Module 1: planning for learning at work: learner's workbook

2.2 Lifelong learning

Page last updated: 2004

In the past we have made rather clear distinctions between places where we learn (schools, college and university) and places where we work. On the other hand we know that we learn throughout our lives and in almost all situations. Some of this learning is incidental and largely subconscious, such as finding a new route to work. However, a large amount of our learning is purposeful – we identify a learning need and plan to address this need. This is known as lifelong learning.

One of the most profound areas of change in most people's lives occurs in the world of work. For example, in your work a number of specific learning challenges may include:

  • the requirements of the Supported Accommodation Assistance program with its emphasis on case management and the 'continuum of care'
  • the emphasis on innovative models of intervention such as community-based care and outreach support
  • the increasing use of standards, accreditation and regulations in the sector
  • the use of sophisticated databases and websites for finding and using information.
When practices and processes can change so rapidly, knowledge and skills learnt at school or in formal education can quickly become obsolete. How do we manage this increasing complexity and never-ending change?

Task - writing exercise

Question - What are some of the strategies that you use to adapt to the shifting circumstances and demands in your workplace?

Answer - (Write your answer, then check the possible answers page.)

The dimensions of lifelong learning

It is important to stress that lifelong learning is not lifelong schooling or studying! The concept stresses the importance of us taking responsibility for our own learning and there is a wide range of ways that we can do this.

The lifelong learner is someone who recognises the need for ongoing learning, is motivated to engage in the process, and has the necessary confidence and learning skills. Lifelong learning includes the following dimensions:
  • learning is active, not passive
  • learning occurs in formal and informal settings
  • people learn with, and from, peers
  • people integrate ideas from different fields
  • learners locate and evaluate information from a wide range of sources
  • people use different learning strategies as appropriate
  • learning addresses real-life issues
  • the process of learning is as important as the content
  • people identify, plan and monitor their own learning
  • learners engage in reflection and self-evaluation
  • feedback is critical for change and improvement.
Many of the above strategies stress the role of the individual learner taking responsibility for their own learning.

This brings us to the second central theme of this module - self-directed learning.