One Size Fits All


School-time for life-time it was said in one of the previous blogs. But how can that be? Do not elderly people learn different from that what is asked in schools (1); is it not obvious that learning at the workplace is not school-like at all? The issue of differences in learning has been raised before: Can there be one theory of learning for all; or should we diversify? The issue has not been resolved however.
Back in the thirties, in the US Hull and Spencer, and later Hilgard disputed about a General Theory of Learning; In Europe a theory of learning was considered relevant only in as far as it supported pedagogy (Herbart, Kohnstamm, and mostly Kerschensteiner (2).
The article by Tam picks up on that long standing issue . Most of the arguments pro and con can be found here. For a distinctive way of viewing how people learn pleads the following: there are identifiable periods across the life span; changes in society call for targeted learning; not everyone experiences the same typical learning problems; and different people have different motivations.
On the other hand one could argue that: learning is a core human activity from birth to old age; in essence based on curiosity and built on experience. In all its varied forms learning is “engaging in direct encounter and then purposefully reflect upon, validate, transform, give personal meaning to and seek to integrate their ways of knowing “(cited from Mercken 2010 by Tam p. 815).
Now there lies certainly an interest in the above dispute when we embed it in the demand for Life Long Learning (3). Is “school-time for life-time” to be equated with this? I would not say so. The LLL demand is primarily one for employability and adaptation of the workforce to technological and management development (4). An alternate viewpoint is captured with the idea of “school-time for life-time” which has to do with “educating minds “ (5) and that is based in Mercken’s classification and characterization of exploring, searching, studying and valuing what matters in one’s life. And that goal fits us all.

Maureen Tam (2014) A distinctive theory of teaching and learning for older learners: why and why not?, International Journal of Lifelong Education, 33:6, 811-820,
link to this article: