Lifelong Learning and Workplace Learning: Relevant Education for a Knowledge-Based Economy

Introduction

Education is a human right issue for both personal enrichment and development. The Namibian Constitution made a provision for all people to have access to education. This is also supported by goal 4 for Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Goal 4 aim to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Today’s world is ever changing rapidly, in terms of social, economic, political and digital connectivity and usage. The changes requires individuals to adapt and adopt by acquiring relevant new knowledge, skills, attitudes and competencies in a wide range of settings to remain relevant and unlimited. Lifelong learning opportunities would enable the acquisition of such relevant new knowledge, skills, attitudes and competencies, for individuals to meet life’s challenges, remain relevant and sustain their lives, communities and societies in this digital world.

According to Toffler (1970) “the illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”. Lifelong learning is about learning, unlearning and relearning through acquiring and updating all kinds of abilities, interests, knowledge and qualifications from the pre-school years to post retirement.

Learning means the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience, or being taught. Unlearning is seen as deleting and replacing obsolete knowledge. Relearning means learn material that has been previously learned and then forgotten. Lifelong learning activities promote the development of knowledge and competencies that will enable adaptations to knowledge-based societies, while at the same time valuing all forms of learning. Lifelong learning (LL) is therefore an indispensable guiding principle of educational development.

The commonly understood definition of lifelong learning is ‘all learning undertaken throughout life which is on-going, voluntary and self-motivated in the pursuit of knowledge, skills, attitudes and competencies for either personal or professional reasons.

What is Lifelong Learning?

The provision of learning through formal, informal and non-formal learning opportunities throughout people’s lives with the purpose of fostering continuous development and improvement of knowledge and skills needed for employment, community service and/or personal fulfilment. As could be deduced from this definition, lifelong learning is all-encompassing and integral to the vision of a knowledge-based economy and/or society. Lifelong learning can enhance our understanding of the world around us, provide us with more and better opportunities and improve our quality of life.

Types/categories of lifelong learning learners

• Skill-seeking – Learners who need to attain new or improved skills for the purpose of bettering themselves and be able to solve the challenges they face (or meet in the future) in their lives.

• Problem-centred – Learners who only want to learn specific skills needed to deal with a specific problem that they have encountered or might encounter in their particular life situations.

• Task-centred – Learners who only want to concentrate on tasks directed towards reaching some specific goals or solving a specific problem.

• Life-centred – Learners with great experience background and faced with a variety of issues in their everyday life and want to focus their attention on real-world/life challenges/situations and solving real-world problems. They also want to focus on applying newly gained knowledge and/or skills to everyday and real-world situations.

• Solution-driven – Learners who are interested in focusing their efforts to solving problems in real life situations, especially those found in their immediate communities and/or environments or dealing with tasks directed towards reaching specific goals or solutions.

• Value-driven – learners who require guidance why they should participate in learning endeavours and what benefit is there for them. These learners need to be motivated by other to explain to them why they should learn.

• Externally motivated – Learners who are motivated by such factors as better jobs, better salaries, and increased promotional opportunities.

• Internally motivated – Learners who possess strong internal motivation to learn, such as developing their self-esteem, confidence, recognition, career satisfaction, gaining skills to manage their time better or improving the overall quality of life for their families or communities or both.

• Active learners – Learners who are just willing to participate in the learning process (they could be internally or externally motivated or no motivation at all).

• Hands-on – Learners who prefer learning by doing rather than by listening and interested in being provided with opportunities to apply their newly gained skills right away.

• Self-directed – Learners who perceive themselves to be independent and responsible for their own learning, planning and directing their own learning activities. According to Fisher, King and Tague (2001) a self-directed learner takes control and accepts the freedom to learn what they view as important for them.

• Expert /experienced-based – Learners are practicing (working) in a specific field and want to gain knowledge/skills in that specific field for the purpose of improving their practice. These learners bring real-life experiences to the learning situations, thereby influencing the learning process and make it relevant.

• Independent – Learners who are more self-reliant and learn by utilising previously gained knowledge, skills and work experience in order to accomplish things for themselves. These learners rely on their own personal experiences, strengths and knowledge in seeking answers to problems and to solving such problems

Why do we need lifelong learning?

• Upgrade job

• Start a business

• Learn about a subject or to extend their knowledge

• Meet new people

• Develop self-confidence

• Participate in social networking

• Develop personal skills

Individual’s capacity for lifelong learning

• Capacity to set personal objectives in a realistic manner

• Effectiveness in applying knowledge already possessed

• Efficiency in evaluating one’s own learning

• Skills to locate the required information

• Effectiveness in using different learning strategies and learning in different settings

• Skills to use learning aids and resources, such as libraries, media and/or the internet

• Ability to use and interpret materials from different subject areas

The benefits of lifelong learning to society

From those critical statements regarding the importance of lifelong learning it emerges that lifelong learning holds both private and public benefits. The benefits of lifelong learning to society, business and the individual include, among others:

• The economic benefits of lifelong learning both for employment purposes and high earnings are regarded by many as the most important. People who have no jobs engage in lifelong learning in order to gain employable skills and to make a living. Those with jobs engage in lifelong learning so that they can upgrade their skills to be able to be promoted to higher positions in their jobs and earn more money.

• Enhanced employability which means lifelong learning adds value to the person’s ability to gain productive employment and make greater economic contribution to his/her organisation and to society as a whole. This is because lifelong learning enables more people to gain skills and competencies required for the job market.

• Reduced expenditure in unemployment and other social benefits and early retirement (in countries that have those benefits), which means if there are more people with skills and being productive government will concentrate the limited resources to developing infrastructure and create jobs rather than spending it on people who are unable to find work or not willing to work. Infrastructure development means more good educational and health facilities as well as roads and other transport infrastructure for promoting economic development. More jobs means there are more people contributing to government income through taxes and supporting the overall development of the country.

• Reduced criminal activities in societies that have high unemployment rates (Namibia is a good example) of which many of the criminal activities are due to citizens who have nothing productive to do, but having a lot of time on their hands to be idling and/or engaging in mischievous and unproductive activities. Lifelong learning opportunities enable people to gain useful skills and competencies so that they are more employable and there are plenty of opportunities for people to be engaged in productive and worthy causes. We are told that criminal activities are on the increase in societies where there is high unemployment, high illiteracy and /or less educated citizenry as well as where there are high levels of poverty.

• Increased high social returns in terms of civic participation and community involvement in activities that are aimed at improving the standards of living of all people in society. Lifelong learning enables citizens to be active in community development activities and thereby improving their health and well-being as well as generating and nurturing creative ideas for business and innovation development. Lifelong learning also increases high social returns in terms of civic participation and community involvement, for instance volunteering for good causes in their communities and societies thereby enabling government to save through increased civil society involvement.

Career development in the age of lifelong learning

Lifelong learning has been more linked to improving work activities through improving workers’ attitudes towards work and their productive capacities. Workplace learning whether formal, non-formal or informal is targeted to career development of employees. Lifelong learning helps people to develop their potential and the knowledge, skills, attitudes and competencies required for the job market. They are required to constantly learn at the workplace. For the lifelong learning system to work at the workplace, where learning is mainly informal, there must be a self-regulating system that enable employees to access relevant information about the labour market and development in the economy. It has been proven across the world that people who are educated are more likely to find decent employment than those with no education. This mean that lifelong learning is currently being used for career development and progress in the labour market as much as it is being used for leisure and community development purposes.

Career development is an important aspect for the labour market as all employees aim for higher salaries, promotions and other incentives that comes with one’s job or employment contract.

Eraut (2007) found that most of the workplace learning of mid-career professionals is largely done in an informal way through consultation and collaboration. The joy of learning and the opportunity to apply the newly acquired skills to the workplace are the best sources of motivation for learning in one’s life.

Approaches to learning at the workplace

Eraut (2004) have identified five approaches for the knowledge, skills, attitudes and competencies for lifelong learning at the workplace.

• Group learning: participation in group activities such as team-working towards a common goal or outcome or group set up to work on special projects or for a special purpose. These circumstances will force members of the group to learn communally in order to accomplish their tasks.

• On the job training through social learning activities allows employees to observe others and learn as they learn new practices, new perspectives as they work alongside each other on a routine task or specific project.

• On the job training through understudy / deputizing allow employees to learn from those with more expertise than them but working in the same organisation / institution.

• On the job training by external expertise (consultants) through performance audits, consultancies, workshops.

• Assessment activities such as monitoring and evaluation are some of the approaches used by organisations to enable employees learn about their progress and address gaps.

Work processes through which employees learn better

• Group participation process: through asking questions and participating in decisions;

• Tackling challenging assignments/tasks/ roles;

• Through being supervised, coached and being mentored, shadowing and or reflecting;

• Working alongside colleagues, locating resource persons within the organisation as well as listening and observing others;

• Through problem solving, trying things out, suing models or mediating artefacts and learning through mistakes;

• Consultation with other employees and management;

• Visiting other sites/attending conferences and participating in short courses;

• Working with clients;

• Consolidating/ extending/ giving and receiving feedback;

• Working/studying for a qualification, working for a reward.

Factors affecting modes of learning in the workplace

Learning factors

The factors that enable employees to be proactive in seeking learning opportunities

• Challenging and value of the work: under challenged and over challenged might impact negatively on the person’s ability to learn;

• Feedback and support;

• Confidence and commitment; and

• The ability to recognise learning opportunities

Work context factors

The factors that attract the employees to the organisation and motivate them to learn and contribute to the goals of the organisation.

• Feedback and support (especially during the few months in a new job);

• Allocation and structuring of work;

• Encounters and relationship with people at wok; and

• Expectations of each person’s role, performance and progress.

Suggestions for employers

Promote Media and Information Literacy (MIL) to enables employees to be informed readers in today’s hyper connected world.

MIL enables employees to interpret the complex messages they receive in today’s hyper connected world.

References

Eraut, M. (2007). Learning from other people in the workplace. Oxford Review of Education, 33 (4), pp.403-422.

Eraut, M. (2004). Informal learning in the workplace. Studies in Continuing Education, 26, pp. 247-273.

Fisher, M, King, J., &Tague, G. (2001). Development of a self-directed learning readiness scale for nursing education. Nurse Education Today, 21, pp. 516 -525.

Toffler, A. (1970). Future shock. New York: Random House.

Home Education

Usually when education is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is schools, colleges and universities. Education, however, falls into many categories. Education is not defined only by studies as it may also be defined by the education that is passed on from parents to their child or what people may learn from watching television or reading books. Education can also be provided when an individual is working. For instance, employees and managers need to be educated so that they will be updated with the ever changing economic environment. Education is provided everywhere and at anytime but the very first place education is provided is home.

Yes, education that is provided in schools is important. However, home education provides the foundation for children to build on. Just think about it, how do parents educate their young child before they are of age to go to school? The first education parents provide to their child is by teaching them how to speak. Parents would teach their child how to pronounce words and also what are the proper words to say to people. Parents would also teach their child how to write and spell words. This type of education provided by parents will give their child the basic knowledge they need or the proper foundation for them to built on when they go to school.

However, education provided at home is not all about speaking and writing. Educating children on moral values and manners is also part of education. Usually a person approach a child, their parents would ask their child to greet that person. If they don’t, parents would explain the importance of politeness to them. What would happen if children are not educated on this matter? Children won’t realize that it is rude to not greet a person as they would just think that there is nothing wrong with it as their parents did not say anything to them. Parents would also educate their child on the usage of languages. They would not want their child picking up and using the wrong words at a young age.

It is also important for parents to be a proper role model to their child because as children, we would look up at our parents and to be like them. Therefore, parents should be at their best behavior in front of their child in order to positively influence their child. This is why home education is possibly more important than the education provided at school because what is taught by parents will not be taught in schools and home education is essential as it opens a path way for future education.

Is Critical Thinking Overrated or Under-Utilized in Higher Education?

Critical thinking is listed as a desired skill or preferred outcome within many higher education courses. It is something that students are expected to demonstrate through their involvement in the class and learning activities. It may be listed in a rubric and/or stated in the course syllabus, depending upon the requirements of the program or the school itself. There may be varying degrees as to how it is demonstrated and then evaluated, ranging from occasionally to always within a rubric description. It is a common practice to provide students with the course rubrics at the start of class; however, the question becomes: Do students usually know what critical thinking means? Do instructors or schools provide a standard definition?

Additional questions that arise include: Do instructors understand the meaning of critical thinking and are they provided with an explanation by the school? These are questions that I sought to answer and I spent over two years talking to instructors and students about this topic. There is information that is readily available, such as websites devoted to critical thinking and a few books about this topic, and there are classes that spend an entire term examining it; however, what does the average student and instructor know about this topic? How is it utilized in classes if it is stated in a rubric? What I wanted to learn is whether or not critical thinking is overrated (which means it is not actively utilized in classes and is only a catchphrase) or is it underutilized (which means it holds greater potential than is recognized now) in higher education classes.

Instructor Perspective

My perspective is primarily based on my work in the field of distance-learning as an online educator and faculty development specialist, which has included the role of online faculty peer reviewer. I have reviewed hundreds of online classes and discussed critical thinking with hundreds of online faculty. What I’ve learned is that the average instructor may have a general knowledge about critical thinking and what it means; however, faculty generally do not provide an explanation for students beyond what is stated in the course rubric. I did not observe it as an active discussion or explained through additional instructional posts or supplemental information, and I also didn’t observe detailed notes about it within the feedback provided.

What do instructors generally know about critical thinking? For those who have conducted some research they will find definitions that are related to logic and reasoning. However, the usual go-to definition or explanation is Bloom’s taxonomy and this provides levels of cognition that can help instructors recognize when a state of critical thinking has been attained. What is unclear is whether or not a one-time occurrence indicates that students know how to use the skill on a regular basis. What are instructors taught by the schools? They are usually told to use questioning techniques and specifically Socratic questioning by a few schools. What I’ve observed is that even when questions are used that doesn’t necessarily mean a follow-up reply by students will demonstrate use of this skill.

Student Perspective

When students were asked to define what critical thinking means, the following is a list of the most common answers:

  • Thinking outside of the box
  • Thinking harder about the topic
  • Problem-solving
  • An ability to think independently
  • Weighing options, the pros and cons
  • Being rational and avoiding emotions
  • Making decisions, such as going to the grocery store and deciding on meal options
  • Becoming curious, creative, and open-minded
  • Learning through trial and error
  • Knowing what to do in life threatening situations
  • Making intelligent decisions
  • Collaborating with others to reach a consensus

This is only a partial list of the responses from students, and these were undergraduate and graduate students. After reviewing this list becomes clear that without a standard definition of critical thinking, students may not fully understand what is expected when they see it listed in a course rubric. It can also explain why it is difficult to evaluate this as a skill for an instructor and why students may come up short in their evaluation. What I’ve found is that students rarely conducted their own research about this subject and if they did they still weren’t sure if their definition was matched to their instructor’s definition, how it applies to their class and learning activities, or how to meet the requirement as listed in the rubric.

Logical Perspective

I’ve reviewed many of the available online resources to ascertain what instructors and students might read about critical thinking and it was often related to the use of logic and reasoning. The same is true for an online class I’ve taught that was six weeks in length and combined critical thinking with creative thinking. The logical perspective explained in the course materials involved looking for facts instead of opinions, evaluating arguments, examining premises, developing a logical or rational conclusion, and learning about potential fallacies. What this did was to take a subject that students were already unclear about and make it even more complex and challenging to apply directly to their classwork. Students generally struggled throughout the entire course and by the time it concluded there was little improvement in their ability to demonstrate the use of this skill.

Cognitive Perspective

Bloom’s taxonomy is referenced frequently by faculty and this taxonomy provides a range of cognitive or mental functions that begin with lower order thinking and progress to higher order thinking. On the lower end is the ability to recall information, which is usually held in short term memory and quickly discarded. As higher cognitive functions are engaged a student may be able to apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information. There are action verbs that are generally associated with each level and this is helpful for the development of course objectives. The challenge for instructors is making a determination of how to explain cognitive functions to students so that they understand what it means to demonstrate critical thinking. For example, how does a student know when to analyze or synthesize information in a discussion post or written assignment? Do they know when they have achieved development of this skill? Does answering an instructor’s question ensure they have reached a higher cognitive state? How many times do they need to demonstrate use of this skill to believe they have mastered its use? This is the challenge for educators; the uncertainty of the use of this skill and how to accurately assess it.

A New Perspective

What I propose is the use of a simpler model that explains how the mind functions or operates, which can provide a uniform description for instructors and students. As a starting point, the mind is always active and thinking is a natural process. A helpful way to understand how the mind performs is to separate thinking into three specific types, which will explain why critical thinking requires practice to learn before it can be actively used as a skill. The most basic type is simply called thinking or the automatic thought processes. This occurs naturally and includes thoughts about the current environment, along with thoughts that are based upon physical needs, emotions, or external stimuli. It also consists of self-talk, internalized dialogue, superficial thoughts, established thought patterns, habits of thinking, and existing mental structures. Automatic thinking also occurs as data is acquired through the five senses, when the mind relies upon perceptual filters to interpret the information received.

The next type is active thinking and this occurs when a person become consciously aware of their thought processes or while the mind is intentionally processing information. As an example, consider advertising messages. If an advertisement is noticed the mind would transition from automatic thinking to active or conscious thinking and awareness. Active thinking also includes reading, writing, speaking, stating opinions, and problem solving through the use of informal logic. For example, if a financial analysis is needed it would require taking numbers and putting them into a format or equation to be calculated, categorized, manipulated, or any other form of computation. Active thinking is often what students believe critical thinking consists of when they state it is a matter of “thinking hard” about a topic or subject. They are consciously aware of the topic and recalling the knowledge they currently possess about it.

The third type of thinking is critical thinking, which is not automatic and must be activated. It can be activated for a specific purpose and learned to be utilized as a skill. Students can trigger it when they need to work with more than their existing knowledge, beliefs, and opinions. It can also be activated through something unexpected, unknown, or unique. More importantly, critical thinking is done with a purpose. For example, when a student needs to research a topic and the subject is presently unknown to them. Instead of filling their paper with direct quotes they can question the information received in an attempt to find answers. It can also enhance problem-solving when a student needs an answer they cannot arrive at on their own. When students write papers they can provide more of their analysis and less from their sources because they have examined evidence and re-examined their beliefs or assumptions.

Transformative Perspective

Critical thinking has the potential to transform every aspects of a student’s performance, from discussion question responses to written assignments. Students first learn to work with their accumulated knowledge, beliefs, and opinions. That is how they develop an initial response and for many students that also becomes their final answer. But educators want students to move beyond this active form of thinking and demonstrate that learning has occurred. It is easy to ask students to demonstrate critical thinking but even more challenging to develop a mental model for them to follow and that means it must be prompted so that students watch it in action and can then emulate the process. Thinking becomes critical when students provide more than a superficial or cursory response, and in place of opinions they develop well-documented and well-research position statements and analyses.

Critical thinking is not a natural process although there are times when it is possible for adults to have a period of reflection when they are prompted by unplanned or unexpected changes. Thinking also becomes critical when students no longer rely upon perceptual filters to determine what is accepted as true and correct, with a willingness to evaluate beliefs and change when they find compelling evidence. Critical thinking can be most effectively taught through the use of a detailed explanation, time to practice what is being learned, and direct application of the skill to issues and problems, which means that any time this skill is listed as a requirement for a course, students need a standard definition and an opportunity to practice it. I do not believe that critical thinking is overrated as it is transformative in nature; however, what I’ve observed in the field of distance learning is that it is under-utilized because of a lack of a uniform method of explaining it and this results in a missed opportunity for learning in higher education classes.

Teaching Christian Religious Education – A Review

In ten chapters or one hundred and eleven pages, the author presents a compendia of methodology of teaching Christian religious education. The purpose of the study, countless misconceptions of students, the etymology of the word ‘methodology’, definition and reason for religious education, kinds of research methods and hints of note taking are discussed in the first chapter. These give students the opportunity of revising when writer rather than presenting new information to them. The importance of the second chapter is that it gives a systematic approach to finding research/project problems, approach to find a research topic, formulating the research topic, sources of information, reviewing relevant literature, sources of information, reviewing relevant literature, hypothesis and format for research writing. Like the first chapter, the dimensions are not new but serve as a useful guide. The Nigerian approach to moral and religious instruction as stated in the 1981 Revised National Policy on education moved from rote memory of biblical passages to affect the psychomotor and affective domains. Approaches to the study of Christian religious education discussed in Chapter 3 include the Bible-centered or salvation history approach, the phenomenological approach, teacher-centered approach, and the Bible to life, life experiences and life-centered approaches. New life was therefore injected in teaching religious education as students discovered the religious implication of their actions.

Working on the premise that there are several teaching methods in each discipline, the writer identifies some methods and factors that determine their suitability and the right time to use them in the fourth chapter. He rightly observes that the Christian religious studies teacher should not be dogmatic but should apply a method as the situation demands. These methods are divided into teacher centered (lecture, questioning), learner centered (project, assignment) and joint (drama, field trips, story telling, role play) methods.

In Chapter 5, the writer successfully defines technical terms like teaching and teaching practice. Parameters used to identify the competency of the teacher are discussed. The section of preparing to teach is in consonance with Hendrick’s law of readiness. The discussion on the management, organization and administration of teaching practice and micro-teaching and its advantages are geared towards enabling the teacher to teach effectively especially if the assessment instruments at the end of the chapter are implemented.

The sixth chapter clearly traces the history of the religious studies curriculum which protects the child from receiving any instruction that is contrary to the wishes of his parents. The origin and objective of the word ‘curriculum’ and the vital role of parents, learners, teachers, local community, religious bodies, ministries of education and other national bodies are discussed. The seventh chapter expands on the discussion in earlier chapters. The sample of a syllabus is a useful reference material to every Christian religious education teacher.

The eighth chapter on lesson plan logically follows the seventh since the classroom experience tests what has been planned. The writer realistically observes that the success of the teacher is dependent on the mastery of the subject and his/her job is incomplete until evaluation is done. The importance of educational objectives, the cognitive, psychomotor and affective domains cannot be overemphasized.

Commenting on the application of teaching materials, the writer observes that a good material among others should relate to the objective and age of the learners, match their ability and elicit interest in them. The penultimate chapter presents a vivid description of the use of instructional materials in teaching. The impact of visual and audiovisual materials is amazing. Although they create an opportunity for students to come face to face with reality, they should be seen as a means to an end.

The last chapter clearly presents justification for moral education in the school in an era of moral decadence. The aim of religious education therefore is to facilitate desirable changes in an individual since it encompasses theoretical, practical, moral, spiritual, human and divine aspects. The entire society – the home, school, church, voluntary organizations, mass media- has a role to play.

Although the book presents a rather interesting evaluation of Christian religious education methods, the author himself admits that he is not trying to offer new dimensions in the first two chapters. Even though he presents a format for research writing, the technical terms are not defined leaving the reader in a difficult position to see the relationship among them. Several typographical errors undermine the richness of the presentation. The above notwithstanding, this illustrative text of the Nigerian educational experience has graphic illustrations and review questions which stimulate critical thinking. A commendable insight is the lucid distinction made between the curriculum and syllabus which are treated as synonymous terms. The clear presentation of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives is also imperative. Perhaps another insight is how the wrong use of textbooks could hinder self-initiative and transforms learning merely into a routine.

Sufficient Impacts on the History of Special Education

Special Education, over the years, has grown and improved substantially. The history of it contains many admirable historical figures and events that have defined and impacted Special Education. I, however, picked 4 people and one event that I thought had a great impact on Special education. Without these people, special education would not be where it is today. I believe Jean Itard, Edouard Seguin, Helen Keller, Samuel Howe and the Brown Vs. Board of Education, were all important highlights in the history of Special Ed. Although they are not the only ones that should be commended for doing an outstanding job in improving the status of Special Ed, education would not progress as much without them.

Jean Itard is perhaps best defined as “the Father of Special Education” Although he was not aware that his work would have been defined as Special education, his work had a profound effect on future generations. Itard was educated to be a tradesman. However, during the French Revolution, he joined the army to become an assistant surgeon. After the war, he took upon a new and challenging project called Victor. Victor was a wild, animal- like boy that was found running around in the forest. In 1800 he was bought to Paris for observation. When Itard saw the wild, uncivilized boy, he assumed that he had been recently abandoned by his parents. Like a wild animal that does not like to be caged, Victor escaped a couple of times from a widow’s bedroom window. He was normally deficient, but Itard believed he could educate the boy through experience. During Itard’s time, it was a common belief that mentally disabled people were uneducable. The remarkable guru spent five years trying to “cure” him. After 5 years, Victor could read and speak a few words, and could also show affection towards his caretakers. Unfortunately, he never reached normality. Itard thought he had failed as a teacher, but his experience with Victor taught others that in order to achieve the smallest success, he had to accept Victor as a person. His work implemented the most important truth of all, and that was that education had to be in harmony with the dynamic nature of life. 

The next important historical figure was not a teacher, but a remarkable student. Helen Keller had an illness which left her blind and deaf. As a young child, she suffered through severe retardation. She made animal like sounds, ripped her clothes off, and was not toilet trained. It was apparent that she lacked civilized traits. Many years later, even she said “I was an animal.” Poor Helen had become a very difficult child. She terrorized the house hold, and often endangered the people in it. The Kellers were advised to visit an expert on deaf children. This was the well known Alexander Graham Bell. Bell suggested that the family seek an instructor from Perkins University.

On March 3rd, 1883, she met her teacher and caretaker, Miss Anne Sullivan. During the first meeting of theirs, Anne spelled out the word d-o-l-l on her arm. After writing the word on her arm, Anne gave Helen a doll, to show her what “doll” was. The next word she was spelled out was “cake” Although she could quickly repeat the same finger movements, Helen never really understood what the words meant. While Anne was struggling to help her understand the meaning of a word, she also was struggling to try to control Helen’s undesirable behavior. Making her educated and civilized was a great challenge for Anne. After a month, her behavior did improve. It was that initial month that the bond between Anne and Helen was established. After that month was the time that people referred to as the “miracle. It was not until 1887, that Helen began to grasp an understanding of the words. Anne pumped water on to Helen’s hand, and spelled out the word on her hand. Something about this activity helped Helen understand the meaning of the words.. Helen progressed as an individual over the years.

The life that she lived has had an impact on teaching methods, as well as technology. With the aid of Anne, through her writing, lectures, and the way she lived life, she has shown people that being disabled is not the end of the world. Her impact on education can be shown through this quote of hers: “The public must learn that the blind man is neither genus nor a freak nor an idiot. He has a mind that can be educated, a hand which can be trained…”