In a nutshell, lifelong learning can be considered a dynamic concept concerned with establishing different ways of responding to change. Jarvis (2006) offers the following definition:
The combination of processes throughout a lifetime whereby the whole person - body (genetic, physical and biological) and mind (knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, emotions, beliefs and senses) – experiences social situations, the perceived content of which is then transformed cognitively, emotively or practically (or through any combination) and integrated into the individual person’s biography resulting in a continually changing (or more experienced) person (2006: 134).
Characteristics generally considered important to the concept of lifelong learning include, in addition to a distinction between formal, non-formal and informal learning, an emphasis on ‘learning’ as opposed to ‘training’; different approaches to learning, including for example learning which is related to the context; the combination of professional and personal development and the use of context related assessment. Interdisciplinary approaches and modes of learning that encourage learners to learn in an autonomous and creative manner are important (Smilde 2009: 50).
Lifelong learning is perceived as an important concept for the improvement of people's employability and adaptability. The innovative dimension of the lifelong learning concept lies in a new approach of the process and context of learning, where learning is perceived as a ‘continuum’ containing all purposeful learning activity throughout a person’s life (Fragoulis 2002).
However, lifelong learning is not merely ‘continuing education’. As Jarvis’ definition above already suggests, there is a second perspective of lifelong learning, which relates to the biographical learning of the individual, where learning is seen as a (trans)formation of experiences, knowledge and structures of action in the context of people’s life history and life world (Alheit and Dausien 2002). Biographical learning includes people’s experience, knowledge and self-reflection; everything people have learned throughout their lives. A biographical approach to learning thus has the capacity to change both the individual and the context in which the learning takes place and can be seen in contrast to conventional education. This is why we can speak about both lifelong and life-wide learning.
A conceptual framework of lifelong learning is important for creating adaptive learning environments in which students can be trained to function effectively in a continuously changing professional practice.
Alheit, P. and Dausien, B. (2002). The ’double face’ of lifelong learning: Two analytical perspectives on a ’silent revolution’. Studies in the Education of Adults, Vol 34, Issue I: 1 - 20.
Fragoulis, H. (2002). Innovations to address the challenges of lifelong learning in transition countries. In D. Colardyn (ed.), Lifelong Learning: which ways forward? Utrecht: Lemma.
Jarvis, P. (2006). Towards a Comprehensive Theory of Human Learning. London / New York: Routledge.
Smilde, R. (2009). Musicians as Lifelong Learners: Discovery through Biography. Delft: Eburon Academic Publishers.
R. Smilde, Lifelong Learning for Musicians (2005). Presentation at the Annual conference of the National Association of schools of Music (NASM) in Boston, USA
Lifelong Learning for Musicians
R. Smilde, The Necessity of Lifelong Learning (2009). Presentation given at the AEC Polifonia Seminar for Professional Development of Conservatoire directors in Antwerp.
The Necessity of Lifelong Learning
R. Smilde, Musicians as Lifelong Learners: Discovery through biography (2009). Paper presented at the 5th International Conference of the Centre of Research in Lifelong Learning, in Stirling (UK)
Musicians as Lifelong Learners: Discovery through Biography