Now, more than ever, is the time for the skills of lifelong, life-wide and life-deep learning

The coronavirus has adversely affected the way we live our lives and caused daily difficulties for everyone. As I write this, I’m listening to an 8 year old and 13 year old debate how long they have “to sit and pretend to do this boring stuff” before they can take a break, after establishing where the pencil sharpener is, whose pen belongs to whom and acknowledging that I do maths differently to Mrs Thomas – oh the joys of home education! The dog is currently trying out the leg of my office chair for a mid-morning snack, having found that dirty underwear, a stolen cake, a slipper and chasing next door’s cat have left him wanting ‘more please!’ My grown up sons are furloughed or have been laid off and are worried about feeding their families, and keeping a roof over their heads. My family no longer finds the presence of flowery kitchen roll in the loo amusing; and somehow I’ve acquired more recipes for flourless, eggless and fatless cakes than you can imagine! And for the last few days I’ve been thinking about the skills of lifelong, life-wide and life-deep learning that we nurture across all our courses in CLL; and out of nowhere popped a voice from 30 years ago, when my kids were small – ‘Mrs Jones’……

Mrs Jones, a larger than life primary teacher, with an equally large bosom to which she regularly clasped children when they had done well, was a matriarch who commanded respect as she strode through the school like a ship in full sail, the elasticated waistband on her skirt pulled up high, allowing a shudderingly awful glimpse of pop-socks below.

Mrs Jones was a magician, philosopher and physician all rolled into one.

As a magician, she could make artefacts from almost anything, and at the Christmas Fayre (with a ‘y’) could magically produce ‘mulled wine’ from Ribena, Sanatogen tonic wine and a pair of old socks. And of course, as a primary school teacher, she had had special lessons on how, with just the single application of a damp paper towel, to cure everything from headaches, tummy aches, skinned knees to broken arms.

Mrs Jones – queen of lifelong, life-wide and life-deep learning. She knew that learning occurs in multiple contexts within your life: school, home, work, etc and recognized that not only does learning occur continually throughout your life (lifelong) , it occurs broadly across every situation in your life. She had the gift of being able to develop and use critical self-reflection to consider her beliefs and experiences, share that with others and over time, impact on her own and others’ ways of seeing and understanding the world. (By the way she probably didn’t know that this was Jack Mezirow’s Transformative Learning Theory from the 1900’s)

Mrs Jones tried always to develop the whole person – disciplined, synthesising, creative, respectful and ethical – skills you will and have developed in CLL (ideas expanded on in 2008 by psychologist Howard Gardner in his work Five Minds for the Future, which is designed to inspire lifelong learning and also to provide valuable insights for those charged with training and developing leaders of the future – you)

Lastly, thinking about Mrs Jones brought back to me the words of two influential women, who believe as strongly as I do, that situations such as those we are now in can be better understood if we apply the skills taught across CLL . The first, an academic, is advocating for an expansion of lifelong, life-wide and life-deep learning

In reality, education doesn’t stop when we become adult. In fact, we learn all our life, as illustrated by UNESCO’s widely accepted proposal of “lifelong, life-wide and life-deep learning”. With today’s challenges, we need to think about adult education beyond basic literacy learning; we now talk about multiple literacies: science literacy, health literacy, financial literacy, digital literacy, media literacy, and more.” Audrey Dahl April 28, 2017

The second, a social reformer, advises us that:

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” Bernice Johnson Reagon, n.d.

This piece was written by Dr Anne Hollinshead, Head of CLL


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