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The list of beneficial lifelong learning skills one can have is broad and diverse, and it pays to develop them constantly. Such skills transform our future for the better because they come from what is best in us. In short, mastering beneficial lifelong learning skills helps us work, learn, and live better.
Let's discuss which ones are most useful for students journeying into the modern workforces after school. What we've got is not a comprehensive all-or-nothing list by any means. However, it's definitely a collection of some of the more valued and versatile and ones.
The Most Beneficial Lifelong Learning Skills
- Problem Solving
- Critical Thinking
- Information Management
Lifelong learning skills can be a lot like many of the soft skills you may have heard of. They have to do with how we connect with each other, and with the world around us. In many ways, they're also about building relationships. With this in mind, let's look at the skills that are beneficial for everyone—student, educator, parent, and so on.
It's no surprise that creativity factors into the list. This isn't just a valuable learning pursuit; it's also vital to success in school and in the workplace. For this reason, Creativity Fluency is used in thousands of schools all over the world.
Why Creativity Matters
The global marketplace is more competitive than ever. Innovative products thrive on an organization's ability to design and present them in aesthetically pleasing ways. Creative thinking and application grab consumers' attention and secures their loyalty. Ultimately, creativity is a common language we can all learn to communicate our passions and ideas with.
2. Problem Solving
As far as beneficial lifelong learning skills go, this one is probably the most important. Solving real-world problems with a process like Solution Fluency is crucial to surviving and thriving in the present and future.
Why Problem Solving Matters
The world is changing and will continue changing dramatically. As such our children will be solving future problems that we can't even imagine yet. They'll face challenges that require skills to define a problem, design an appropriate solution, and put it to effective use. Problem-solving skills help them tackle anything from writing a shopping list to designing and realizing their biggest dreams.
3. Critical Thinking
The ability to think critically is a must for future success in a changing world. It's about thinking independently, responsibly, and productively. In fact, one of the best definitions of critical thinking can be found on Critical Thinking Web.
Why Critical Thinking Matters
The way we think about the world, ourselves, and each other affects more than just personal experience. It has a part in defining the future of everything and everyone and the entire world—this is the "Ripple Effect." It's been a part of many cultural philosophies for thousands of years, reminding us that how we choose to think and act influences our whole world. We don't have to be overwhelmed by it, just simply aware of it as it guides our critical thinking practices.
Understanding leadership is one of those beneficial lifelong learning skills that can change people's lives. After all, one who leads isn't just one who manages things. What a leader does is inspire, motivate, and empower. True leaders see the best in people and teach them to harness their potential in all they do.
Why Leadership Matters
Natural leaders are an asset in any classroom and in every workforce. Anyone whose attitude moves from "I can do it" to "we can do it" makes everybody better. It's their independence and willingness to take responsibility for making good things happen, not just simply getting things done. That's why leaders see more, do more, and learn more.
In the digital age, communication has transformed beyond face-to-face interaction. We communicate using technology more than ever. Even so, whatever medium we choose there are skills we can acquire to help us communicate more effectively.
Why Communication Matters
In school, we work in groups to produce solutions to the challenges and problems we face. Interestingly, we do the exact same thing in the workplace. The only way this can be done effectively is with good communication. Having communication skills means less stress, more productivity, and better relationships.
This means being able to work in groups that are both physical and virtual. It includes proficiency in communication, empathy, and leadership values. It also means being able to work with someone across the world as easily and productively as someone across the room. This is why Collaboration Fluency is one of the Essential Fluencies being taught in classrooms all over the globe.
Why Collaboration Matters
Working in groups is a hallmark of the digital age. Our classrooms and businesses incorporate teamwork into their daily practices. As such, collaborative abilities have a permanent place among the most beneficial lifelong learning skills all students should develop.
7. Information Management
Information is essentially all things on the Internet, and it's alive and growing. In fact, according to VCloud News approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created online every single day at the time this article was written. Moreover, this statistic is only bound to get higher as time goes on. There is so much out there that a skill set is needed to decipher much of it and make it useful. This is what Information Fluency teaches us.
Why Information Management Matters
Dealing with information means we can determine what is valuable and discard what is spurious or questionable. This is important for producing solutions and products that are genuine and useful. It's also an aspect of research and proper attribution of sources, things every good digital citizen needs to know.
As we said, the world is changing. However, it's not just the world we need to keep an eye on; we must also be flexible in our personal lives. Life is fluid—sometimes it's a stream, sometimes a river, and sometimes a tidal wave. Learn to keep your head above all of it.
Why Adaptability Matters
We deal with trends of every kind constantly. Business, technology, entertainment, communication, and lifestyle trends are just some of the many. What makes it more challenging is that each major trend can often have several sub-trends of its own. Keeping abreast of these means staying informed and knowing when to take advantage of opportunities. As for life itself, it will always have challenges, no matter how well things are going. Being able to adapt to change in all its forms keeps us constantly prepared to survive and succeed no matter what climate we're in.
Lifelong learning is driven by curiosity. Outside the rigors of school, there is no educator or peer to motivate us to learn and expand our minds. Developing curiosity is undoubtedly one of the most beneficial lifelong learning skills you can have.
Why Curiosity Matters
Simply put, without curiosity, there is no learning. Nurturing curiosity can lead to moments where a learner says, "wow, I never expected that in school." This is exactly the kind of reaction that indicates kids actually can fall in love with learning. As such, they're the kinds of moments teachers strive to create.
As we learn, we acquire new skills and knowledge for various uses. However, none of that knowledge is any good if we don't consider how it has helped us or others. If we are going to place our attention on learning something we must consider the merits of learning it before, during, and after the learning happens. Otherwise, we have engaged in empty learning for no reason. In any kind of learning, asking reflective questions always matters.
Why Reflection Matters
Perhaps the most important phase in Solution Fluency is the Debrief phase. In this reflection stage, students get to own their learning. They look at the ways they succeeded, and ways they could improve their approach in similar future situations. Above all, they consider how what they have learned has served their original purpose for learning in the first place (usually to solve a problem or answer a challenge). Beneficial lifelong learning skills must include reflecting on learning because it's what gives learning real meaning.
Critical Thinking and Lifelong Learning
As teachers, we don’t just want our learners to do their work well when they’re in the classroom. Arguably the fundamental purpose of education is to foster a desire to learn well beyond students’ school years, as well as foster excellent critical thinking skills. Critical thinkers, after all, are also lifelong learners.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Nov 5, 2019, updated September 19, 2021