Lifelong learning is now recognized by educators, governing bodies, accreditation organizations, certification boards, employers, and the general public as one of the most important competencies that people must possess. This research aim is to explain how meeting this challenge will require changes in the way teachers teach and learners learn, as teachers take on a more facilitative role and learners take more responsibility for setting goals, identifying resources for learning, reflecting on and evaluating their learning. For teachers that train new teachers, this will require greater participation in self-assessment, peer assessment, evaluation of performance in practice, documentation of practice-based learning and improvement activities and learning at the point of care. In conclusion, students that want to become teachers are now exposed to multiple opportunities for practicing lifelong learning such as teaching others, participating in multidisciplinary conferences and engaging in research
Lifelong learning has become a necessity for all citizens. We need to develop our skills and competences throughout our lives, not only for our personal fulfillment and our ability to actively engage with the society in which we live, but for our ability to be successful in a constantly changing world of work. The philosophy of learning throughout life is anything but modern.
Today in the 21st century, we find ourselves anew amidst the loud voices proclaiming the importance of lifelong learning. What is clear is that the context of lifelong learning has changed and the utopian and generous vision characterizing lifelong learning has now become a necessary guiding and organizing principle of education reforms . It is recognized today as an indispensable tool to enable education to face its multiple current and emerging challenges. Lifelong learning is now valued by educators, governing bodies, accreditation organizations, certification boards, employers and the general public as one of the most important competencies that people must possess. As information and communication technologies permeate our societies and communities, the role of the individual learner is highlighted. Globalization has produced outcomes and processes which make the learning of new skills and competencies of paramount importance.
Today it is no longer enough to have the same living and working skills one had five years ago. The ways in which we access information and services continue to change. We need new competences to master a whole new digital world, not only by acquiring technical skills, but also by gaining a deeper understanding of the opportunities, challenges and even ethical questions posed by new technologies . We all need to possess the generic competences that will enable them to adapt to change. Learning to learn, problem solving, critical understanding and anticipatory learning – these are only a few of the core skills and competencies needed for all, at a time when 60% of trades and jobs to be performed in the next two decades or so are not yet known .
In many communities, the growing number of migrants means that residents have to discover new ways of relating to people from other cultures. The clamor for active citizenship likewise implies that individuals should realize their capacity for active participation in the shaping of democratic societies. And in all of the above, the environment in which learning takes place is decisive for all learners, women and men, young and old.
As the debate on lifelong learning resonates throughout the world, it is clear that there needs to be more discussion on how this concept will be put into practice, in the educational field. The rhetoric on lifelong learning has to be matched with evidence of how it works and how it will contribute to creating more humane societies. This research is contribution to this discussion. As teachers from the Department of Educational Sciences of the University “Lucian Blaga”, responsible to train future teachers, we are focused on the changes needed for today’s academic education. Lifelong learning involves a huge challenge for teachers and students as well because they all have to embrace changes in their work.
This research aim is to explain how meeting this challenge will require changes in the way teachers teach and learners learn, as teachers take on a more facilitative role and learners take more responsibility for setting goals, identifying resources for learning, and reflecting on and evaluating their learning. The study reflects our opinions and experiences as teachers involved in today’s training system for the next generations of teachers. It is based on the modern educational paradigms of lifelong learning that recognize students as active participants in their own education.
For teachers that train new teachers, this will require greater participation in self-assessment, peer assessment, evaluation of performance in practice, documentation of practice-based learning and improvement activities, and learning at the point of care. According to our self-opinions, we consider that the next points are relevant for today’s students:
Perhaps most salient to any discussion about learning in the 21st century is the fact that today’s students are growing up digital. As teachers that train future teachers we questioned:
“How can we begin to take advantage of those differences and unleash in our students a passion to learn and create?”
“What we should change, as teachers, in our teaching styles?”
“What kind of learning environments we should create for our students today?”
A second characteristic of the new learning context, ironically, is that now, when education is more important than ever, much of the public seems less willing to pay for it. Given that constraint, we need to find ways to tap the naturally occurring curiosity of our students so that we can turn them loose to do more learning on their own.
Third, we need to keep in mind that today’s students will not have fixed single careers. Instead, they are likely to follow a working trajectory that encompasses multiple careers and as they progress, they won’t be able to depend on what they learned in school a decade earlier. They will need to be able to gain new skills outside today’s traditional educational institutions.
Fourth, from a larger perspective, it is likely that the problems of the future won’t be addressed by any one specialty; rather, cross-disciplinary approaches that encompass multiple areas of expertise and ways of knowing will have to become the norm. People will need to be able to work in such cross-disciplinary teams.
The fifth key characteristic of learning in the 21st century is the truly global nature of our economy. Today’s students will both compete against and, ideally, cooperate with people from around the world to build and shape the global economy. How our country fares in this situation will depend to a large extent upon how well we can educate our citizens.
Finally, one of the greatest challenges we face is how to encourage our institutions of higher learning to become learning institutions themselves. All academic institutions should do this well today .
In this context, as teachers we put in practice a new teaching style that can improve students’ abilities and attitudes for lifelong learning. In our classes we use the critical thinking methods that offer a successful model of learning that may be more broadly applied. During a critical thinking method, all work in progress is public and so students can see what every other student is doing. Students witness the thinking processes other students use to develop their ideas. Particularly via the practice of the public critique of projects, students gain a moderately nuanced understanding of the design choices, the constraints, the unintended consequences of choices made early on and the compromises that may underlie the final product that they have learned about. They start to appreciate and learn from the struggles and successes of their peers, and learn the social and intellectual practices that enable them as an ensemble to become a reflective practicum. Students learn to solve problems as they become critical thinkers and active learners. The ability of critical thinking is considered vital in a learning society.
Critical thinking methods can work for other subjects too in any field of study. No traditional lecturing takes place. Mostly the professor and teaching assistants walk around from table to table, see what interesting issues are unfolding and occasionally interrupt the entire class to discuss something that a particular group of students is encountering. We believe that the crucial difference between traditional classrooms and critical thinking classrooms in the distinction between “learning about” and “learning to be.”
In order to prepare students for their future in terms of being a life-long learner, we implement some measures, such as:
create a safe learning environment that supports and respects inquiry, exploration, and intellectual risk taking;
take into account the national curriculum guidelines, as well as learner background, special needs, and interests;
encourage positive social interaction, active engagements in learning and self-motivation;
understand and use a variety of learning models to promote active learning and understanding;
foster relationships with colleagues and teachers to support learning and development;
reflect on learning and teaching individually and with colleagues (course journal);
encourage learning from a variety of activities ( for example, observing how other people do something, discussing with others, asking someone, looking up information, trying something for oneself and learning from trial and error, and reflecting on all the previous activities)
provide opportunities for students to think of both pros and cons for situations and then make decisions, to solve real-life problems (study case), to set their own goals and to self-assess, to measure their own progress;
provide the students with experience that fosters communication and critical thinking skills, creativity, team work (for instance, integrating group projects in university courses/seminars provide students with the opportunity to practice collaborative skills and challenging students to make presentations based on their project can be a very good opportunity for students to develop communication skills and self-assessment).
Every individual must be in a position to keep learning throughout his life. The idea of lifelong education is the keystone of the learning society and the keystone of today’s education. In other words, lifelong education is not an educational system but the principle in which the over-all organization of a system is founded.
In conclusion, students that want to become teachers are now exposed to multiple opportunities for practicing lifelong learning such as teaching others, participating in multidisciplinary conferences and engaging in research. We hope that this study will be used widely to push forward the Department of Education agenda within the lifelong learning framework. It is our confident expectation that the growing demand for learning will filter down to education systems of many kinds worldwide, thus affirming the triumph of learning as an essential tool, a right and a joy. We recommend critical thinking methods because they proved to be a useful tool for education and training providers and learners, in order to make lifelong learning a reality for all.