Within most education environments, you would think the value of lifelong learning wouldn't be questioned. Yet often, promoting this culture in schools isn’t as straightforward as it would seem. We’ve outlined some tried and tested strategies to assist teachers who are passionate about the learning and development of their students and fellow teaching staff. These will hopefully lay the foundations or further cement a culture of lifelong learning at your school.
Encourage reading and discussion of ideas
It’s crucial in the early stages of developing a culture of lifelong learning to encourage reading, both within and outside of the classroom. Reading and writing go hand-in-hand. Those that read a lot, generally tend to write well. This skill will not only help others academically in their studies, but also in their professional lives.
As your students and colleagues build on their reading skills, allow them to discuss what they are reading – this can also include reading which is related to hobbies and interests. It builds confidence and great student/teacher and teacher/teacher rapport. Particularly useful for students, this encourages them to discuss what they have learnt through reading and conversations with others, and helps with the development of ideas around those concepts and theories. A quick and easy tactic for teachers to implement in the classroom – which is useful in the staff room, too – is the D.E.A.R reading program. Standing for "Drop Everything and Read", this is a good strategy to introduce after recess or lunchtime to help settle the mind and inject some extra reading time into the day.
Highlight the value of research and actively seeking knowledge
There are many ways in which you can develop knowledge around the information gained through reading. Promoting the importance of research is key, whether preparing for an assignment as a student or researching further study options as a teacher. Encourage visits to the school or local library, and the use all relevant resources. If accessibility to a physical library is an issue, there’s always digital resources available at the click of a mouse. Libraries, both physical and digital, are the perfect place to research concepts and nurture an inquisitive mind. Another avenue for seeking knowledge is reaching out to senior team members or experts in certain fields. By building out networks in this way, you are likely to learn a lot from their wisdom and personal experiences.
Take action to broaden your professional horizons
Although it's great to talk about learning, it’s more important to put it into practice. As educators, we are blessed to have an array of industry associations, bodies and professional networks that support continuous learning and development. There are a number of conferences and events that teachers, principals and educational professionals have access to; it’s a matter of attending, networking and reaping the professional benefits that come with building strong relationships and sharing knowledge.
Encouraging colleagues to pursue online degrees in education or in a relevant discipline is the ultimate approach to lifelong learning. Further education online provides adult learners with the luxury of part-time study in conjunction with full-time work, to help progress their teaching career, whilst equipping them with applicable techniques and strategies for the classroom and beyond.
It’s often difficult to break down pre-existing cultures or barriers that aren’t conducive to continuous learning. It’s important to realise that power lies in time and numbers: banding together with like-minded colleagues can really help your cause, whilst giving yourself ample time to digest the information and discuss what you learn. If others can see and comprehend the tangible, positive impact that lifelong learning can bring to a school environment, it will be much easier to make it a part of each school day.
Dr Peter Stiles is the Acting Head of Education at Excelsia College and he recently shared this advice in the webinar 'Encouraging a culture of lifelong learning at your school'. You can listen to the webinar below.