Lifelong Learning

A great deal has happened since Lifelong Learning was first published in 1976. A number of authors have written about the topic of lifelong learning or lifelong education. A journal devoted just to this topic (International Journal of Lifelong Education) was started and continues to thrive today. National lifelong learning legislation was passed in the late 70s in the United States that showed great promise, but a lack of sufficient federal funding eventually resulted in its demise. The need for and promise of lifelong learning remains vibrant today, but much still needs to be done to make some of the results described or wished for in this book a reality.

In many ways, the "self-directed learning movement" that spang up in the late 70s, and that has continued to gain momentum throughout the world, facilitated an accomplishment of many expectations I and others had about lifelong learning in 1976. Even though that movement has had its share of critiques or criticism, the research and knowledge enhancement pertaining to how adults learn or prefer to learn that has come mainly from self-directed learning practitioners have continued to give hope to many that we can accomplish a true spirit of lifelong learning throughout the world if we keep working at it. This book contains several discussions of and references to the self-directed learning knowledge base.

Perhaps most striking, while at the same time perplexing, has been the growth and maturation of the adult education field. Thousands if not hundrerds of thousands of individuals around the world refer to themselves as professional educators or trainers or adults or they are serving in such roles. Perhaps as many more in some way work with adult education or lifelong learning in churches, community colleges, vocational or workplace training settings, not for profit organizations, as volunteers, and in various business and industrial settings. Literature and research related to adult education and lifelong learning has broadened, too, with many scholars and practitioners publishing books, writing journal articles, delivering papers at conferences, and contributing useful web sites. At the same time, the field has not grown as rapidly as I had thought it would in 1976. A lack of adequate funding by federal, state, and local sources has meant a slower growth, that some adult education professional have left for other pursuits, and a diminished potential in terms of helping adults as learners. I remain optimistic, but the field most likely will not grow rapidly in the years to come unless the United States government makes major changes in its support of education.

This third edition does, however, reflect many of these changes and the additional knowledge and literature accumulated since 1976. In addition, I have had the experience of teaching graduate courses and working with many professional educators who have been in some way tied to adult education. No doubt there are concepts, literature, and examples which I have not dealt with adequately. However, the book is written so that each chapter can serve as a primary resource containing some current information, several annotated citations, and, frequently, one or more supplemental tables or figures that provide supportive information. In addition, at the conclusion of chapters several definitions, study stimulators, and references are usually provided for the reader seeking further knowledge and information.

The book remains organized into eight chapters. The first one introduces the concept of lifelong learning, especially as it is tied to the broader field of adult education. The second chapter provides an overview of how adult and continuing education fits within society as a whole. The next three are related to defining the breadth of lifelong learning, as the clientele of adult education, the field's many different kinds of programs, and the professionals who work with adult education activities are described. The sixth chapter talks about the community as a setting for adult education. Chapter Seven provides a fairly extensive portrayal of the research and resultant knowledge base in adult education. Finally, the last chapter speculates some about some trends, issues, and future expectations  related to the field of adult education.


This book is dedicated to the many adult learners with whom I have had some interaction during the past three decades. These have included my "professor" colleagues who have taught with me, stimulated me, challenged me to grow and change, and showed me that we all must remain lifelong learners. I have had the good fortune to co-author several items with some of them. Another important group has been the students with whom I have worked in the graduate classrooms of four higher education institutions. I also have had the good fortune of serving as a visiting professor in several higher education settings both within and outside the United States. Such students have challenged me, rewarded me in many ways, and have been the main reason I remained as a professor. Finally, I whole-heartedly recognize the love and support given to me by Janet, my wife of nearly 35 years, and my two adult children, Nancy and David. These three individuals have made it all worthwhile.

Roger Hiemstra

Fayetteville, New York

October, 2002 (initial publication in 1976; revised 1982 and 2002)


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-- Go to information about the author, Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three, Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six, Chapter Seven, or Chapter Eight