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Lifelong Learning: A Lifestyle Defined

By: Lisa M. Clark

Lifelong learner: anyone connected to education has probably heard this term thrown around from time to time. I know I use it to describe myself (after all, it’s pretty fun to say!) when trying to sum up my goals and my roles in life—more on that later. But what does it mean to be a lifelong learner? Aside from an alliterative buzzword, what does the phrase mean beyond an educational cliché? Since I plan to contribute my posts to CPH EDU under the blog category “Lifelong Learner,” I should probably spend my first post exploring what that means.

So as a lifelong learner, I figure I should start with a little bit of research. Starting with the ever-present Wikipedia, lifelong learning is a colloquialism for “the ‘ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated’ pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons.” That’s a good start: I like how it involves intrinsic motivation and the acknowledgement that it goes beyond professional development.

My alma mater used this phrase all the time (shout-out to CUNE!) when I was studying for my education degree, and there always seemed to be a sense that lifelong learning involved a hunger, a burning desire to discover as much as possible with no intention to hang up the learning hat—ever—while here on earth.

Institutions are using this phrase to describe degree-completion programs that allow students to study while also continuing other vocations, such as employee and parent. In other words, it’s a program designed for people who can’t live in a dorm and study during business hours.

On their site, the Lifelong Learning Council of Queensland describes learning that is “flexible, diverse, and available at different times and in different places.” This, I think, helps to explain the continuous, ubiquitous nature of this mentality.

Okay, at the risk of being overly simplistic, here’s the definition I like to use: lifelong learning means learning for life. I know, I know—I can almost hear some of you groaning out there. But give me a minute and let me explain, bullet-point style:

  • Learning for life means that you never stop learning. At any moment, you may learn something new—whether you pick up a book and sit down for hours or whether you click on a link from an education blog post to refresh your memory on the definition of a four-syllable word (you’re welcome).
  • Learning for life also means that you learn things that equip you for life. You need to bake a pie for your church dinner? You ask a friend for his favorite crust recipe. You want to know about those blobby circles on a Florida coastline (true story)? You look up images on your smartphone and show your kids. You want to understand the best practice for collaborative work in the classroom? You conduct action research in your classroom and share your findings with colleagues.
  • Learning for life, here’s my favorite part, is learning for life. As in eternal life. “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31 ESV; emphasis added). As we study our world, we include study of the One who created it. As we study the Word, we praise God for our Savior and the life that we receive through Him.

There’s this great thing about learning that you may have picked up: when we learn, we often do so with others. Or we share what we’ve learned with others. In other words, as we live our lives as lifelong learners, we are also lifelong teachers, encouraging such learning with those around us.

So there you have it, in about seven-hundred words. This definition isn’t perfect or complete, but I hope it’s a good starting point to articulate my purpose behind this blog on lifelong learning. I’ll share my own learning or point to others as we learn together for life, for life, and for life. Not only will we learn about learning (education), but we’ll also learn about life (the way and the truth and the life). As lifelong learners, we can then promote this way of life to others—in and out of the classroom.

About Concordia Publishing House

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