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Cultivating a Learning Culture, Part 3: Lifelong Learning in the Workplace

By: Lisa M. Clark

This week, we’ll wrap up some introductory posts on lifelong learning by including ways to cultivate this learning culture in the workplace. (If this is your first time reading a post from The Lifelong Learner, you may want to start here.)

We’ve started by looking at ways to promote lifelong learning in our own lives and within our families. But there’s another community where many of us spend much of our week: at work.

Now, this work can take on all kinds of scenarios. The parent or spouse who works in the home full time, the freelance worker who collaborates remotely, the employee who works away from home—we all have our own form of work and our own form of community that goes with it. So keep the following tips in mind and adapt them to suit your own situation to promote learning wherever you call your “workplace.”

  1. Make learning safe. You may have experienced something like this before: someone from your team suggests a book, forwards an article link, mentions a new strategy. And he or she gets derailed. One person takes it personally that they’re not doing enough. Another explains that they’ve tried this before—and it didn’t work. Still others completely ignore the opportunity to learn. Slowly, kindly, change this culture with your own attitude. Provide some feedback. Highlight some learning of your own, and make it clear that this is an obligation-free idea. With patience and diligence, help co-workers see that sharing can be both safe and fun.
  2. Create learning spaces. This one looks familiar, doesn’t it? The same concepts of creating a space for learning at home can be applied here. No, you probably don’t have as much control over your workplace as you do your home, but there are still ways to make learning easier in your environment. Set out a small library of books for colleagues to borrow. Post an interesting article outside your door. If you connect with your peers in cyberspace most often, begin to post helpful ideas in an asynchronous online space, where people can learn and comment when they are able.
  3. Be an example. You can tout the benefits of lifelong learning all you want, but your colleagues will be watching you (whether they realize it or not). If you suggest a subscription to a professional periodical but let your own copies collect dust in your office mailbox (mea culpa), others will be able to justify their own lax in learning. If you are diligent in sharing new tools and tips regularly (not necessarily frequently—just regularly), others will be inspired to share ideas of their own.
  4. Follow up. When a peer gives helpful advice, try it out sometime and let them know how it worked. If you adapted the idea, share that learning. Similarly, if you read a great article that gets you thinking in the spring, check out more from the writer during the summer and share that learning with your team as well. Tracing back to prior learning shows that connections can be made from one day to another. The learning isn’t just a sporadic string of email forwards; it is an ongoing discussion that grows with time and information.
  5. Learn together. Sure, this post has talked quite a bit about sharing—sharing individual learning with others. This time, engage in shared learning together. Participate in a webinar together. Read the same book. Attend the same conference. One of the excellent aspects of learning in a community is that—as everyone learns differently—the learning becomes richer. Three different peers will hear the same lecture, and they will focus on three different things. They will remember three different points. They will ask three different questions. There’s no way for you to know what those other two perspectives would be unless you learn together and discuss later. Shared experiences like this have other benefits too, such as an added sense of comradery.

If you’re reading this post, you’re part of a learning community that spends time on CPH EDU. I encourage you to take advantage of this collaborative environment by commenting on the posts and encouraging others to do the same. Even if we are not all in the same workspaces, we can still add to one another’s learning.

About Concordia Publishing House

Concordia Publishing House (CPH) is the publishing arm of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. For 150 years, CPH has been providing individuals, churches, and schools with products that are faithful to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. From books and Bibles to church supplies, curriculum, and software, CPH offers over 10,000 products to support the proclamation of the Gospel worldwide. Visit CPH online at