Lifelong learners: in their own words
This paper draws on research that utilized principles of grounded theory to inquire into the most significant learning relationships throughout the lives of individuals. The partners in this informal learning alliance are defined as 'learner' and 'mentor'. The structure of these alliances is described and the learners' perspective of the alliance is presented. Some meaningful relationships are ascribed to formal settings of schools and colleges, but most take place in social, familial, and community settings, with learning outcomes reported as important for personal development and citizenship. Traditional mentor partnerships are primarily learning relationships and as such are valuable sources of data for those interested in the process of lifelong learning, and what learners value in learning alliances. Traditional mentoring should be considered as valuable as more formal teaching, as it promotes sustainable learning by means of reflection and reflexivity, and appears to be self-perpetuating.