Encouraging life-long learning

What are two things you can do in your teaching to actively encourage lifelong learning?

As you read, note down ideas that you may be able to incorporate into your teaching of later years students.

Learning improves when students are motivated, inquisitive and inspired – a good place to start for a teacher, who would display similar characteristics. So, for me, the most important thing I can do to encourage a lifelong learning in my students is be a passionate and “present” teacher, Parker J. Palmer (1998) says:

“Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher” (p. 10).

Engaging is one of the first steps of any relationship and, as Ramon Lewis (2009) writes, teachers that rely on more referent power than coercive value more highly their relationship with students. (p. 19).

On a practical note, any lesson worth learning must be engaging from the get-go. Neurologist-turned-educator Judy Willis is a great believer of curiosity. To get students to focus you need a signal “put a hat on, use colours to get them engaged and involved. You must participate, make a prediction … and “the fear of making a mistake needs to be removed.” If not the switching station on the brain called the amymgdala that conducts information, will put up a stop sign.

Application is better than learning facts. Willis suggests we need a toolkit that includes judgement, critical analysis and evaluation.  They offer the “best training for the 21st century” by teaching the skills for lifelong learning.

She says classrooms should be like addictive video games where if you put in effort,  where there’s no prizes but harder work and “I got it” lights up the brain.

Emotionally engaging secondary students could also be gained by encouraging contribution not obedience. Garth Boomer (1992) suggests negotiated input into the curriculum from subject choice to assessment criteria gives a sense of ownership (p.14). George G. Bear (2010) argues “perceptions of self-control and choice are critical to self-discipline” (pp. 159-60) and learning.

Identifying intelligences developed by Howard Gardner (1993) could provide insight into class dynamics and distinguish “between a frustrating educational experience and one that has purpose” (p. 57).  He maintained his theory should always empower learning.

A democratic model, like Lewis (2009) explains, would establish group interest: guidance, discussions and encouraging students to make the correct choices would be pro-active (p40). When the teacher tells a woodwork student “Well done”, there is a connection­: praise speaks volumes and sanctions are forgotten.


Engaged brains are alert to input that accompanies the pleasure sensation. As students enjoy the investigation with the radishes, the lesson content can flow through the RAS gateway to reach the higher cognitive brain: JUDY WILLIS, neurologist turned educator


When it comes to actively encouraging lifelong learning, Tallangatta High School is a great example. The staff, along with the students, families and the greater community, focus on teaching the skills suited to the individual.

Students are encouraged to think about how they learn and their strengths. The school promotes community connection in a  number of ways. The VET program is based on work placement. One student when asked “What do you feel you’ve gained from having done that VET program?” answered: ” A lot actually – personal skills. Knowing how to handle a situation. Last year we did job seeking skills. It was good. We learnt through work experience. We did one day a week for the whole year [this is the Industry and Enterprise program]”.

This level of practicality need not be restricted to the VET or VCAL programs. Teachers can differentiate their design learning experiences by tailoring an appropriate level of difficulty,providing strategies and ideas for students to succeed, providing ongoing and informative feedback and provide scaffolding to ensure successful outcomes are within the grasp of the student. (Churchill et al., 2013).


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