Given that Mission to Learn is a site focused entirely on lifelong learning, it seems only appropriate that I offer up a definition of learning as I see it. So here’s how I define learning:
Learning is the lifelong process, both conscious and unconscious, of transforming information and experience into knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attitudes.
To that learning definition I would add:
- Learning is different from education – and the difference matters.
- Learning is not dependent upon classes and courses – though these can be very useful tools. It does benefit, though, from an overall context that is fertile for learning.
- It does not require a degree, certificate, or grade to prove its worth – though clearly these have social value that most people would be unwise to ignore
- It does require – in varying degrees, and in varying times and circumstances – activities like practice, reflection, interaction with the environment (in the broadest sense), and social interaction. Because learning is a process, not an event, these activities need to to occur repeatedly.
- More than anything, learning requires availability.
- Learning does not always – probably not even most of the time – happen consciously – though I think that those who strive for a more conscious, intentional approach to learning throughout their lives – whether at work or otherwise – tend to be more successful in pretty much whatever way they define success.
I think that pretty well sums up the definition of learning that drives my efforts here at Mission to Learn. What do you think? Does this jibe your definition of learning? What would you add or take away? Please comment below and share your thoughts on how to define learning.
Why does this learning definition matter?
We’re not really out to be academic or split hairs here on Mission to Learn, but we do believe that how you define learning really matters.
Mostly, it’s the “behaviors and attitudes” part. Traditionally, there’s just way too much emphasis on skills and knowledge – and that emphasis is even stronger these days with all the talk about “upskilling” and “reskilling.” As important as these are, it’s really your behaviors and attitudes that help you navigate the world – particularly a world that is changing rapidly.
And most of just don’t pay close enough attention to our behaviors and attitudes or why it might be beneficial to change them. To the extent we do, change often seems very hard. In fact, it often is very hard when it comes to sustaining it over the long term.
And really, that’s one of the key reasons Mission to Learn exists. We ought to be conscious of and in control of our learning in the broadest sense. That includes learning that is hard, learning that in olden times would have been categorized as “philosophical,” but that we just view as serious.
So, if you are – or aspire to be – a serious lifelong learner – welcome! And , I highly ncourage you to sign up for my newsletter to get curated resources to help you live fully, well, and wisely.
P.S. – If you are interested in this definition of learning, then you may also be interested in:
- My book on How to Be a Better Learner
- My definition of social learning
- My definition of lifelong learning
- My book on transforming K-12 education