How to design a personal lifelong learning plan begins with accepting responsibility for one’s own learning. Once this happens, a successful plan should focus on learning as a future investment, just like investing in a 401K plan or changing jobs for higher pay to support financial stability. The basis of this continuing education is the regular gathering of new knowledge through personal experiences, along with formal and self-directed education environments.
Summary of Contents
- Creating a Plan: Habits of Successful Lifelong Learners
- Learning Contract: Putting a Plan in Writing
- Mental Stimulation: Formal and Self-Directed Learning Environments
- An Active Lifestyle: Sustaining the Body and Mind
- Community Involvement: Reaching out to Others
- Well-Being: Developing a Sense of Purpose
Creating a Plan: Habits of Successful Lifelong Learners
Designing a lifelong learning plan can take many paths. However, one path for success begins by reviewing the six habits of successful lifelong learners. This will help lay the groundwork for creating a successful learning plan. These six habits are:
- Learning Goals – beginning with the end in mind.
- Learning Toolbox – creating a lifelong learning network.
- Problems as Challenges – viewing obstacles as opportunities to learn.
- Confidence – viewing competent and effective learning begins with a hands-on approach for achieving personal goals.
- Teaching – sharing knowledge with others to reinforce learning and giving back to the community.
- Technology – taking advantage of online tools to support their learning network.
The habits of successful lifelong learners are the foundational support everyone needs to support their lifelong continuing education.
Learning Contract: Putting a Plan in Writing
The process of designing a lifelong learning plan begins with putting it in writing. This plan, sometimes called a learning contract, must be a dynamic process intended to provide structure in an unstructured environment – known as everyday life.
Lifelong learning exists within this world, allowing learners the freedom to enroll in formal continuing education programs or self-directed learning such as learning how to garden or play an instrument, as examples.
Unlike the traditional view of contracts, a learning contract exists only between the person who created it and him or herself. A critical feature of this agreement is a person must be willing to adhere to their learning contract while remaining flexible enough to take advantage of changing situations.
A personal learning plan or learning contract should focus on the following four lifelong learning areas, keeping the successful habits of lifelong learners in mind throughout.
Mental Stimulation: Formal and Self-Directed Learning Environments
Keeping the mind energized and actively engaged is essential for learning. Types of mentally stimulating activities include enrolling in college courses or enrichment courses at a local community education learning center. These courses include art, writing, photography, cooking, financial planning, computers, and much more. Community education courses and classes are typical:
- held in local government facilities, high schools, and community colleges
- taken for college credit, continuing education units (CEU), or noncredit
- tailored to meet the needs and desires of local residents
An Active Lifestyle: Sustaining the Body and Mind
Being or remaining active involves keeping fit through regular aerobic exercise. Types of aerobic exercise include dancing, running, Zumba, Insanity workout, bike riding, swimming, and any other activity which requires the heart and lungs to work harder to meet the body’s increased oxygen demand for at least 30 minutes. Additional benefits of aerobics include:
- keeping the mind sharp for learning
- reducing stress levels to enable self-confidence necessary for lifelong learning activities
- reducing fatigue which often leads to less participation in learning activities
Community Involvement: Reaching out to Others
The sharing of talents with others is the emphasis for this area of the learning contract. A focus on community involvement includes teaching community education classes, volunteering at the public library, or becoming active in local government.
Educational learning experiences are reinforced when sharing personal knowledge with others through teaching, mentoring, or helping others solve problems. Specific lifelong learning features of community involvement include:
- diversity learning – developing cross-cultural communication skills and understanding cultural differences between ethnic groups
- leadership learning – understanding the leadership process and social change, along with developing facilitation skills
- academic learning – the familiarity of the root causes of social problems and developing active learning skills
- political learning – awareness of how citizen groups affect change in communities and citizenship is more than voting and paying taxes
Well-Being: Developing a Sense of Purpose
A person’s well-being is crucial to lifelong learning. Discovering new inspiration through painting, yoga, or meditation are strategies for sparking the spirit. These types of lifelong learning activities play an important role in ensuring a person’s self-confidence remains high. This is important for making connections with other areas of the lifelong learning plan by:
- developing full learning potential
- building strong positive relationships within a personal learning network and community
- achieving personal learning goals
How to design a lifelong learning plan involves interweaving the habits of successful lifelong learners with the four areas of a learning contract or learning plan. When this holistic approach is taken, it becomes clear lifelong learning is an investment in a person’s future as they pursue lifelong continuing education.