Lifespan Development and Lifelong Learning

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Sarah Kingham Psychology of Education: What is lifespan development and how does it relate to lifelong learning? Lifespan development, or what can also be referred to as life course development, can be defined as, ‘the sequence of events and experiences in a life from birth until death, and the chain of personal states and encountered situations which influence, and are influenced by this sequence of events’ (Runyan, 1978 as cited in Sugarman, 1986). Our society has constructed a series of systematic events, often related to age, that individuals progress through throughout their lifetime. There is said to be different types of change over the lifespan; changes which are ‘common to everyone in a species which are linked to specific ages’, changes which are ‘less universal’ and are often shared by subgroups i.e. different cultures, and also changes which are of a result of a ‘unique, nonshared event’ (Bee, 1997a). Also, within these changes there are three wide spectrums of development: physical, cognitive and psychosocial. Physical development refers to the ‘growth of the body’ and mainly the physical signs of ageing throughout the lifespan (Sigelman and Shaffer, 1994a). Psychosocial development includes changes in ‘personal and interpersonal’ relationships, i.e. emotions, personality and different roles played in society (Sigelman and Shaffer, 1994b). The main area of development this essay is going to discuss is cognitive development, as in the ‘changes in the mental processes.’ (Sigelman and Shaffer, 1994c). Life course theories began to emerge in the late fifties till the early seventies. It came about with the introduction of new methods to use in empirical research. Through the use longitudinal studies it was possible to gain information about lifespan development as individuals, or groups were studied at different times throughout their

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