Nurturing a Love of Lifelong Learning in our Students

REFLECTIVE QUESTION: Theme 2 locates all of us as “adult learners” within the landscape of adult education and adult learning (the broader landscape that we explored throughout THEME 1). With this in mind, and as you reflect on yourself as ‘adult learner on a lifelong learning journey’, reflect on and share your insights, questions, perspectives as to whether or not there is a significant relationship, in fact, between our identity as adult learners and our identity as teachers (and our role in nurturing the desire to be lifelong learners in others). In your response(s), please include your own reflections/insights, something from the plenary lectures and readings, and any other source that helps you to make meaning of this.

How can I possibly nurture a passion for lifelong learning in my students if I do not embrace this quality myself? A dedicated teacher should be constantly asking questions, reflecting critically, and learning along side her students. Thus, teaching and learning go hand in hand. My identity as an adult learner and my identity as a teacher are very much interwoven, resulting in a complex tapestry, decorated with a wide array of life experience, which will remain unfinished until I die.  If I ever reach a point in my teaching practice when I think that I know all the answers or am no longer curious about life then my passion for learning will have fizzled and someone should quickly show me the door.  As Lindeman (1961) explained, “The whole of life is learning, therefore education can have no endings.” (p. 4)

Fortunately, I never left high school thinking that life my life could now begin because my schooling was over.  Rather, through a positive school experience and a supportive home environment that valued any kind of learning, I developed a curiosity in the world around me, and a love of learning that allowed me to pursue topics of interest in a variety of different ways and contexts. I do believe that, “experience is the adult learner’s living textbook”(Lindeman, 1961, p4.) and the knowledge that I have gained from previous jobs, parenting, marriage, formal and informal schooling, travel, hobbies, and just “living” will guide me in my work in the classroom.

But what about those students who are not having the same positive school experience that allowed me to value the role of education in my life and see it as an opportunity to open a wide range of doors and possibilities upon graduation.  Carrarella and Merriam state that educators of adult are “often challenged to consider both what the individual adult brings to the learning situation as well as the life circumstance of the learner at any particular point in time.” (Wilson, Hayes, 2000, p. 63) Teachers of children need to consider these things as well:  what do children bring to the learning situation, what are their interests, what experiences shape their understanding of the world, what topics will be meaningful to them so that they develop curiosity, critical thinking, and a quest for knowledge? Do they even like being in school and what can you do as a teacher to develop a positive attitude around learning?

Teachers are always telling their students to “show don’t tell”.  By valuing and embracing lifelong learning myself, I hope to create a classroom environment that challenges students to be curious questioners and to take ownership of their own learning journey.

Wilson, A., & Hayes, E. (2000) Handbook of Adult and Continuing Education. San Fransisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

Lindeman, E. (1961) The Meaning of Adult Education. Canada: Harvest House Ltd.

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About Barb English

I am a curious soul and lifelong learner who is currently employed as a teacher in a Special Education classroom with the Calgary Board of Education.
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