Promoting Lifelong Learning in Higher Education

Lifelong learning is critical in any profession.  The world changes around us whether we like it or not, and we must educate ourselves constantly to ensure a more fluid experience within the context of where we live and work.  In higher education especially there is a strong need for professional development.  Professors and lecturers are hired into institutions not based on their ability to teach, but on their expertise in their given field.  After being hired, they are given little to no support in the development of their teaching, which for many new professors, is a whole new skill set they have yet to learn.

This lack of professional development support for teachers in higher learning institutions has a negative effect on the students’ ability to learn, and therefore, the effectiveness of their education.  Universities are very concerned with the research being conducted by their expert professors for the status the recognition brings to their institutions.  But what about the increased status that could result from better-educated students coming out of their institutions?

Major ongoing professional development efforts can be costly for higher learning institutions, but the model that was outlined by Dysart and Weckerle in 2015 called “Professional development in higher education: a model for meaningful technology integration,” is a model that is replicable without a too significant financial investment, relying heavily on peer coaching and communities of practice.  While Dysart and Weckerle’s model was developed for professional development activities related to technology integration, the model could also easily be applied to professional development in both technology and pedagogy.  In both cases, the peer coaching and communities of practice approach are ideal, encouraging an ongoing conversation to take place within the institution about what teachers are doing that is working and not working, and supporting each other with this knowledge for the benefit of all.

With the rapid pace of which technology changes, it is obvious why we need to be lifelong learners of technology.  Often our students know more about the technological tools available to us than we do, which can strain the student/teacher relationship.  But the assumption that those who are experts in an academic field of study should automatically know how to teach expertly is a strange assumption present in our academic institutions.  Challenging ourselves to go against this assumption and understand that even the best instructors can improve their teaching is the first step in becoming a lifelong learner.