learn, it's useful to look at yourself as a learner. In his book The Modern Practice of Adult Education: From Pedagogy to Andragogy, Malcom Knowles discusses assumptions about adult learners. He discusses the concept of learner, role of the learner's experience, readiness to learn, and orientation to learn.

As you explore each of the following ideas, think about yourself as an ageless learner.

  1. The learner is self-directing. Adult learners want to take responsibility for their own lives, including the planning, implementing, and evaluating of their learning activities.
  2. The learner enters an educational situation with a great deal of experience. This experience can be a valuable resource to the learner as well as to others. It needs to be valued and used in the learning process.
  3. Adults are ready to learn when they perceive a need to know or do something in order to perform more effectively in some aspect of their lives. Their readiness to learn may be stimulated by helping them to assess the gaps between where they are now and where they want and need to be.
  4. Adults are motivated to learn after they experience a need in their life situation. For that reason learning needs to be problem-focused or task-centered. Adults want to apply what they have learned as quickly as possible. Learning activities need to be clearly relevant to the needs of the adult.
  5. Adults are motivated to learn because of internal factors such as self-esteem, recognition, better quality of life, greater self-confidence or the opportunity to self-actualize. External factors such as pressure from authority figures, salary increases, etc. are less important.

Think about how you as an adult learner are like and unlike a young inquirer.

videoView Turtle Experience 1 (2:29).
View Turtle Experience 2 (0:56).

In this 2-part video, two children experience learning in the “real world” by finding a turtle and investigating how it can safely be returned to nature. Excerpt from “Choosing the Right Information”, Pt. 3 of Know It All Series by GPN / Univ. of NB

Use of this video clip complies with the TEACH act and US copyright law. You should be a registered student to view the video.

eye means readRead Building A Nation of Learners (PDF). For some people, personal inquiry and life-long learning is an important part of their life. They simply love to learn. That's how the 42explore project at eduscapes.com got started. Sometimes we investigate heavy topics such as Nuclear Age and other times fun topics like Scrapbooking. Choose one of the 42explore topics from the Index. Then, explore. Don't worry about the time or answering specific questions. Instead, wander and enjoy. Describe the experience. Then discuss whether this is a common or rare activity for you. Why? Or, check out Wikipedia. Search for topics of interest.

tiny lamb headLamb's Latitudes
When my husband and I go to see a movie, we often head from the theatre to the local bookstore or library. This happened with the movie Seabiscuit. We were full of questions about connections to the novel, the relationship of the horse with the Great Depression, and the life of jockeys. The same thing happened after watching the movie Apocalypto. We became fascinated by the Pre-Columbian cultures. What stimulates your "quest for knowledge"?

Create a list of things that are of interest to you. They can be hobbies, subjects you loved in school, current issues you wonder about... things you never have time to learn. Then, spend some time exploring what you can find out about these topics on the Internet. Go browse the bookstore and local library. Spend some time contemplating questions and exploring answers... There's no report, no presentation, no grade.... strictly for the fun of learning!

Learn More

Use the following resources to learn more about this topic.

A Memorandum on Lifelong Learning focuses on work in the UK on life long learning by NIACE

Knowles, Malcom. (1980). The Modern Practice of Adult Education: From Pedagogy to Andragogy 2nd ed. New York: Association Press.

| SLIS-IUPUI | eduScapes | About | Contact Us | ©2005-2011