Lifeplace Learning and the Lifelearn Experience

Margaret Harris, Colin Chisholm, Malcolm Allan

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


This paper discusses both the place of Lifeplace Learning in 21st Century education and the results of a European project testing the concept within 5 European Countries. As Education now appears concerned with student-centred and negotiated learning, the acceptance, development and use of tacit knowledge along with explicit knowledge, interactive skills, and of more realistic and effective methods of assessment rather than the more traditional didactic, single subject centred teaching, expecting explicit knowledge saturation and memory-based examinations, more attention needs to be given to the nature of learning and accreditation of learning within Higher Educational Establishments. This move in emphasis from formal learning and the gaining of knowledge through a formal process
is an important one for the concept of Lifeplace Learning and the acceptance of knowledge gained from informal
learning. While governments have progressed the development of widening participation and social inclusion, these
developments are still based on traditional, on-campus, didactic systems with little or no formal recognition by the
policy-makers that they could be underpinned by considering recognition and accreditation of informal learning
achieved in peoples’ life places such as the home, the community and voluntary organisations. In addition to this, the
value that is put on some types of learning exceeds the value that is put on others. This has been evidenced not only
in what is on the set curricula in schools, colleges and universities but also in the elitism even attached to the various
knowledge bases between Further and Higher Education, and informal and formal learning. According to Williamson
(2002: p.22) “In complex societies, learning takes many different forms among different groups of people. Some
forms of learning as well as ways of knowing, are valued more than others and all forms of learning are governed by
rules which determine who has access to them.”. This power and value aspect is challenged by the Lifeplace
Learning concept which places the value and power of the learning into the hands of the learners whilst
acknowledging that the value of it still needs to be accepted by those who have the power to recognise it in society
and academia.

Lifeplace Learning, the learning concept associated with the Grundtvig European project Lifelearn, according to Blair
(2005) is, “learning that encompasses knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitude acquired, being acquired or to be
acquired throughout life, irrespective of when, where, why and how it was, is or will be learned.” Although a relatively
new concept within academic circles, we have been working and running modules in this area for the past 6 years.
Within the last two years there was the opportunity to work with another five European countries in order to test the
concept in Europe. Throughout the project an action research approach was adopted and the results of this research show that Lifeplace Learning is a concept worth further investigation and worthy of the attention of
academic and business alike. The work allowed us to make some comparisons with other countries and cultures and
the Scottish case study in particular found that this type of learning is valuable to both the student and the facilitator
and provides further valuable skills for society as a whole. What makes Lifeplace Learning significant is the freedom
that it gives to students in subject choice, study mode and assessment. Importantly, the student has the choice in
where, why, when and how the topic is studied and whether the learning should be accredited, thereby creating
interest in learning, more motivated individuals, greater connectivity between learning and living and a more
confident and qualified workforce. This has benefits for lifelong learning, including social equity and social
participation, to the individual, the organisations that they work in, the education sector and society as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2009
EventThe fifth international CRLL conference : Lifelong learning revisited: what next? - University of Stirling, Stirling, United Kingdom
Duration: 23 Jun 200926 Jun 2009


ConferenceThe fifth international CRLL conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • informal learning
  • lifeplace learning
  • acceptance of learning
  • value of learning
  • power influences in learning accreditation


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