Since the 1960’s the concept of Lifelong Learning has been developed to portray the ongoing, self-motivated learning undertaken in formal, non-formal and informal learning contexts. The term is inclusive of all age groups across the life span and brings together the previously separated areas of children’s learning and adults’ learning. While the concept is inclusive of a wide range of learning such as personal development and citizenship, it has been narrowly interpreted by governments and funding bodies as a linear path from Kindergarten, through 10-12 years of education and then completion of tertiary studies.
In order to emphasise the breadth of Lifelong Learning the dimension of Life-Wide has been added to encompass learning for all aspects of an individual’s life, at work, at leisure, in the community and in relationships. So, Learning is Life Long and Life Wide.
Over recent years the term Life-Deep Learning has been introduced into the conversation. While this added dimension has been welcomed it has not been clear what the concept of life deep learning is describing. Belanger (2015) in ‘Self-construction and social transformation: Lifelong, Life-wide and Life-Deep Learning’ proposed that “The demand on individuals to co-determine their increasingly non-linear educational life paths is one of such trends reflecting the growing emphasis on the intimacy of learning”. For Belanger, intimacy of learning includes the subjective experience of learning, and the process of constructing the self.
In the 2018 PASCAL conference held in Suwon, Republic of Korea, discussion on Life-Deep Learning arose from presentations made under the theme “Lifelong Learning as the key to solving community problems”. The presentations spoke about spirituality (Maria Liu Wong), wisdom built over time (Gumpanat Boriboon), emotional learning and inspired learning (Eunice Q Areola). PIMA members were invited to contribute to the 2019 Bulletin No 23 to follow up on the discussion; three articles there addressed their perspectives of life-deep learning.
In responding to the question what is Life-Deep Learning, Gumpanat Boriboon’s article asked ‘Is it a term that includes the cultural dimension of learning and knowing?’ and expanded his contention at Suwon of the value of local wisdom as a “valuable treasure of the country”. He believes that older people’s “knowledge and experience should be preserved and transferred to the next generations.” (PIMA, 2019)
Eric Zimmerman contributed a piece on ‘Jewish Resiliency: personal, collective, political and religious’. For Zimmerman “Jews’ (resiliency) has always meant not springing back to a previous condition but being able to create something new, a better situation for the collective”. (PIMA, 2019)
The third contribution was from Peter Kearns: ‘Being human in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and AI’. In his article Kearns proposed that “The process of lifelong learning must be directed at the qualities that make us distinctively human, with the four intelligences identified by Schwab being expressed in imagination, compassion, empathy, autonomy, citizenship, and creativity. This gives meaning and purpose to our lives and empowerment to individuals and communities” (PIMA, 2019)
Is Life-Deep Learning about spirituality, wisdom, emotional development, inspiration, resilience, making meaning or making sense of life, reflection and transformation? Can this dimension of learning embrace the concept of learning to be as proposed by Kearns?
During 2020 the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has upended our sense of normality and introduced great uncertainty. It has exposed the great inequalities between people and between nations. Many are re-examining their expectations of life. It may be that a great deal of transformational learning has occurred as a result of the dramatic changes we have all experienced.
Adults and children have had to learn a whole a range of new skills and attitudes including learning at home, parents as teachers, using technology, developing empathy and compassion for others in the community, stepping up as active citizens to meet lockdown requirements. Increased participation in learning for pleasure and interest has also been displayed by individuals, families and communities. Singing, life drawing, dancing, cooking, creative pursuits, seem to have replaced learning for work for many people across the world, not least because so many have lost all or part of their jobs.
Has the pandemic also sharpened our focus on Life-Deep Learning, what it means, and the impact it may have on individuals, communities and our societies? Join the conversation by posting your comments here.