Many great educators have said many great things about the importance of lifelong learning skills. John Dewey, however, probably said it best:
"Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself."
Educators want their learners to succeed both in and out of the classroom. The idea is to make sure that once our children leave school, they no longer need us. In essence, our learners must become teachers and leaders. The point is that they never stop being learners.
This is what it means to be a lifelong learner. Below are a few ways that you can help them achieve this priceless mindset.
1. Encourage Learning Ownership
Ultimately, we are responsible for our own learning. Outside of school, students will be expected to learn on their own. Giving them this freedom early on will serve them well in the future. When students own their learning, it sticks with them.
It's also important to show them the rewards of taking such responsibility. This includes higher self-esteem, pride in achievement, and the independence they want. It also adds to their ability to help others.
2. Turn Mistakes Into Opportunities
The practice of learning from mistakes is one of the best lifelong learning skills anyone can master. There is so much we can learn from making mistakes. They remind us that we're human and that we tried. They show us better ways to think and work, and also provide insights into hidden knowledge and awareness.
Ultimately we are responsible for our own learning ... when students own their learning, it sticks with them.
Trying new things and stretching ourselves helps us grow mentally and emotionally, as do the mistakes that will inevitably come with this. Our learners are both tough and fragile at the same time. We must always treat mistakes as opportunities, and never as crimes.
3. Stash a Few Go-To Learning Tools
Everyone has tricks that help them learn. For some, it's mental repetition, while others create a spur-of-the-moment song about what they want to learn. Ultimately there are dozens of things you can do to help you learn better.
Do your learners regularly read blogs or listen to podcasts? Are they news buffs? Maybe they're avid readers, or they enjoy debates and discussions for sharing knowledge and ideas. No matter the case, try to give them opportunities to do these things when you can. If they give them a thirst for learning and growing, that's a good thing.
4. Let Them Take the Teaching Reins
Edgar Dale's Cone of Experience was developed in the 1960s. Since then, it has been represented in numerous graphical adaptations. They are diverse in content, but they all seem to agree on one thing: learning retention is maximized when we teach our knowledge to someone else.
Who are your mentors in class? Who are the ones who are assisting others and guiding their peers? These students can impart valuable lessons of learning ownership and knowledge sharing to others. Such pupils can be an inspiration for many.
5. Find Time to Play
Any theatre actor will tell you why a play is called a play. It's because, on stage, playing is exactly what you do. In doing so, you learn about yourself and others. You learn communication, comprehension, and unique social skills as you bring stories alive to teach others. The experience is enjoyable to both you and to those watching.
As teachers, we must always treat mistakes as opportunities, and never as crimes.
Play is an important part of learning. It's essential that learning is fun and enjoyable. Otherwise, the learner will resist it. They will associate it with unpleasant intellectual and emotional feelings, instead of the joys of discovery and personal growth. We must ensure our kids never see learning as a chore, but rather as the bold adventure it was meant to be.
6. Set Learning Goals
Since learning should have a purpose, this means having the end clearly in mind. There must be a valid and worthwhile reason for learning. To have any value, it must be a meaningful and useful experience we can move forward within our lives. This is especially true for our learners. Goal setting is one of those lifelong learning skills that strengthen the desire to learn.
Lifelong Learning Skills: Our Gift to Students
No matter where they are in life, we must make sure our learners continue learning and growing. We do this by making sure they want to. That is the gift we give them when we release them into the waiting world.