Lifelong learning as an educator is a critical component for growth not only as a teacher, but as a human being. According to Dr Art Costa, emeritus professor of education at California State University: “The vicissitudes of day-to-day classroom life and the culture of the school provide fertile arenas of meaning making and knowledge formation for teachers. This rich environment provides numerous opportunities for learning and professional development if we can take the time for reflection and dialogue with others.” Here are five reasons why educators should embark on lifelong learning:
1.Education is Evolving
School education has come a long way from when children wrote on slate with chalk. Even the blackboard, a feature that has become synonymous with the classroom has been phased out in favour of the whiteboard, and now, the Smart Board. According to Gerhard Fischer, director of the Center for LifeLong Learning & Design (L3D) at the University of Colorado, the current rate of change in the education industry is “so fast that technologies and skills to use them become obsolete within 5-10 years.” For this reason, digital literacy has become a critical component of lifelong learning for educators. Having an open mind to new technology and incorporating it into the learning process ensures that educators can not only play an active role in the evolution of education but that they can be a driving force behind the development of their learners.
2.Challenges are Evolving
Teaching is a career in which the ability to adapt and remain flexible is one of the most indispensable qualities for educators in the ever-changing world we live in. Times have changed. The way learners interact with each other and the world around them has changed. At the centre of all of that, is the educator, who plays a pivotal role in providing solutions to problems, mediating, giving advice and providing guidance. Research from Stanford and the University of Michigan suggests that teachers can expect to encounter a number of students who need very particular, psychological support during their career. Being equipped with the skills needed to be a positive force in the lives of learners begins with pursuing ways in which to know more, understand more, and learn more.
3.Learning Promotes Neuroplasticity
Until recently it was believed that the brain had a fixed function and structure but this has been challenged by the idea of neuroplasticity – the possibility that the brain can adapt its functions and modify its structures according to internal and external factors. In an article by Jürg Kesselring (Head of Department: Neurology and Neurorehabilitation, Rehabilitation Centre Valens, Switzerland), lifelong learning is a key way of maintaining optimal brain health. According to Kesselring, “brains that have been trained are clearly different from untrained brains.” Stimulating the brain goes beyond doing sudoku puzzles – it’s about cultivating a mindset that takes maximizes the potential of the brain to keep evolving and thriving the more we learn.
4.It’s About Building Culture Through Authenticity
The axiom, “practice what you preach,” comes to mind when it comes to the need for educators to embark on lifelong learning. The job of any educator is to educate learners through presenting material in an appropriate way but an important part of that process includes teaching through ‘doing.’ When educators themselves, demonstrate a willingness to learn, they play an active role in creating a culture of curiosity and a desire to keep learning, within their respective environments. According to Dr Art Costa, “Teachers who continue to learn throughout their professional careers display the humility of knowing that they don’t know, which is the highest form of thinking they will ever learn.”
5.It fosters a sense of purpose
As numerous psychological studies have shown, it is not uncommon for educators to experience a sense of disillusionment at a point in their careers at which they reach a plateau. This feeling of disillusionment is a sign that something is missing, and that something is the drive towards constant progression – the very human impulse to be better, think better and live better. The key to overcoming this hurdle and becoming even better as a teacher, is lifelong learning. What is interesting is that the nature of that lifelong learning does not have to relate to one’s job in order to produce positive results. For some, it’s about learning a new language, for others it may be learning a new craft. Whatever the learning path may be, the end result is always the same – a renewed sense of purpose.
Educators are a part of the fundamental building blocks that make up society. In order for that foundation to be a sound one, schools need to become places where curiosity can be nurtured and a hunger for learning can be fostered.
Lifelong learning is the answer to building a healthy environment for teachers and learners both inside and outside of the educational context. The more we learn about the world, the more we learn about ourselves