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Lifelong Learning  

Stephen Billett

The concepts of lifelong learning and lifelong education are related to but different from each other. A corrective is required, as public and governmental discourses often mention lifelong learning when referring to lifelong education and these distinct concepts are frequently conflated. It is important, therefore, to make clear delineations between them as they are not consonant, but distinct and interdependent. Lifelong learning is advanced as being a personal fact, that is, learning and development that arises from and is secured by individuals through their experiencing in diverse ways and through activities and interactions in distinct settings (e.g., workplaces, community, and educational) across their lives. Lifelong education is an institutional fact, that is, its goals, concepts, and experiences arise from and are projected by the social world. In schooled societies, experiences in educational institutions and programs are privileged and sometimes seen as encompassing all the worthwhile learning that can occur. However, what shapes and directs that learning is premised upon individuals’ readiness (i.e., what they already know, can do, and value) and their mediation of what they experience. Also, what constitutes lifelong education needs extending beyond the provision of taught courses offered through educational institutions to include educative experiences far more broadly. That is, it should include the educative experiences afforded by the communities and work practices in which adults participate and should engage in the activities and interactions through which they learn. These include experiences in which adults engage interpersonally and those that are more distant and indirect, such as through engaging with text, social media, and other sources of information. So, both concepts are important, as is the interdependence between them. However, without clarity about their distinctiveness and elaboration of these two concepts, they may well remain misunderstood and limited in their explanatory power and their interdependencies not fully elaborated. Identifying these can enhance the utility in guiding the provisions of educative experiences required to support effective learning. Given the range of circumstances and means through which learning and development occurs across adults’ working lives, accounting for the range of educative experiences and how they can support and sustain that learning is important.

Article

European Studies and Research in Adult Learning and Education  

Oriol Rios-Gonzalez

The European Commission launched a renewed agenda for adult learning with the objective of ensuring access to high-quality educational opportunities to adult learners for the promotion of their personal and professional development. Thus, European researchers in this field are paying attention to lifelong learning actions in order to address this challenge. Studies in this area are exploring how adult education can strengthen adults’ skills, in particular those required in the current knowledge society (information and communication technologies, problem solving, foreign languages, etc.). Simultaneously, some investigations focus in depth on the role that adult education can play in overcoming social exclusion for the most underserved groups. This paper describes the contributions of these investigations as well as the steps carried out by programs and theories that have contributed the most to adult learning. Lastly, future developments and challenges on this field are explained.

Article

Study Circles  

Staffan Larsson

The study circle is a “free and voluntary” pedagogy that has become a mass phenomenon in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. It was initiated within the popular movements in the first years of the 1900s as a tool for education among their members. Around 10 adults typically meet a few hours a week to develop their interests, for example, in art, political topics, music, or foreign language. The “study circle grammar” includes voluntary participation, an extremely wide span of topics to be studied, no requirements of a teacher, and no entrance qualifications, grades, or exams. Tradition stresses deliberations among participants, but practical topics often have a workshop pedagogy. They have received subsidies from the state and from municipalities through various organizational structures depending on country since the early 1900s. They grew and spread fast, reaching a peak in participation in the late 1900s, but have since stagnated; however, a substantial share of adults in Nordic countries continue to engage in them.