The world is an increasingly complex place where individuals need higher order skills to be effective contributors to society, the economy and to ensure their own prosperity and good health (Jones, 2010).  To develop new and higher levels of skills, people need to be able to learn, unlearn and relearn continuously throughout their lives (Thompson, 2006).

It is now recognised that learning no longer only happens in classrooms, with around 70% of learning happening as informal learning in the workplace and beyond (Center for Workforce Development, 1998). The time has also come where learning needs to shift from simply being “second-hand experiences through lectures and books to first-hand discovery experiences” (McCain, 2011, p. 45).

This continuous learning is critical to the success of individuals, businesses and the economy but will only happen if it is supported by a ‘culture of ongoing development’ at an organisational, national and global level.

To succeed in our modern world, we need people to be able to (McCain, 2011):

  • find and determine what is relative information from different sources through critical literacy skills
  • develop informed opinions and be able to articulate them through written and verbal communications using various multimedia and social networking technologies, and
  • be creative and use their imagination to solve complex, unscripted problems with others

People “need to develop the capacity to make judgements about both their own work and that of others in order to become effective continuing learners and practitioners” (Boud, 2010, p. 1).  Our changing world requires that individuals have the skills and knowledge to “navigate lifelong careers in unpredictable globalised economies” (Jones, 2010, p. 13).  This ever-changing environment needs people who can increase their capacity to deal with new and unknown situations through the skills and knowledge they have gained in their informal workplace and/or daily life experiences, as well as participating in formal education at ever higher levels (Jones, 2010).

This requires that individuals have self-directed learning skills.  Unfortunately, self-directed learning cannot be solely left to the individual to manage as learning rarely happens in isolation and “nothing important gets done alone” (Goleman, 2002, p. 51).  In order to help individual’s manage their own learning, educational, workplace and community leaders need to create environments which directly support individuals to reach their potential. Goleman (2002, p. 18) states that “getting the best out of people pays off in hard returns” as learning ensures an organisation remains relevant (McCain, 2011). Without the creation of these learning environments and the involvement of others in self-directed learning, “lasting change can’t occur” (Goleman, 2002, p. 111). The key to managing this change is by creating a culture of ongoing development.

NB: Information about how to support self-directed learning in others will appear in future blog posts


  • Boud, D., and Associates,. (2010). Assessment 2020: Seven propositions for assessment reform in higher education. Sydney: Australian Learning and Teaching Council.
  • Center for Workforce Development. (1998). The Teaching Firm: Where Productive Work and Learning Converge. Newton, MA,: Center for Workforce Development.
  • Goleman, D., Boyatzis R, & McKee, A,. (2002). Primal leadership: Learning to lead with emotional intelligence. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Publishing.
  • Jones, A., McCluskey, T, & Pardy, J,. (2010). Higher level qualifications: Towards a new future. East Melbourne, Victoria.
  • McCain, T., Jukes, I, & Crockett, L,. (2011). Education and the role of the educator in the future. Education Technology Solutions, 38-46.
  • Thompson, D. (2006). E-Assessment: The demise of exams and the rise of generic attribute assessment for improved student learning”. In T. Roberts (Ed.), Self, Peer and Group Assessment in E-Learning (pp. 295-322): Idea Group Inc.

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Looking to the future … creating a culture of ongoing development

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