As lecturers and clinical educators in the higher
education context we accept that our role encompasses the need to be life-long
learners. We acknowledge that in this role we must be willing to explore
new ideas and address the most current literature within our teaching and
clinical practice. In a traditional model of pedagogy we are experts who
have a comprehensive knowledge base while our students learn from and through
us. An example of this view comes from the clinical education literature.
Rassi and McElroy (1992) suggest that a clinical educator should be an expert
or master clinician in order to effectively model, demonstrate and instruct
students in the process of clinical practice. They suggest that clinical
educators should be familiar with the latest research and theoretical frameworks
so that students are not confused by discrepancies between what they are
taught in lectures and what is practiced in the clinical setting.
However, with the burgeoning knowledge base across
all disciplines, is it possible for us to be experts in every area we teach
Concurrently, expectations of our graduates have
changed. No longer are they told that they have "made it" at the
end of their university degree. Instead, our new graduates are told they
are "beginning practitioners" who expected to become "critical
consumers of information and life-long learners who maintain competence
in their discipline, expand and test their own knowledge and skills, and
contribute to the expansion of knowledge in the field" (McAllister,
1997, p. 13). The goals of vocationally-based education have changed from
focusing on training and instruction to include an emphasis on the development
of generic attributes essential to professional competence, and life-long
learning. These goals were presented in the context of medical education
by Engel (1995). He proposed that the first goal was to help students acquire
discipline specific knowledge and competencies while the second goal was
to focus on generally applicable competences which included the ability
to adapt to change and participate in change, to communicate for a range
of purposes (e.g., obtain and give information, negotiate, consult and counsel),
to collaborate in groups or teams, and to be self-directed life-long learners
who can apply critical reasoning and a scientific approach to decision making
in unfamiliar situations.
The ability to be a life-long learner is a valued
attribute in our students. Candy (1994) discussed the development of life-long
learning through undergraduate education. He profiled the attributes of
life-long learning in five key areas:
(1) An inquiring mind which encompasses a love
of learning, a sense of curiosity, an ability to ask questions, a critical
(2) Helicopter vision which encompasses a sense
of the interrelationship between knowledge bases, an awareness of how knowledge
is created, and an understanding of methodological limitations.
(3) Information literacy which is exemplified by
developing a knowledge of current resources; framing researchable questions;
locating, evaluating, managing and using information in a range of contexts;
retrieving information using a variety of media; decoding information in
a variety of written and graphical forms; and critically evaluating information.
(4) A sense of personal agency which encompasses
the development of a concept of oneself as capable and autonomous and the
development of self-organisation skills.
(5) A repertoire of learning skills which encompasses
knowledge of one's own strengths, weaknesses and preferred learning style;
development of a range of strategies for learning in whatever context one
finds oneself and an understanding of the differences between surface and
In response to the need for our students to become
life-long learners we need to model how to be life-long learners. Problem-based
teaching and learning is one paradigm which allows such modelling to occur.
By framing the role of lecturer or clinical educator as a life-long learner,
it legitimises the value of searching for solutions together with students.
One way we can model how to be life-long learners is by being open to learning
from our students. To enhance learning in our own classes our students can
be asked to present alternative information that they may have learnt in
other units of study and during self-study. Learning from our students encourages
development of the notion of interdependence on one another and validates
the knowledge that students bring to the learning situation. Learning from
each other is after all, one of the key principles of adult learning.
Modelling life-long learning may necessitate a
shift in us as lecturers from the role of expert to the role of co-learner.
In doing so, both we and our students can journey together in our learning.
We all will benefit from the process. Our students' future employers will
value the attribute of life-long learning and the changing nature of professional
practice demands it.
Portions of this paper were adapted from McAllister,
L., Lincoln, M., McLeod, S. & Maloney D. (Eds.) Facilitating learning
in clinical settings. Cheltenham: Stanley Thornes.
Candy, P. (1994). Developing lifelong learners through undergraduate education.
Commissioned Report No. 28. National Board of Employment, Education and
Training. Canberra: Australian Government Printing Service.
Engel, C. E. (1995). Medical education in the 21st
century: The need for a capability approach. Capability, 1, 4, 23-30.
McAllister, L. (1997). Towards a philosophy for
clinical education. In L. McAllister, M. Lincoln, S. McLeod & D. Maloney
(Eds.). Facilitating learning in clinical settings. Cheltenham: Stanley
Rassi, J. A. & McElroy, M. D. (1992). Education
in the clinic. In J. A. Rassi, & M. D. McElroy, (Eds.). The education
of audiologists and speech-language pathologists (pp. 175-196). Timonium,
MD: York Press.
Sharynne McLeod lectures in speech pathology
and was recently awarded an Excellence in Teaching Award.