Inquiry Magazine Northwestern School of Education and Social Policy

FALL 2015

In this issue: Learning Across the Life Span


Annenberg Hall
Penelope Peterson

Message from the Dean

Dear Friends,

As we begin a new school year, I write to share with you one of my favorite passages from Mary Catherine Bateson. An anthropologist concerned with learning and education, Bateson once told me that she still takes as her role models her first and best teachers—her parents, Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, famous anthropologists in their own rights. In her book Peripheral Visions, Bateson wrote:

“It is fashionable in America to say that schools are failing, and there is a groundswell of anger against educators of all kinds. This is not in the main because they are not doing their job—it is because we have no adequate understanding of what the job is in the society we are becoming. … It is a mistake to try to reform the educational system without revising our sense of ourselves as learning beings, following a path from birth to death that is longer and more unpredictable than ever before. The avalanche of changes taking place around the world, the changes we should be facing at home, all come as reminders that of all the skills learned in school the most important is the skill to learn over a lifetime those things that no one, including the teachers, yet understands.”

In this issue of Inquiry, we take up Bateson’s call that the most important skill that all of us need to learn—babies, children, youth and adults alike—is the skill to learn over a lifetime. Up to two-thirds of babies born today could live to be over 100 years old. Since formal schooling will occupy only a small fraction of their long lives, they will need to do much of their learning outside of school, and they will need to connect that learning with what they learn in school.

In our first feature article, we consider the question of how early learning leads to later success in life. Second, we look into adults’ learning on the job, and we examine the specific case of how educators might make increased use of new technologies to enhance their own learning and teaching. Third, we consider the case of online learning for all ages through the use of fan sites, social media and more. Finally, as case examples of lifelong learners we present profiles of Kevin Schnieders, a current master’s student who serves as CEO of an employment training company, and Danny Cohen, a Learning Sciences doctoral alumnus who seeks to help adolescents learn through exploring lost histories.

As you discover new venues for your own learning, please do e-mail us and tell us about them. In our next issue of Inquiry, we would love to feature news stories of our alumni engaged in their own lifelong learning!

Penelope Signature
Penelope L. Peterson, Dean