Lifelong Learning

The Strange Journey from Independent Learning to Lifelong Learning

It may surprise you that we move from independent learning, to dependent learning in school, and only a few return to Independent Learning after completing their education.

The human animal is a learning animal. We like to learn; we need to learn; we are good at it. What kills the processes are the people interfering with it as they regulate it or control it.     — John Holt

1. Early Independent LearningLearning is fun when you are 2 years old and want to learn about animals

From birth and though pre-school years, most children learn a tremendous amount of information, just for the fun of it. If their passion is trucks, they soon know the names of more kinds of trucks than their parents knew.  We might know toddlers that can name (and pronounce correctly) dozens of dinosaur names. What an amazing capacity for learning. And what joy they experience.

The little girl in the picture is only two years old. She loves her books. Here she is looking at mother and baby animals. She knows all the names. If you were to point out “a baby cow”, she would correct you. “That’s a calf.”

Why is learning so much fun and so easy at this age? Why do we lose our excitement for learning when we start school?

2. Learning the Basics

In the first two or three years of school, when students learn to read, write, and do basic arithmetic, most students do very little independent learning in school.They are eager to learn how to read, at least in the beginning.  They continue their eager learning when not in school. But they soon get the idea that school is for learning what you have to learn. Home is for learning what you want to learn.

3. Beyond the Basics

As students move on through elementary, middle, and high school, increasing homework means that students do less and less independent learning and more learning because they have to. And as the work gets more difficult, students who didn’t learn the basic well enough as left behind, making poor grades and feeling stupid. Learning is no longer fun in or out of school.

Other students, generally those who had no problem with the basics may enjoy some of their classes, struggle with some, or be bored. Only the exceptional students or those whose parents provide learning experiences outside of school continue to be independent learners… whether learning additional information related to a subject in school or learning about totally different subjects.

And college, in spite of the “extra time” continues in the same pattern for most students. Some, while uninterested in general courses, manage to be excited about – and to some extent independent learners in their chosen field of study.

4. Graduate School

Here, finally, when students are required to do independent research on a topic of their own choice, in order to write a these, these students finally are faced with independent learning. But, for some students, the joy is taken out of the experience because of the stress and the need to satisfy the thesis committee who they know will require many revisions.

5. And after Graduation – then what? That is a good question.

Some students will have jobs that require constant research and learning, often with reports to write. There may be no joy in this.

But others will begin the regain that excitement of discovery and look forward to learning more.  Some, in their spare time will read books about history or science or other subjects and ask, “Why didn’t I enjoy these subjects when I was in college?

These people have become Lifelong Learners.

Kyle Pearce writes this on his website.

As we move into the 21st century, the idea of self-education is going to continue to broaden and expand, making the life-long learner the most valuable person in the workplace, not the person with the fancy (and outdated) degree. This is not to say that formal education is going to go away. There will always be a need for excellent universities and inspiring teachers. But the person who takes it upon himself to learn and explores topics – to broaden their own horizons – will always enjoy an edge, whether it be in business or as a citizen.

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