Although gaining currency as a term through Barnett's
recent work, "lifewide learning" has been around for a very long time under a number of other names. Adult educators have been talking about
informal and nonformal learning, experiential learning, experience-based learning, workplace and workbased learning, volunteer and service learning, and authentic learning for decades, and questioning the ways in which formal educational institutions respond to (or largely exclude and ignore) learning conducted by potential students through incidental, accidental and self-directed learning processes in their own time and on their own terms. The whole debate about "what is learning" that took place in the 1970s and 1980s in the adult education field lead, for example, to educators like Brookfield
(amongst many) to write about experiential learning. Since then many authors have written about related issues - such as authentic learning, work-integrated learning, field placements, "the reflective practitioner
" and so on. All attempting to understand, in one way or another, the nexus between experience and learning
Problems remain when this question enters the institution. Is experience (informal and nonformal learning) automatically of lesser value and quality that formal learning? Or is it simply different? Can experience be theorised by the person in the experience. Schon would argue "yes" - it is the whole point of the reflective practitioner. If experience can be reflected, reflective and informed, then what assessment mechanisms do institutions need to embrace this learning within a formal program of study?
Universities in Australia have remained remarkable resistant to valuing experiential, informal and nonformal learning designed by learners themselves
, despite many debates of theoretical and practical work in this area. The growth of Open Education Resources, and high quality learning experiences on the web mean that adults now have increasing access to self-directed, student-centred learning, designed by the adult - yet Universities contrinue to struggle to develop a pedagogy responsive to this learning.
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