Lifelong Learning: A Complete Guide

Lifelong learning is the concept that learning occurs throughout the lifetime. People enjoy learning, even if their interests come in different forms and their preferred methods of learning vary. However, learning is typically described as voluntary and driven by internal motivations throughout a person’s lifetime.

Traditionally, learning was considered a phenomenon that occurred only within specific settings, such as the classroom. Today, researchers believe that learning is an ongoing thing that happens on a daily basis. This learning can arise in a variety of ways when people interact with the world around them and other people.

Considering all this, learning should be considered possible in a variety of circumstances.

Evolutions in Learning Environments

If people can learn in a variety of contexts, and not just the classroom, then it’s important to understand the various different kinds of contexts that have emerged as learning environments in the past few decades. These new learning environments have arisen largely thanks to the growth and evolution of existing technology.

Web 2.0

The internet is its own environment in which people can learn and is the perfect embodiment of how learning has changed, particularly over the last two decades. The growth of Web 2.0, in specific, is one of the most potent tools for learning to develop in the past few years.

Because of Web 2.0, learning can more easily occur throughout an entire lifetime using both formal and informal settings. The web provides users with a wealth of resources that they can use to learn about new topics and train in skills that people previously never had access to.

Workplace Learning

One of the reasons that people have become lifelong learners is because the modern workplace requires that they be. The workplace has increasingly become a location where people can learn, acquiring new skills and knowledge as their workplace provides the training. For this reason, organizations are increasingly focusing on training for employees, which helps to create a more skilled and competitive workforce.

The PRACTICED Approach

Lifelong learning requires that people be open to new experiences and willing to learn over time. To help people become better lifelong learners, Samuel Malone suggested that people adopt the PRACTICED approach to learning. This is a nine point approach to learning that people can adopt in order to become better lifelong learners.

First, people need to PRIORITIZE learning. Learning cannot occur if a person isn’t willing to learn, and those people who prioritize learning will be more successful. Prioritizing learning means making time every day to learn new knowledge and skills. People need to be purposeful about learning and commit themselves to learning new things that can benefit them in their lives.

The second part of the PRACTICED approach is to reflect. Reflection means reviewing and thinking about what people have learned. Reflection is an important part of learning from childhood into adulthood. Since information is quickly forgotten, skills need to be trained and rehearsed. Without rehearsal, these skills quickly fade. Reflection should take into account personal performance as well as feedback received from those who are better trained in an area.

The third aspect of the PRACTICED approach is action learning. Action learning refers to the fact that people learn best by doing things. People need to actually put into practice what they learn. No matter what a person’s age or what a person learns, it’s important to continuously put into practice what has been learned. As a prime example, athletes are continuously practicing in order to perform better in the heat of the moment. All learning functions this way, and people should find ways of practicing the skills they acquire.

The fourth part of the PRACTICED approach includes curiosity. Human beings are inherently curious creatures. Curiosity drove some of the larger accomplishments in human history. Curiosity led mankind to spread around the world, investigate the secrets of the atom, and put man on the moon. Without curiosity, there can be no drive to learn, and internal drive is an important part of learning. When a person is internally motivated, they are more likely to remember new skills and knowledge they are trained in. It’s important for people to encourage their own natural curiosity, which requires asking about the world around them and trying to better understand how things work.

The fifth element of lifelong learning includes teaching. Interestingly, teaching is actually an effective way of learning. While teaching, people clarify to themselves certain concepts. In explaining something to someone else, people also reinforce what they’ve previously learn. Teaching helps the teacher because, while explaining, they clarify to themselves previous lessons they’ve learned. Consequently, teaching is a fantastic way of relearning old knowledge and skills a person has acquired.

The sixth element of lifelong learning includes insight. Insight refers to the fact that a part of learning includes understanding the underlying truth behind a fact. For instance, a person may know that certain practices help improve performance in an organization, but they may not know why those practices are effective. Finding these underlying insights helps a person better understand certain practices, making it important for learners to understand the underlying truths.

The seventh aspect of PRACTICED is concentration. Concentration is important to learning because it helps people to better focus on lessons that they are learning. It’s not uncommon for people to lose concentration. Particularly in a modern world in which a person’s phone is constantly interrupting their daily routine, it is easy to become distracted. Teachers understand that concentration is important to learning, which is why they attempt to keep phones out of the classroom. However, adult learners need to discipline themselves, since they typically don’t have teachers who can eliminate distractions for them. Being able to concentrate is even more important when a person is learning in the home, where all manners of distractions exist. As adults, it’s important for learners to establish strategies that help them eliminate distractions and improve concentration.

The eighth aspect of PRACTICED is exercise and nutrition. Many people don’t realize the important role that diet and exercise play in helping improve learning. Without appropriate nutrition, people can easily become lethargic. It becomes much harder for people to learn when they aren’t eating healthily, and it’s easy to lose focus when a person doesn’t have an appropriate diet. Nutrition is about more than just eating enough. Nutrition I also about eating the right things. However, equally important is exercise. People who exercise are more likely to remain healthy and have better brain function. Exercise over a lifetime helps keep the brain young, helping it function effectively over time.

The final element of PRACTICED is understanding different learning styles. Some people are tactile learners, meaning that they understand best when they’re hands on with an assignment. Other people easily understand information that’s presented to them in books or learned in lectures. As a person grows, it’s important for them to better understand how they learn best. By doing so, it becomes easier for a person to learn over the course of their entire life.

Learning Styles

One of the most critical elements of becoming a lifelong learner includes learning what style of learning is most effective for a person. There are seven major types of learning styles that a person might prefer:

You can learn more about different learning styles from here.

Engagement and Learning

Why is it important to appeal to your own learning style? It’s partly because you process information in a specific way, and partly because engagement is key to learning. Engagement is linked to deep learning, and there are three stages of student engagement: passive, mixed, and highly engaged.

The passive learner is someone who feels disconnected from the materials that they’re studying. These learners simply get through the material without asking deeper questions about the meaning of the material. They tend to have only a surface level understanding of the material.

When a learner becomes a mixed learner, it means they’ve become more highly engaged. This means they’re now more directly involved with their learning, going hands on with activities and asking deeper questions about the learning they’re undergoing.

The deeply engaged learner is what all people should strive to be. Highly engaged learners are their own teachers, inherently. They may have teachers and instructors, but the truth is that they drive most of their own learning. They ask deep questions about topics, seek to learn more about the underlying material, and engage with others. They seek to learn using a diverse approach, including asking open ended questions that lead to greater debate about a topic.

When a person is highly engaged, they are far more likely to remember what they learn. Consequently, it’s important for people, especially as they get older, to not only find activities that appeal to them but fellow learners that they can engage with. The web has made this far easier. Today, even people who are learning about a topic independently can connect with online communities that discuss topics the learner is interested in.

Instructing Others

After you’ve had some to learn about a topic, it’s important to reinforce that learning, and one of the best ways of doing this is by becoming an instructor to others. Researchers have previously found that teaching improves the instructor’s own learning. It forces them to draw on information that backs up their point and synthesize knowledge. IT also forces them to explain a topic in terms that others can understand, which can help the instructor themselves to better understand a subject.

It’s important for adults particularly to find communities in which they can become instructors. As noted previously, the web has made it far easier to join online communities. Websites such as Reddit host entire communities dedicated to academic topics, such as history or science.

The website StackExchange has long been used for people to debate topics ranging from computer science to politics. Users of these websites can join lively exchanges in which they provide answers to others. If you’re unable to find a local group of likeminded learners that you can study with, you can connect with these online websites and quickly find yourself helping to teach others on topics that you yourself are interested in.

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