Photo – Andrea Piacquadio
Professor Pierre Vellas (Toulouse University) coined the phrase ‘University of the Third Age’ (U3A) in 1973. Aimed at older students, usually aged 55 years or older, this simple model of leaning has expanded into countries around the world. In the context of schools, professional and personal is not simple.
It is relatively easy to identify social, cultural, and work barriers to adult learning. It is more difficult to identify strategies that support learning as an adult. Teachers and school leaders are encouraged to plan strategies to create healthy work/life balance. In the same way, teachers and school leaders should plan to learn, as a professional and for personal growth.
The phrase ‘Lifelong Learning’ has slipped into the background, or rather, smoothed-over by the exponential increase in administrative and compliance tasks that teachers and school leaders complete. The rollout of new policies and syllabi are barriers challenging leadership teams and school cultures.
From birth, children are learning. Benchmarks such as taking first steps, first words and starting school require active learning. Contemporary research highlights barriers that can affect children’s development of learning.
Improving student outcomes is a measure applied to school leaders and teachers. Individual, personalised learning plans and School Improvement Plans are designed to support and measure student learning and school performance.
Theories of learning advocate individual styles and pedagogies. Schools can be places of learning for students, teachers, and school leaders. Professional learning is more than completing compliance tasks. In this context, engaging professional learning is hard to identify.
The increasing complexity of the work of schools can be considered a barrier to professional learning. Time is a barrier to learning for career advancement. Family and social commitments can be barriers to learning as an adult.
The motivation to engage with learning as an adult is unique and individual. When the barriers to access meaningful learning are identified, the individual can plan the strategies to unlock learning.
Learning across the lifespan sounds romantic. We expect students to learn, to meet the benchmarks. Why don’t we apply the same expectation to our learning?
Dr. Seuss quipped, “…the more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you know, the more places you’ll go.”
Planning for self-care is an example of lifelong learning. Effecting a healthy work/life balance is the result of learning.