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Educating Learners in the 21st Century

The Melbourne Declaration acknowledges the importance of developing lifelong learners who demonstrate creativity and problem solving skills (Moyle, 2010; Sawyer, 2006). Futurist Alvin Toffler claims:

“The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

Have you ever wondered why some people achieve well in life in spite of their school education? Those who may have dropped out? Failed the big exam? Or just simply never engaged in formal learning.

The key to these individual's success further in life was their ability to self-regulate. Why did this help them succeed? These are often individual’s who can self-direct and manage their own learning environment - when provided the opportunity to do so.

A major goal of education is to create lifelong learners who are intentional, independent, self-directed, and who can acquire, retain, and retrieve new knowledge on their own. The Australian curriculum acknowledges the importance of these skills in their general capabilities (2016).

In recent times explosive growth in technology has occurred, which has transformed the way learners attain knowledge. Learners need to be able to keep up with new skills and tools and to adapt to the changing landscape. Learners who are unable to adapt will face limited career and study opportunities in the future.

The need to reframe learning is well past. The nature of learning is being challenged at a rate like never before, as technology and information develops at an unprecedented rate.

“Turning students into lifelong learners no longer translates into the academic ideal of producing widely read cultural elites, but rather equipping our (learners) with basic economic survival skills. We owe our students lessons and practice in how to learn at a fairly high level; letting them slip through (formal education) without solid learning skills and, subsequently, with only fleetingly superficial knowledge is professionally irresponsible, if not unethical.”

Burzotta, 2013

Life-long learners are ‘self-directed learners’ (Burzotta, 2013) and one of their key capacities is to self-regulate. The literature on learning tells us that deep, lasting, independent learning requires a range of activities—cognitive, affective, and even physical—that go far beyond the traditional notions of reading and listening. Learning is ‘not something that is—such as receiving instruction or acquiring knowledge—but rather, as something that emerges (Jacobson & Kapur, 2012, cited in Jacobson, 2016, p.212).

Self-control, self-discipline, perseverance, and determination in pursuing long-term goals outweigh IQ as predictors of postsecondary academic success and, among children, performance on a spelling bee (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007; Duckworth & Seligman, 2005; Tough, 2012).

Self-awareness, an ability of self-regulating learners, is an essential component of meaningful learning and knowledge transfer (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000; Schraw, 1998). Bandura (1977; 1997) discovered children with greater self-regulation were able to learn more. Furthermore, learners taught to self-regulate would be less likely to buy into the notion of fixed intelligence (Dweck, 2007). In fact, the ability to self-regulate predicts SAT scores more strongly than does IQ, parental education, or parental economic status (Goleman, 1996).

Yet few of our students show the signs of being intentional, independent, self-directed learners. We place such a high emphasis on the end-means of assessment, e.g. the grades and numbers, scores, and we struggle to help students acquire self-regulation skills and assume responsibility for their learning (Zimmerman, 2002). In a world where we need to engage, learn and explore online and virtually the need to self-regulate becomes a core and necessary skill of successful learners.

Self-regulated learning can be developed through deliberate practices that any learner can understand and develop. It does not require any particular level of ability or intelligence (Schraw, 1998; Schraw & Dennison, 1994; Schunk & Zimmerman, 1998).

How do we develop self-regulated learners?

Through an online coaching program, designed to develop the capacity of learners to self-regulate their learning environment and learn to learn (for life).

I Learn for Life has developed an online educational program for learners to develop the capacity to learn for life.

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