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Learning Identity, Flexibility, and Lifelong Experiential Learning  

Mai P. Trinh

The world is changing faster than ever before. Recent advances in technology are constantly making old knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) obsolete while also creating new KSAs and increasing the demand for jobs that have never existed before. These advances place tremendous pressure on people to learn, adapt, and innovate in order to keep up with these changes. Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) has been widely and effectively applied in various settings in the last four decades. This theory posits that learning is a proactive process, coming from the holistic integration of all learning modes in the human being: experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting. Learners must own and drive this process, because ownership of their own experiential learning process empowers learners to do far more than an external person—whether a parent, a teacher, or a friend—can accomplish. More than just a way to learn, experiential learning is a way of being and living that permeates all aspects of a person’s life. Given the demands of the fast-changing world we live in, what do individuals need to do to make sure they stay ahead of the change curve, remain fit with the changing environment, survive, and thrive? At the individual level, a number of important competencies need to be developed, including learning identity and learning flexibility. At the system level, learning and education as a whole must be treated differently. Education should be an abductive process in which learners are taught to ask different types of questions and then connect new knowledge with their own personal experiences. The outcome of education, likewise, should be adaptive and developmental. Instead of promoting global learning outcomes that every student needs to achieve, educators need to hold each student individually responsible for incrementally knowing more than he or she previously knew, and teach students not only how to answer questions but also how to ask good questions to extract knowledge from future unknown circumstances. Helping students foster a learning identity and become lifelong learners are among the most important tasks of educators in today’s fast-changing world.

Article

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

The Economic Implications of Training for Firm Performance  

Pedro S. Martins

A small literature on the relationship between employee training and firm performance is currently emerging. This line of research is particularly promising given the underexplored potential of training to drive productivity, wages, and employment. Until recently, training was regarded as a costly and risky investment because workers may leave their firm after being trained. However, studies on labor and education economics have found that training results in high returns for firms and that the costs of training can be recouped in a relatively short time. These results follow from different econometric identification approaches, including a small but growing number of randomized controlled trials. Moreover, most training is of a general nature and therefore applicable in other firms, which is at odds with the original theory of training but consistent with novel models that emphasize labor market power. There are a number of possibilities for future research, including a better understanding of the heterogeneity and patterns of training contents and formats across firms and workers, the differentiation of the effects of training along such dimensions, the role of labor market competition in driving training, the extent to which the productivity effects of training are shared with employees, the role of labor market institutions (including minimum wage, collective bargaining, and occupational licensing) in the dimensions above, and the firm performance effects of training provided to unemployed job seekers (as opposed to employees). Evaluation of the public training programs developed during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis and new forms of training in the context of the growth of remote work also merit further investigation.

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.

Article

School-Based Professional Development Programs for Beginning Teachers  

Joanna Madalińska-Michalak

School-based professional development for beginning teachers must be seen as a dynamic identity and decision-making process. Teachers as lifelong learners from the beginning of their career should be able to engage in different forms of teacher education that enable them to progress their learning and development in ways that are relevant to their own individual needs and the needs of their schools and pupils. Teacher individual professional learning is necessary but not sufficient for sustainable change within groups in school and within school as an organization. It is helpful to consider three elements. First, note the importance to schools of recruiting and developing high-quality teachers. Teachers are among the most significant factors in children’s learning and the quality school education, and the questions why and how teachers matter and how teacher quality and quality teacher education should be perceived require serious considerations from academics, policymakers, and practitioners. Second, understand teacher education as career-long education, and problematize the issue of teachers and coherent professional development within schools, asking key questions including the following: “how do schools create effective opportunities for teachers to learn and develop?” Third, focus on the particular journey and the needs of beginning teachers because their early career learning and development will have an impact on retention of high-quality teachers. It is important that coherent lifelong professional education for teachers is planned and implemented at the level of education systems, individual schools, teaching teams, and individual teachers.

Article

Teacher Education in Poland  

Joanna Madalinska-Michalak

Teacher education in Poland is viewed as a lifelong journey, encompassing preservice training, induction, and ongoing professional development. The primary emphasis is on empowering teachers as perpetual learners and tailoring their education to meet individual needs, as well as the needs of educational institutions and students. In Poland, teacher education is deeply integrated with higher education and has been shaped by substantial reforms. The current landscape of teacher education in Poland is a result of significant reforms initiated by the state, aligning with the Bologna process. The Bologna process aims to harmonize higher education systems across Europe by establishing the European Higher Education Area. This facilitates student and staff mobility, enhances inclusivity and accessibility, and boosts the competitiveness of European higher education globally. The changes in teacher education in Poland have also emphasized quality assurance, qualifications frameworks, recognition processes, and more. The overarching objective is to elevate the quality of teaching and learning. Comparative analysis of Poland’s teacher education system and international findings suggests several policy initiatives that should be implemented. These initiatives can be broadly categorized into two sets: strategies aimed at improving the status and competitiveness of the teaching profession, and targeted approaches for attracting and retaining specific types of teachers, particularly in specific schools. To enhance teacher education in Poland, recommendations include limiting the number of teacher education candidates based on demand, increasing funding, and implementing more selective admission processes within higher education institutions. Moreover, strengthening support for teacher mentors and improving the socioprofessional position of teachers is seen as essential. Attracting and recruiting the best teachers in Poland is a critical challenge, particularly in the face of emerging trends and teacher shortages. To address this issue effectively, it is essential to improve the image of the teaching profession, enhance working conditions, and provide incentives for aspiring educators. Additionally, more flexible teacher education programs that accommodate a diverse range of candidates and prepare teachers for the changing educational landscape are necessary to ensure a continuous supply of high-quality teachers.