How to Recognize a Lifelong Learner

Have you ever wondered why some people seem barely aware of what is happening in their own home or work environments? Do you find that some people insist that myth is fact? Do you know people who quote others but seem to lack an opinion of their own; or people who blindly follow the leader without taking time to learn about a topic from other sources?

If the answers to the questions above are mostly “yes,” then you know that these individuals are not lifelong learners. But what is a lifelong learner? How can we identify them?  Well, I found one of the better descriptions at a school district web site from the Plano (Texas) Independent School District.  Read on for the characteristics that lifelong learners display.

Lifelong Learner Traits

The students of Plano ISD will be 

Self-directed learners who
• accept and seek new challenges in learning.
• identify purpose, define courses of action and follow through with a plan.
• apply prior knowledge and processes to construct new knowledge.
• access and utilize information from a variety of sources.

Effective communicators who
• express themselves clearly and concisely.
• listen attentively, receive, interpret and respond to communication.

Complex thinkers who
• demonstrate creative thought.
• construct meaning, solve problems, make and evaluate decisions using a variety of thinking strategies.

Quality producers who
• evaluate and adjust work to reflect best effort.
• persevere to create products which achieve intended purposes.

Responsible citizens who
• demonstrate respect and concern for self and others.
• assume responsibility for own actions.
• understand and participate in the democratic process.
• demonstrate sensitivity to cultural and individual differences.
• cooperate with others.

Collaborative contributors who
• work with others, acknowledge and contribute ideas, suggestions and effort.
• demonstrate the qualities of positive leadership.

Plano, TX, is a near neighbor to Lubbock, TX (that means the cities are less then 120 miles apart) where I lived for 7 years while earning my doctorate from Texas Tech.  TTU was heavy on the teaching of lifelong learning, and the College of Education stressed that its graduates be not only lifelong learners, but enlightened practitioners. More on enlightened practitioners at another time.  The point is that The Lone Star State has a vested interest in the independence of its students and other citizens.  Independence of thought leads to independence of action, and the intent of lifelong learning is to have and display both.

Now ask yourself this:  If you are a parent, is your school district teaching your children to become lifelong learners, or merely to pass a test?  If you are a teacher, is your school more interested in the whole individual or in where your students’ achievement test scores stand in relationship to the state and the nation?

Now ask yourself, “What can I do within the limitations of my family, job, community, and personal constraints that can help my children/students to become lifelong learners?”

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