The concept of lifelong learning means the ability to find your place in a rapidly changing world, and above all to remain an active player in professional life. Things are changing around us so quickly that our knowledge and skills become obsolete very quickly and aren’t enough to keep up with our professional requirements. Therefore, the ability to learn should be one of the key competences that we develop. Learning skills consists of three basic elements:
- awareness of one’s own learning process and needs,
- the ability to identify available learning opportunities,
- the ability to overcome obstacles to achieve learning success.
Thus, learning means acquiring, assimilating, and processing new knowledge and skills through the ability to properly select information, seek clues, and use previously gained experience. The following elements are necessary to acquire learning skills:
- awareness of your strengths and weaknesses in learning,
- knowledge of your preferred learning style,
- setting a goal to develop your competences, understood as the knowledge and skills needed to perform specific tasks, e.g. your professional responsibilities,
- choosing the most appropriate educational methods for a given skill.
We can acquire new knowledge and skills throughout our lives
Numerous studies on brain structure, cognitive behavioural theories, and adult learning indicate that the theory that we can learn new things only when we are young doesn’t stack up. Indeed, perceptive abilities change over the years but, as we age, we choose different methods to remember new information and acquire new skills, and this process can be spread out over time.
What fundamentally determines learning in adults is conscious decision-making about learning choices, and taking responsibility for their results. Thus, adults’ primary motivation to learn is internal. Research on the learning brain has confirmed the above hypothesis. Studies indicate that it’s not age, but learning methodology - adapted to the perceptive abilities of recipients - that is the most important in the process of acquiring knowledge.
Conscious selection of courses and training
The first condition for learning effectiveness is a conscious choice of what we want to learn, based on our needs. So, if you want to gain new skills:
- Analyse your current state - examine what you know, what you can do and what you’re missing.
- Set yourself goals related to the diagnosed deficiencies and prepare plans to implement those goals.
- Choose the right training programs, courses, and workshops to help you achieve your goal.
And what if your employer sends you to a training program and you aren’t particularly convinced about it? Analyse the training program and try to find the positive elements in it. After completing it, review the materials and your notes, and choose the content that you may find useful in the context of personal or professional development. Look for personal benefits in such training programs.